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Questions for a Creative New Year 2021

Amy Creative Journey | Featured | Philosophical Threads | Planning | WOTY , , , , , ,
Plan for a creative 2021

It’s Time to Get Ready for a Fresh Page, a Blank Slate, and a New Year!

Both year-end reflection and new-year planning are important, and I really believe there is tremendous value in doing these things with a creative lens, focusing on our creative successes, challenges, pivots, evolutions, areas of focus, discoveries, projects completed, and creative goals for the new year. This focus makes our creative lives more tangible, more real. When we give time and conviction to the importance of our creative selves, we validate them in ways that I think are invaluable, necessary, and so very important.

I hope that you make time for these processes – both the reflection and the planning – as the year winds down and the new one begins. Everyone does this on a different schedule or cycle. You might do it earlier than others or later; you might do it more expansively than others or more quickly. You might still be working on this in January. It all counts. And it is all for you in terms of the value and potential in taking time to sit quietly and look back and then forward.

2020 has been unusual in so many ways and so very difficult for many. It may, however, have been an excellent year for you in terms of creativity. Maybe you found during the pandemic that extra time, or extra stress, or extra anxiety, or extra isolation correlated to more art, more drawing, or more mindful work in your sketchbook or journal. Maybe you found new ways to connect with other artists or made new creative friendships online that have new importance in your life and help fuel your creative drive. There are silver linings everywhere, and when you look back at the year as a whole, you might be surprised to find some that are related to your creative life.

I hope that you look ahead to 2021 with fresh eyes, hope, and resolve to continue to make creativity an important part of your life.

Year After Year – They Slip by Quickly

I have used the same set of questions for the last several years, but each year, I find that my own mindset moving into the year’s end is different. This year, I simply feel quiet, settled, and more low-key than I remember in prior years. I am “content” in a way that feels different maybe than in years past. I am secure in my creative practice. I have branched out and reconnected with some of the illustration and personal documentation projects that have meaning to me. And in 2020, I shared and ran a number of prompt-driven challenges. The podcast has continued, with a high number of episodes in 2020, and I also have been experimenting with video and timelapse, an area of high interest for me right now. It’s been a very busy 2020 for the CMP. At the same time, I am realistic about how things I hoped (every year) would really grow haven’t – despite all the effort and time I’ve invested.

Other than those few sentences, I haven’t done any of my own year-end reflection or future planning. I know that I need to do both. On the planning front, I know that I need to do at least a little bit to feel like I have some kind of game plan for the new year — even if the game plan isn’t really any different than what I’m already doing. In truth, there are things that have changed for me in 2020, so I know I need to get some of this down to capture the picture as I wrap up the year. Wrapping it up with a tidy little bow is always the goal. My annual year-end sketchnote selfie is often one of the most important things I do in this coming week. (I’ll be posting a reminder about that separately.)

WOTY (Word of the Year) thinking will be a part of the coming days, as will creating some book lists, project lists, and more. I am exploring a new organization system that I am really excited about. I’m staying quiet about it because I really hope to do some deep-diving and then be able to share more about this system with those of you who also enjoy digital tools.

Books that may be a good fit for you as you think about 2021:

(For more suggestions, see Creative Titles, the Large Sketchbooks list, and the ROYGBIV series.)

A Two-Part Process

In 2017, I came up with a set of questions for thinking about the coming/new year. I am going to use them again this year. The questions below pair up as a logical follow to my year-end creative review questions. This set of questions is specifically for planning your creative year. Nothing you write here is set in stone, but your answers to these questions may help you see the big picture of your year or identify the direction you want to take or changes you may want to consider.

Note: I mostly left the questions below as they were. I am just going to use them, as they are, as a touchstone and starting point for thinking about a fulfilling, rewarding, healthy, balanced, and exciting creative year in 2021.

Sorting Out My Plan for a Creative Year

  1. What is your topmost creative goal for the year?
  2. Are you doing a daily or 365 (total) project? If so, what is your plan?
  3. Do you have other “daily” creative tasks/goals planned? List them.
  4. Do you have “weekly” creative tasks/goals planned? List them. (“Weekly” means you hope to do x once a week.)
  5. Do you have “monthly” creative tasks/goals planned? List them. (“Monthly” means you hope to do x once a month.)
  6. Do you plan to participate in any monthly challenges? List them by month.
  7. What projects or explorations do you plan to do (other than any 365 or monthly challenges)? List them in order of interest or planned sequence.
  8. What projects, not yet listed, are bucket list projects that you would like to do “someday” and keep putting off and carrying into the future?
  9. Of your bucket list projects, which one is more important to you? Is it something you could tackle this year? Why or why not? What is in the way?
  10. Is there an area, material, or medium you would like to explore? (If so, what?)
  11. Do you plan to take classes or workshops this year? If so, list them.
  12. If you have multiple “daily” creative goals, look at your list and estimate how much time they might take (all together).
  13. Is this amount of time possible in your day? (If not, return to the “daily” list and really look closely at what you want to do daily versus, for example, weekly or monthly.)
  14. How do you “feel” when you look at your list of projects? (If your list inspires anything less than positive thought and excitement, you may need to reevaluate your list! If your list overwhelms you, definitely look again!)
  15. Does your list of projects and goals/tasks allow room for discovery, flexibility, and “new” projects that will arise? If not, look closely at your list to make sure you have flexibility.¬†Things¬†always come up that you didn’t plan on.
  16. What one goal can you meet in the first month of the year to make you feel good about your creative life? (You should repeat this question in advance of every month.)
  17. What is your word for the year? (If you don’t know yet, what words are you considering?)
  18. How do you summarize your creative life or art to someone else? (1-3 sentences.)
  19. How does that summary make you feel?
  20. What makes you happiest or brings you the most satisfaction in your creative life?
  21. What would you like to change about your creative life?
  22. What steps can you take to bring about that change?
  23. How will you keep yourself on track this year to meet your goals for your creative life? (In other words, do you have an accountability system or partner? Do you need one? How could you create a system that gives you just the right nudge?)


A podcast in early 2019 really summarizes my approach to starting off the year with “all the things” (e.g., “all the projects”) and seeing what sticks. You might like this one, even if you’ve heard it before. You might also find the recent show on starting where you are helpful.

Good luck, and Happy New Year!


Older posts on this topic: 2019, 2018, 2017.

Note: links provided to books, tools, and other resources on the Creativity Matters Podcast website may be affiliate links for which the podcast would make a (very) small amount of money if the item was purchased. The Creativity Matters Podcast is an affiliate. Links are provided for convenience to help you find/see/explore the books, tools, and resources I talk about. Using the library, when possible, is always my first recommendation for reviewing books firsthand.

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