It’s Time to Get Ready for a Fresh Page, a Blank Slate, and a Sparkly New Creative 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, wishes, interests, potential (and followed) rabbit holes, and creative goals for the new year. This deliberate and intentional focus makes our creative lives more tangible, more real, and more important in the mix of our day to day. When we give time and conviction to the importance of our creative selves, we validate them in ways that I think are necessary, potentially life-altering, 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 or not even begin until 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 to what was and then look forward to what might be.
How was the year for you in terms of your creative life? Maybe you had or devoted extra time to making art, to drawing, or to creating mindful work in your sketchbook or journal. Maybe you tried new projects, practiced an area of interest, or did a deep dive. Maybe you did and completed challenges. Maybe you started and didn’t finish challenges but found the work you did was still meaningful. Maybe certain efforts were simply not the “right time” and could resurface later. Maybe you made and nurtured creative friendships that help fuel your creative drive. Maybe you took part in a weekly drawing group (like mine!). Or maybe you didn’t do the things you wanted, put projects aside, or didn’t find community to support you. Maybe life got in the way. Maybe your creative year was frustrating or challenged in ways that were difficult to navigate.
Knowing what worked, what didn’t, and why is important for determining a path to change and setting intentions for the new year.
I hope that you look ahead to 2023 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 at least a little bit different. As the years pass, I notice I am more and more the same year to year, but there are always small differences. The words I wrote last year feel true this year, too: I am more settled in my creative life than in years past. I have found sustaining projects that have meaning for me even if they are not always a flurry of newness and excitement. With my goals of mindfulness and a more simplified approach, these realities are not bad. I think my creative life sometimes seems mundane from the outside, but it is mindful. It is balanced. It is personally inspiring and rewarding. It works and fits within the contours of my time, space, and money. And, most importantly, I love what I do. The creative projects that occupy most of my energy are ones I love. I am secure in my creative practice. To me, that feels right and important.
The #illustrateyourweek illustrated journal has become my most important project and the creative space in which I spend the most time. It is the one creative thing I do every day, my most intentional and fulfilling creative routine. It is fluid, flexible, and mindful. Plus, it combines illustration and personal documentation in ways that have meaning for me.
I have started my year-end sketchnote for 2022, notes and subheads penciled in while watching “Three Pines” (which has enough “don’t look” moments for me anyway). I’ll go through and ink it over the next few days, but it feels so helpful to put these projects all on one page. Already I’ve had the “oh yeah, I forgot about that” sensation as I’ve tracked through the year. In terms of planning…. that’s next. I’m okay with that being a New Year’s Day or after activity, but I know others like to do it well ahead. The one big question I have for myself that I’ve left really low-key so far, which surprises me, is, do I want to try again with a stitch journal? I’ve only just started thinking about it, which could be a clue that it won’t work again, won’t fit, or just isn’t as pressing this year.
Even though I already know that my “365” is #illustrateyourweek, I know that I need to do at least a little bit of planning 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.
WOTY (Word of the Year) thinking is important in these days, as is creating book lists, project lists, and more.
Books that may be a good fit for you as you think about 2023:
- The Bullet Journal Method
- Atomic Habits
- The Artist’s Way
- Sketchnote Handbook
- Creative License
- 365 Days of Drawing
- One Color a Day Sketchbook: A Daily Art Practice and Visual Diary
(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 2023.
Sorting Out My Plan for a Creative Year
- What is your topmost creative goal for the year?
- Are you doing a daily or 365 (total) project? If so, what is your plan?
- Do you have other “daily” creative tasks/goals planned? List them.
- Do you have “weekly” creative tasks/goals planned? List them. (“Weekly” means you hope to do x once a week.)
- Do you have “monthly” creative tasks/goals planned? List them. (“Monthly” means you hope to do x once a month.)
- Do you plan to participate in any monthly challenges? List them by month.
- 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.
- 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?
- Of your bucket list projects, which one is most important to you? Is it something you could tackle this year? Why or why not? What is in the way?
- Is there an area, material, or medium you would like to explore? (If so, what?) What holds you back? Could you make this happen this year?
- Do you plan to take classes or workshops this year? If so, list them.
- If you have multiple “daily” creative goals, look at your list and estimate how much time they might take (all together).
- 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.)
- 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!)
- 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.
- 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.)
- What is your word for the year? (If you don’t know yet, what words are you considering?)
- How do you summarize your creative life or art to someone else? (1-3 sentences.)
- How does that summary make you feel?
- What makes you happiest or brings you the most satisfaction in your creative life?
- What would you like to change about your creative life?
- What steps can you take to bring about that change?
- 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?)
Panning for Gold – Sifting Projects for the New Year
A podcast in early 2019 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!