Top 5 Tips for the Busy Creative

Amandine Thomas demystifies creative routines, and show you how, with the right approach, building one and sticking to it really isn’t that hard.
Amandine Thomas
A creative mother gleefully lifts up her baby in front of the camera.
How do you create solid foundations for a creative routine when you find yourself being so busy that creativity just has to take the backseat? Read on to demystify creative routines, and find out how, with the right approach, building one and sticking to it really isn’t that hard.
Line drawings of a small baby

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Before we go too far in, you might be wondering, why drawing? Well, if you’ve watched my Skillshare class Find your Creative Style, or if you've read this article, you know that setting-up a regular sketching practice played a massive role in the development of my illustration style. But my sketchbook has also always been a great creative outlet, especially when I feel like I don’t have time for my own projects. Like when I was given structured assignments as an art student, and didn’t always feel like I could have some creative play time, or as the art director of a magazine, when all my creative juice went to my job and I never really got to work on anything for myself. And of course more recently as a very overwhelmed mum. But that’s not it!

Drawing can also be an amazing self-care tool. It can give you 5 minutes in your own focused, thoughtful bubble, no matter how much chaos there is around you.

To me, it’s almost like meditating: I can forget about everything else and focus on drawing. And that’s why it’s perfect for busy, overwhelmed, potentially burnt-out people!

In French, we have a saying, “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.” It means “Best is the enemy of good,” but it’s commonly translated as “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Now how does this apply to creativity? Well sometimes when we aim for perfection, we end up not even trying, right? Because we’re too afraid to fail. And we probably would, too, because creating something perfect is impossible. So we end up missing out on just doing something… So,  I really encourage you to adopt this philosophy in your own creative journey: doing just good, or even doing bad, is better than not doing at all!

A comic showing food items dropped on my baby's head while breastfeeding

For example, when my baby Lucie was born, I had this grand ambition that I would draw a comic a day about my experience (fellow parents, you can laugh!). I ended up creating ONE comic only, and I got super frustrated with myself. I didn’t have any ideas, didn’t have any time, and I almost gave up on recording anything from the experience. But, once I reminded myself of “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien,” I downgraded from a comic a day to a simple sketch every other day. Much more manageable with a newborn. And you know what? Good enough too!

So, now that we have our guiding philosophy, let’s look at some practical tips to get you started. I’ll run you through my top 5, which hopefully will help you build that healthy foundation I mentioned earlier.

1/ Create Space

The first thing you need is to create space in your daily schedule. And I know, you’re gonna tell me that’s the biggest challenge! But that’s why we need to tackle it first, by looking into your schedule and identifying small blocks of passive time. I call passive any time you might have in your schedule when you are technically busy, but not actually actively engaged in what you’re doing. A perfect example is your morning train commute, for example. It could be your first five minutes in the office if you get there early, or while your kid is taking a cat nap.

Once you identify these blocks, you can decide to dedicate one or several of them to being creative. But it has to make sense in your schedule, otherwise it will be much harder to stick to it! For example, don’t plan creative time just before work if you know it won’t be achievable for you to get to your desk early. 

2/ Don’t be too ambitious

Whatever you do, pick an achievable goal. For example, don’t expect to finish something every day. Instead, break your projects into manageable chunks. If you pick an unrealistic goal, like I did when my daughter was born, you will just end up frustrated and disappointed in yourself.

Keeping it short and sweet will help you commit to being creative every day, while setting yourself up for success.


3/ Start small

Of course, this means that you have to start small. Pick easy projects that you can achieve with what you have around you. Now is not the time to launch into daily oil painting, or writing a children’s book. Instead, commit to something simple and fun, just for yourself. It doesn’t have to be particularly meaningful or lead to anything, as long as it gets your routine going! We’re just trying to establish a habit here (psst, the exercises I share in my Skillshare class The Busy Creative would be a perfect starting point).


4/ Stay practical

Now this may seem obvious, but staying practical is key when you’re busy. For example, by having your tools always ready and accessible, in the right spot, and by limiting setup and cleanup time as much as possible. This means you probably will have to use easy techniques, and simple tools. There won’t be time to whip out paints and canvas, but a small notebook and a pen (I love these ones by the Pigeon Letters) will have you drawing in seconds.

For example, when my baby was super young, I would keep a small notebook and fine-liner by her play area. That way, every time she seemed happy to entertain herself, I could whip them out and do a quick sketch!

Black and white sketches of a small baby

5/ Celebrate the little wins

And finally, yes, any time spent creating is worth celebrating, even if you produced something horrendous… I have quite the collection of ugly sketches myself, but you know what, it doesn’t matter, because at least I gave it a go! Remember, better is the enemy of good. Could I produce something better? Sure! Would I have done it if I was too attached to the end result? Absolutely not. I never got to do my one-witty-comic-a-day project, but I do have a sketchbook full of drawings, and these small, often quite misshapen sketches are what kept me sane in these crazily busy early weeks with my daughter.

Ugly black and white sketches of a small baby.

So whether you’re wrangling a toddler or two, busy with exams or struggling with work-life balance, get yourself a sketchbook, and start drawing! You'll be surprised by how much you can achieve in a short amount of time (and how good you'll feel about it)!


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