Keys to a Creative Life / by Annabeth McNamara

Photo by  Brian Wimer  at  Shensara Fest  2017.

Photo by Brian Wimer at Shensara Fest 2017.

Creative resistance.

Productive procrastination.

Doing everything that needs to be done EXCEPT the one thing you'd like to be doing in your heart of hearts.

The struggle is real.

Maybe you're like me and you want to be a bad-@$$ musician / artist / writer / photographer with heaps of success.

You feel it in your bones that this sparkling destiny is within reach.

You've got the looks, the raw talent and gifts, the background and training and expertise and support.

Your schedule is starting to open up to allow this pursuit, because you're willing to make Sacrifices for your Art. 

So what's stopping you??? 

There's just one missing link:

The grit to put it in your schedule and make it happen.

A daily routine, that is. 

This time of year, we're all tapping into what we'd like to slap onto the blank canvas of another year. You're allowed to pause and ask yourself, if just for one afternoon, what does your dream life look like?

But the even greater question is, what would it take to get you there? And do you have the will-power and focus to get to the other side of this year to the field where all that lush greener grass grows for you?

Personally, I've long had a dream of living in a cottage in a beautiful meadow on the edge of a wood with water flowing nearby.  Literally greener grass on the other side.

In this fantasy life, there is no internet screaming at me through my laptop, no cellular network dragging my attention to my phone. 

I am a pure creative, spending my day hopping from self-care activity (cooking, smelling the flowers, gardening, bathing, stretching, exercising, resting) to creative activity (painting, drawing, composing, photographing my process, learning, dancing, and singing). 

Recently in my life, I've been able to open up time in my schedule to devote single-heartedly to the arts. 

But what I'm starting to realize that there is one serious habit I'm going to have to cultivate if I want the results I dream of.

The key to many artistic folks who've made a real contribution to culture and society, is that they have a daily creative routine.

Something they don't have to "make a decision" about.

A few unbroken hours first thing after breakfast, or in-between work shifts, or during lunch hour, or in the wee hours of the morning, or at midnight, or after a night of partying... Whatever works best for their personal schedule, financial responsibilities, and social habits.

Why is a daily routine so important?

For us sensitive, introverted folks who just want to be left alone to create, a simple decision, such as "what shall I wear?" or "what do I eat?" or "when shall I sit down and work on my opus?" has the power to drain our very life force.

It can be helpful to pare down life's choices so that there is simply more creative juice in the tank, and more willpower to burn.

A fun way to put this into play is to imagine a uniform for yourself. Of course self-expression through clothing is fun, but if figuring out what to wear is diverting you from what's important, it's time to pick your go-to look and make that step of the morning that much simpler.

While some splats of genius have come from my pen and paintbrush lately due to more free time for it, I've yet to figured out the key to really sticking to a routine.

get a fresh start with a morning routine

What I want my dream morning routine to look like:
-Wake up, chug 16 oz of filtered water
-meditate 20 minutes, stretch another 20
-drink lemon water or a hot beverage of choice (no caffeine or sugar plz)
-eat a protein-infused breakfast to avoid sluggishness as I dive into my day
-sit down and start writing and drawing for the first hour
-then crack open my recording software app and hook up my nice mic to my computer to tool around with whatever songs I've got going on in my computer files

So that's the dreamy way I'd like to start my day.

What my morning actually looked like:
-went to bed late so woke up late, like 10:30am
-lay in bed for an hour sipping water and "meditating" aka watching my mind roam and calm down
-ate breakfast (leftovers and a PB&J sandwich)
-watched TV for two hours while folding laundry
-finally cracked open my journal to jot some thoughts and a to-do list and felt completely overwhelmed by all the creative pursuits I COULD be doing, but which would be worth my time that I'd actually be willing to do????
-got the idea to write this blog about the struggle, bc the struggle is real.
-by some miracle managed to sit down at my desk and crank out 1000 words on This is actually a great platform for creating copy (word content) in a slightly more playful way.

I know I have the aptitudes to be a great creative... But I'm starting to seriously question if I have the willpower and natural inclination for a life dedicated to the arts. 

I think one key I'm discovering going forward is going to be tuning into a feeling of PLAY.

As a child, I have a sense that my entire day, whether I was hanging out with friends or my dog or my garden or my stuffed animals or even doing chores, I was approaching it all with a spirit of playfulness. 

At that age, I'd write stories and illustrate them for fun. Heck, I'd even clean and organize my room for fun. You see, it was all fun and games because of my childish approach to life. I hadn't learned yet to set that mentality aside and become a stuffy adult.

I think one huge mistake I've been making in the past few years is thinking that success comes from great seriousness and diligence.

I'd like to invite that youthful feeling of humorous happiness to infuse my mundane tasks so I can relax and enjoy life again.

Part of my hesitation and questioning comes from the thought, what if I go to great lengths to paint a beautiful series of paintings... What then? Do I start selling my work? Where and how??? Too overwhelming to start. :(

Or what if I write dozens of heart-felt blogs, what's the point if it's not earning me anything? I feel sheepish when I look around at the people I know making good money from their 9-5 jobs.

I realize that everyone's path is different though, and evolves depending on their life's circumstances. I'm trying to see my days as gift, but this creative weight bears down!

The one creative pursuit I've been dying to pursue for the past year, and haven't, is getting back into creating videos and home recorded demos of my songs for my Youtube channel

I just haven't been able to get it all lined up and then actually follow through once I'm wiped out after a day of working.

I'm thinking it might be aligned with a sense of playfulness if I were go to my friend's home recording studio and lay down tracks and crank out videos with him. But that takes money, however generous his offer is... Maybe I should just invest and trust there will be payback on the other side?

Investing time and energy and money into artistic pursuits can feels so risky.  It's not like an investment, where you have a pretty good idea there will be a return.

Sometimes it feels like throwing light-colored leafs of my soul into a great dark abyss. Is my gift even received or appreciated? 

Should I just pack up the pony show, saddle up to the grind stone, and use my marketable skills to blaze forward toward society's definition of "success"?

This financially shaky nature of what I do is the reason why I'm jumping on the bandwagon and starting a Patreon account at


why i'm joining patreon and you should, too.

This platform has recently been gaining a lot of traction as folks start to really get that this is Kickstarter taken to the next level. 

Instead of a one-off home-run of funding, artist and fan can connect for the long haul (or however long their bank account allows). 

It's a beautiful concept that I tried to start using a year ago, but too many folks were confused and nervous about buying into it. I think the time is ripe, and I'd like to invite you to: 

1. check out what i'm offering in return for the support to make my dreams literally come true starting at just a dollar a month, and 

2. consider the platform for yourself if you're a creative type who could be missing out on connecting with your fan base in this really mutually beneficial way.

Have you ever felt creative resistance? I'd be interested to hear what creative goals you may have and how you do --or dont-- make headway on them. Any experience with making routines and habits out of your craft? I'd love to hear about it and whether it works!

We're in this together,


p.s. I've sprinkled this blog post with links, some of which are books I've read and really recommend!