Do this one thing and your creative life will be transformed. Watch your process.
One of the assignments I often give my workshop participants on location is to watch your process and take notes. Notice what you do and the way you do it. After every observation ask why. “First I do this. Why? In this way. Why? Then I do this. Why? In this way. Why? Next I … etc.”
First note what you do – and don’t do.
When you watch your process carefully you become aware of every step in your process and everything involved in it. Actions and things that went unnoticed before will become clear to you.
Second note how you do it.
You probably have a choice to do the same thing in many different ways. You may be used to doing things in certain ways, without realizing it. Maybe you made an assumption. Was it necessary? Maybe you developed habits. Bad habits prevent you from getting the results you want? Are you taking shortcuts? Are you doing something a certain way because someone else told you to? Good habits help you do things efficiently after you’ve practiced them. Are they still serving you? If so, keep doing that! If not, stop doing that! Sometimes what works in one situation doesn’t work in another. Are your habits serving you when things change?
Third, ask why you do what you do.
Behind every action there’s a goal. You eat, drink, breathe, sleep to stay alive. You photograph to … ? Your most basic motivations are fairly simple. Some of your other motivations are much more complex – and it’s likely you do many of them for unconscious reasons and your conscious mind has a lot more to learn about them. If you really want to get to the core motivations behind the things you do it can be helpful to ask “Why?” five times in a row. Ask the first question. Then ask “Why?”. Respond to that answer with “Why?” and repeat this a few more times. Often our deepest motivations don’t reveal themselves until the third, fourth or fifth time you ask “Why?” If you find asking “Why?” is getting in the way of your observations while you’re practicing your process, ask it when you’ve finished and are reviewing your notes.
Watch your process. It seems simple. It is. But like meditation it’s not easy. Because we quickly and constantly fall back into our habits, which is exactly what we’re trying to notice more carefully – and potentially change.
There are many more benefits to taking notes about your process. Because I write …
I constantly generate new ideas.
I’m rarely blocked.
I’m more productive.
I’ve streamlined my systems.
My technique is better.
I recognize the ideas and practices I’ve inherited from others.
I’m aware of what’s influencing me, for how long, and why.
I’m clearer about what works and what doesn’t, for me.
I’m aware of my self-talk.
I’ve identified my goals.
I understand more about the personal reasons behind the things I do and the ways I do them.
My work has more purpose.
I enjoy my process more.
I could go on and on about the many benefits this practice brings. But don’t take my word for it. Try it!
I find I write the same things down time and time again. This has lead me to create a master process list, which I can copy and modify or add to or subtract from, as needed on location. (Recently I’ve been keeping it in Notes on my iPhone.) I find there are always new things to observe. Are there new things because I noticed more? Why? Are there new things because I’m in a new environment? Why? Are there new things because I decided to try something new? Why? Are there new things because I’m more emotionally receptive? Why? These are important questions that can unlock a new ways of looking, thinking, and working, now and in the future. Keep asking them. Ask a lot of questions!
Watching your process is really a matter of becoming aware of your choices, what you choose to do and what you choose not to do, and the many choices you may have overlooked. With this greater awareness you can choose to do the same things with the same things or make other choices. With more choices available to you, you can make better choices. Better according to who? You!
Be mindful of your creative process. Make this a habit and you’ll transform your life.
Read my Meditation resources here.
Read more in my Creativity Resources.
Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.