10 Rules thriving creatives live by every day

When working day in and day out, even the life of creative professionals can get monotonous.

To boost your creativity and improve the quality of your work, remember that aside from staying up on the latest trends, you also need your own creative mottos.

Here are 10 commandments many successful creatives live by:

(What are yours? Share them in the comments!)

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#1 – Develop excellent habits.

We creatives all want that “Eureka!” moment when we discover that innovative new web design or easy-to-remember catchphrase. But constantly chasing inspiration can sap the energy out of you.

Instead, focus on your habits. Not sure what to do? Try these:

  • Review your to-do list every morning to get a good grasp of the day ahead.
  • Get up a few minutes earlier to have a healthy breakfast so you’re not stressed before work.
  • Throughout the day, take regular short breaks to ensure that your mind stays fresh.

Whatever your favorite routines are, develop good habits to stay energized, reduce stress, and stay in peak creative form.

#2 – Keep an idea list.

It’s inevitable: creative people have a million ideas a minute. Unfortunately, all of these thoughts can also distract you from the task at hand.

So what should you do?

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Try a notebook to keep record of the great ideas you want to save but don’t have time to flesh out right now.

This is also great for when you feel like you have a creative block – simply refer to your list of ideas.

And you can also jot down the comedy of errors you’ve experienced over the years so you can avoid falling into the same traps and improve your productivity / profit margin / efficiency.

#3 – Be detail-oriented.

Remember that a successful creative goes beyond advertising and brand identity.

When working on a proposal, outline everything about the project from production prep to the finishing touches. This helps you give regular updates to your clients on where your current project stands.

An excellent creative process is nothing if not a thorough one.

#4 – Observe the world around you.

Creative work requires an observant eye. Clients and colleagues want ideas based on research and observation.

So check out current design trends. Pay attention to user interfaces (both good and bad). Study what topics, titles, and key words get people clicking and reading.

Watch and learn from the world around you.

#5 – Know your tools backwards and forwards.

For someone who lives and breathes creativity, it’s a must to maximize your skillset with the tools you use most often.

Always stay up on the latest studies, trends, or innovation related to your tools, whether that has to do with updated software, UX design, hardware, or language skills.

Become one with your tools of trade.

#6 – Learn from outside your field.

The world is your oyster.

Crack it open find inspiration from outside your area of expertise.

  • Go see as many movies as you can.
  • Listen to the hottest indie bands.
  • Read every magazine, novel, and web article you can.

Let other types of media contribute to your creativity.

#7 – Be flexible.

Ever lay awake in bed at night imagining the day when you reach the top of your field?

Even with the best ideas and endless energy, that day is likely impossible without flexibility.

So stay flexible throughout the creative process. That means listening to feedback from your clients and finding ways to incorporate it. This will help you build a positive attitude whenever you need to make adjustments.

Be flexible so that you can shift gears efficiently without too much emotional / mental stress.

#8 – Exercise creativity outside of work.

Creative work means out-of-the-box thinking.

To make sure your creative muscles are in shape, engage in creative activities outside work every day:

  • Rearrange your room.
  • Write a poem.
  • Bake.
  • Play a musical instrument.
  • Paint / sculpt / draw / sew / etc.

Such small, creative endeavors (aside from being fun) can give your mind a much-needed break. Even doodling can help with information retention and problem solving.

#9 – Self-care is a non-negotiable.

Sure, late nights and stress are inevitable, but an overworked, cranky you is less capable of cutting-edge output than one that’s healthy and fresh.

Before you say that you don’t have time, pick one of these items and commit to it for a full month. (Then choose a second and add it in.)

  • Eat balanced, full meals.
  • Exercise.
  • Stack up on protein.
  • Drink a lot of water.
  • Get enough sleep.

The healthy life always seems impossible until it’s done!

Good health boosts your creativity.

#10 – Only let positive, creative energy in.

It’s not just your work that needs creativity. Your life is a work of art as well.

No matter what your field is, you need to cultivate a culture of creativity.

To do this:

  • Surround yourself with people of the same mindset.
  • Learn from your most hardworking colleagues.
  • Get your team talking about the newest trends in and out of work.

When you surround yourself with the right energy, your creativity can triumph over any project, big or small.

The creative hustle

Often, people forget that creativity takes a lot more than just feeling inspired 24/7. It requires attention to the nitty-gritty and a thorough knowledge of the rules before you go breaking them.

Creatives often have a double-edged task: to continue pushing their creativity while adjusting it to produce exactly what the client needs.

In the end, learn to make changes to your credo. Let your experiences add new beliefs. Or completely scrap an item or two.

After all, it’s worth remembering that as someone who works in a creative industry, nothing is set in stone.


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  1. What a great list. I think I’m going to have to print this one. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this!

  2. I LOVE the idea list, I always have one going (actually there are many lists scattered across various devices and journals, that’s normal right?!)
    My husband even has his own list of ideas for me. He knows when I’m busy he just has to “put it in the book” and I’ll flesh it out later. Thanks John!

  3. Some things on this list might seem obvious, but we all need a reminder once and a while, this is quite a good list to pour over on slow days or simply as a brush up on your basics!

  4. This is great and I’ll daresay I would add mindful (or any sort of ) meditation, even though you somewhat hint at it throughout.

  5. Thanks for this, John! Even though I can’t draw, lately I’ve been sketching like crazy. I think one of my commandments is to step away from the screen. I spend way too much time in front of my computer and on my cell phone. Disconnecting really helps me recharge.

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