Creative process vs. creative routine

Did you know that...

Murakami wakes up at 4 am to write? And that Picasso practically went to bed at that time (Mediterraneans be crazy)?

Well, apparently it is true.

This infographic based on Mason Currey's book has been making the internet rounds and it's as fascinating as it can be misinterpreted. Creative nerd to the rescue!


Want to develop a better work routine? Discover how some of the world's greatest minds organized their days.
Click image to see the interactive version (via Podio).

I've noticed some mix-ups between the idea of creative "process" and the idea of creative "routine" and even creative "ritual".

So I've decided to be that person and write a clarifying blogpost (this is why nerds are rarely popular kids in school)*.

And why would you care? Because the more aware you become of these 2/3 components of your creative life, the more you'll be able to make informed decisions and cultivate whatever aspect you want to improve.

How does that sound?

Here we go, then:


Refers to

"systematic, continuous action"

The way I'd definte it would be by switching it to "path" or "journey". Not in a "follow your bliss" way. It's the (never straight) line that goes from no idea to finished piece. And by professional deformation, the way I'd visualize this process would be pretty exactly like this (design thinking):


This is one of my 2013 videos, back when I thought everyone needed to vlog to make it in the internet. We all have a past, I guess. Just be thankful I stopped the madness.


or if you prefer a quick glance at a graph, here's IDEO's visualization (they are the ones that got this out there):


In my experience, this path is valid for people who write, or paint, or do anything else that's not specifically design.

Moving on!



Back to the dictionary:

"commonplace tasks, chores, or duties as must be done regularly or at specified intervals; typical or everyday activity; an unvarying and constantly repeated formula, as of speech or action; convenient or predictable response"

Basically, this is your day to day. As a creative, you are lucky that your day to day might not be "shower, put office clothes on, get in tube, get to office, turn computer on". Virtual high five!


Your creative routine might look like the time tables above: are you a morning person? do you use technology in your work? Do you absolutely need 3 coffees to produce anything decent? That's your routine right there.

Now, here's a bonus definition for you. I know, the joys of being a nerd.



"a prescribed or established rite, ceremony, proceeding, or service"

For example: I LOVE smells. I always have some incens or essential oils doing their thing in the background. Before I get to work, I put these one, try and meditate, and then I get going.

Yes, there's a small line between rituals and routine, you are right. Let's say, I've found a spot for my rituals in my routine. Smells might be evocative or even inspiring for me, but I use them as a way to "set a scene". Rituals are important in religion, for example, because they get you focused, in a specific mood.

I've heard of designers that work in a home office that leave home, walk around the block, and get back home in order to feel ready to "be there". Rituals tend to have a symbolic meaning.

So next time you read about how some peep's creative process is all about "petting one's teacup porcupine whilst wearing renaissance clothes in the moonlight", you can know that's not quite like that (and you don't need to get a porcupine to be creative yourself!).


So: there you go.

Observe where you draw lines between these three concepts in your own life, and feed whichever one needs feeding.**

Happy creating!


*Thinking on writing another educational yet fun article on what an abstract piece of Art is. The "abstract" hashtag feed in instagram is driving my inner snotty savant slightly nuts.

** Where did the comments go?! Well, I've noticed you mostly email me to share your insights. So, if this post tickled your fancy, share your thoughts by dropping me a line or finding me on instagram. Thanks, da'ling!


creative nerdMaria Gil