Why the creativity contract is vital for writers

What up, wordsmiths? Today, we’re taking the first step in our spiritual spring cleaning journey, using The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron: completing the creativity contract.

As a freelance writer and editor, I sign contracts all the time. They establish the terms and conditions of the work, and most importantly, they protect me and my client.

Similarly, the creativity contract is a signed and dated commitment to your creative recovery and an excellent way to figure out how to be more creative. Here’s mine:

“I, Mel Lee-Smith, understand that I am undertaking an intensive, guided encounter with my own creativity. I commit myself to the 12-week duration of the course. I commit to weekly reading, daily morning pages, a weekly artist date, and the fulfillment of each week’s tasks.

I further understand that this course will raise issues and emotions for me to deal with. I commit myself to excellent self-care, adequate sleep, diet, and exercise, and pampering for the duration of the course.

Signed, Mel Lee-Smith, March 25, 2019.

creativity contract

The fill-in-the-blank contract template is included in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, but I’ve copied it by hand in the first page of my morning pages notebook. (We’ll cover the morning pages in next week’s post.)

Cameron encourages artists to commemorate the start of their journey with a little ceremony — buy a shiny new notebook or plan ahead for weekly artist dates (another invaluable tool for creative recovery which we’ll discuss in a future post).

I didn’t need to buy a new notebook because I am notorious for hoarding notebooks.

If I’d bought a new one, I think my husband might’ve rolled his eyes so hard back into his skull they’d get stuck there. (I’m sure some of y’all can relate…)

The point is, completing your creativity contract is a huge step toward your creative recovery, so do something to celebrate!

Why you need a creativity contract to beat your creative block

Writer, it pains me to break this to you, but if you’re looking to recover your creative drive and reprioritize your writing life, this journey is a solitary one.

Of course, establishing a support group of fellow artists is important — but in the end, it’s up to you, and you alone, to follow through.

You must hold yourself accountable, so having that creativity contract right there on the front page of your notebook, copied in your own handwriting, is a cozy safety net.

“Come back to [the creativity contract] when you need encouragement to go on,” writes Cameron. This is the last line of her introduction, “The Basic Tools”, before the start of week one.

How to be more creative and productive: some ideas for your creativity contract

If you’re writing your own creativity contract, you might like to set daily, weekly, or monthly goals: write x number of words, read x number of books, etc.

I avoided setting exact goals because, to be honest, I’m a little scared of letting myself down. Right now, my focus is to make time and space every single day to write. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself before I’ve started. Baby steps!

You might like to expand your creativity contract to include other artistic pursuits — drawing, painting, coloring, singing, dancing, whatever you like to do.

Cameron’s prefab contract includes commitments to self-care, so feel free to add some specific health-related goals — practice yoga daily, go for a walk, treat myself to an at-home spa day each weekend, etc.

You might also want to include a few affirmations:

“I am a talented writer/artist and I will not let my inner censor stop me from achieving my goals.”

“Success is different for everyone. My definition of success is ______.”

“My worth as a person is not determined by my productivity.”

Your creativity contract is just that: yours. So feel free to include whatever you think will keep you on track.

Here are just a couple of ways to follow through with your creativity contract:

  • Create daily writing and self-care routines.
  • Join a writing challenge, like NaNoWriMo.
  • Start a bullet journal.
  • Use time blocking.
  • Set reminders.
how to be more creative in writing, creative block, how to be more creative and productive

However, to quote Cameron again, “a creative recovery is a healing process.” You will almost certainly trip up along the way. Shit happens, and that’s okay. (Cameron even says so in her book.) What matters is that you make the effort every single day.

Your creativity contract is a way to self-motivate, establish the terms and conditions of your creative recovery, and hold yourself accountable.

Next week, we’ll cover what Cameron calls “the primary tool for creative recovery”: the morning pages.

How’s your spiritual spring cleaning journey going so far? I’d love to hear all about your experience! Remember, we’re on this journey together. You know what they say — the more, the merrier!

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