How to get (and stay) in your groove

One of my goals for 2018 is to develop a more consistent and intentional studio practice. I imagine myself like those famed artists and writers who march off to their studios each day to produce great art. I find it hard to create in the bits and pieces of time that my real life often provides.

I find I can really concentrate on airplanes. Not a good daily option, however.

What does the Emperor have to do with studio practice?

I often feel just like the Emperor in the Emperor’s New Groove. Remember the memorable scene with John Goodman as Pacha, who discovers an old man hanging upside down from a fabric banner?

Pacha: What happened?
Old Man: Well, I threw off the Emperor’s groove.
Pacha: What?
Old Man: His groove! The rhythm in which he lives his life. His pattern of behavior. I threw it off. And the Emperor had me thrown out the window.
Pacha: Oh, really? I’m supposed to see him today.
Old Man: Don’t throw off his groove!
Pacha: Oh, okay.
Old Man: Bewaaare, the grooove.

Beware the groove indeed. To improve my likelihood of finding my groove and staying in it, I read Drew Kimble’s book Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work. Kimble cautions against our tendency to make creative goals for ourselves — results, deadlines or the opinions of others, which are not always under our control. What is under our control, he argues, is our creative practice — the degree to which we put forth effort and consistency toward our creative endeavors.

Creative Triggers are the secret to the groove

Developing a successful creative practice naturally entails getting in the groove. Kimble suggests finding your creative triggers to be more successful. These might include:

  • Time of Day (I need to capture the morning)
  • What have you had to eat or drink? (I have a cup of hot tea in hand)
  • Have you done some physical activity (I’ve gone to a morning exercise class)
  • What is your location? (I’m either at my drawing table or down in the basement)
  • Are there supplies that are needed? (I try to order things before I run out)
  • Does music help or hinder? (I need nondescript piano music if I’m trying to work out new ideas)
  • Do you have a plan for managing distractions? (more about that in a minute)
  • Would rituals like free writing or meditating help you begin? (I’ve employed both at various times)
  • What clothes are best? (I have on comfortable clothes that could get dirty)
Strong (herb) tea tells me “time to work!”

Media can wipe out your groove

I find I can master most of these variables and have successful studio time. Electronic distractions are my nemesis. On a good day, I check my email during breakfast for emergencies to reduce my anxieties, and then try not to check it (or anything else media-related) again until after I’m finished for the day in the studio. It gets harder when I’m working on new ideas and need to look up something on the computer. A quick check of Facebook, and suddenly I am down a rabbit hole, out of my groove and an hour has passed.

I’m considering installing apps on my computer and phone that allow me to lock down things like Facebook or Netflix for a certain period of time each weekday to help me have more focussing power. SelfControl is one for Macs and has an app for my Iphone as well. Another distraction for me is the pantry cupboard. No idea how to manage this distraction!

There really isn’t any solution to a cat that demands a belly rub.

How do you get into your groooooove?!


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