Ever felt stuck in a creative rut? Ever had a dream of getting started with a creative endeavor but you just can’t make the habit stick? The challenge might not be one of habit-forming or inspiration but actually creative momentum. While habits focus on consistency, momentum focuses on consistent improvement. Here’s what I mean.
Habits alone aren’t enough to keep going in your creative work. There’s an inherent flaw in the automaticity of habit. We can shift into a place of stagnation. We end up like that band that creates a fourth album that sounds like a retread of the previously three albums. We grow risk-averse, not out of fear, but out of a sense of complacency. We hit a plateau and coast on that plateau. Meanwhile, we shift into a place where we work so quickly that we end up making key mistakes. This is why, as a classroom teacher, I changed from social studies to self-contained to a coaching role and ultimately photojournalism and STEM. I needed new challenges to avoid the complacency of automaticity.
Think of a habit like this. It’s a flat line.
That’s important. It helps you maintain consistency. But it’s not enough. To reach the next level, you also need to improve in your craft. You need to learn and grow. This is why we include skill development as the second variable in creative momentum. Skill improvement alone isn’t enough, though. Because without habit, it will be chaotic, with skills rising and then falling due to the lack of practice and consistency.
What we need is for skills to improve over time. Creative momentum is similar to a creative habit but it combines habits with improvements.
When you experience creative momentum, you take your craft to the next level by combining habits with skill development. You focus on the creative process but you’re also cognizant of the end result and the final product.
I make the distinction of habits and momentum in the following visual:
Note that consistency alone can help build habits. However, combining consistency with continual improvement can help lead to creative momentum. Slowly, you start improving and building up your creative endurance and eventually it gets easier to engage in daily creative work. Meanwhile, your work becomes better. Better here might be faster, with improved fluency. But it also includes improving your craft, engaging in better processes, and often feeling better about the work you do.
Introducing the Creative Momentum Journal
About two years ago, I had a conversation with my friend Matt Miller. He’s a graphic designer and educator and I love the way he thinks about the creative process. We were in the midst of COVID and we had noticed how some people seemed to be incredibly creative during the pandemic while others began a creative project or habit but then it faded. We talked about this idea of momentum and the power of combining habits with continual improvement. This combination of consistency and novelty seemed critical for the process.
I talked about my journaling process and my rituals that I used to get into the habit. Matt talked about things like field trips or prompts he uses for inspiration. Somehow we landed on this idea of a guided journal for ourselves and maybe for others. The concept is simple. In this guided journal, you take forty days to build your creative momentum. Each day consists of challenges to spark your creative thinking and questions to help guide reflection. Here’s an annotated picture of the left side:
Here’s an annotated picture of the right side:
The focus is on building habits, tracking progress, finishing projects, and finding inspiration. This is why we also included little field trips:
Who Is This Journal For?
The short answer is “anyone” who engages in creative work which is . . . well . . . anyone. I’ve long believed that teachers need a Genius Hour. When we engage in our own personal passion projects, we grow more empathetic toward students engaging in their own projects. We discover new aspects of the creative process. In other words, when we create something that has nothing to do with teaching, our students benefit. So, if you’re planning a personal Genius Hour project, this might be ideal for you.
If you want to buy the hardbound version of the journal, you can purchase it here. It could be a holiday gift for yourself as you start out the new year. Or you could give it to a maker in your life who might enjoy the interactive elements.
You can also download it for free here as a digital download that you can print and use. The way it works on Gumroad is you set the price as a “pay what you want.” So, if you want to download it for free, that’s totally fine. If you want to give us a tip as a thank you, you could type in the dollar amount:
Is it really free? Absolutely. Just type in the number zero and click the “I want this!” button. No pressure. No strings. No gimmicks.
You’ll be prompted to put in your email address:
Afterward, you’ll have the download on a link and in your inbox.
I hope you enjoy using the Creative Momentum Guided Journal as much as I enjoyed making it.