10 Habits Of Successful Creatives
It wasn't until I actually sat down to pen this piece that I discovered that "creative" (when it's a noun, not an adjective) was as controversial of a word as it is. If you surf around cyberspace, you'll see articles like "Are You Creative or Are You an Artist? (You Might Be Neither)" and the quick read "Who Is a Creative?" But I think it's a few lines in the piece, "What Is a Creative?" that I personally resonate with most. According to it, a creative is an artist, an individual and a thought leader; not one or another—all three.
Adding to that, a true creative is someone who doesn't copy or bite off of others. A true creative doesn't disrespect or dishonor someone's intellectual property. What a true creative does do is tap into their imagination to come up with original ideas. What a creative does do is come up with concepts that are nothing short of original, visionary and inspired. A creative doesn't follow paths; they blaze trails. A creative is someone who not everyone "gets" or even always (initially) supports. The creative doesn't care; they keep on creating anyway. It's the creative's habits and lifestyle that help them to keep on creating.
If you consider yourself to be a creative, first, I salute you. There aren't too many things more amazing' than you. I also think that you'll totally resonate with all of the habits that I'm about to share because, there's a high probability that they are a part of your regular routine (as they are mine).
10 Habits Of Highly Creative People
Creatives Spend Time with the Master Creator
Something that I find to be cool about how God is described in the Bible is, His first introduction is as a creator—"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1) Then, a few passages up, Scripture tells us that He declared, "Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." (Genesis 1:26) To me, it's a reminder that I was made, by the Master Creator, to reflect His image by being creative too. In many ways, creating is a form of prayer, meditation and worship.
So yeah, it is my personal opinion that while creatives may be, well, creative in how they accomplish this first point, in some way, they are intentional about "tapping into" their Creator—whether it's before, during or after (if not all three), they are creating something.
Creatives Think WAY Outside of the Box
Wanna know if something is truly creative? It will be new, fresh and—one of my favorite definitions of original—"arising or proceeding independently of anything else". In order for something to be that, it's got to appear a little strange, maybe even crazy, at first. Creatives don't mind because they know that's what comes with the territory. It's not about if it makes sense to others or can be compared to something else. In fact, if it does, usually to a creative, that means they aren't doing something right.
To a creative, when they are creating something and someone says, "Yeah, I don't get it", that is high praise. It's a confirmation that they aren't working within a box but outside of it, which is just what they wanted to do all along.
Creatives Avoid Negative Things and PeopleGiphy
Back to spirituality for just a second, according to the Bible, the first thing that God made is light. Light is pure. Light illuminates. Light is a form of guidance. Creatives like to get into and stay in the light. In this sense, what I'm speaking of is positivity. Anything that will take them out of a "light space", they will avoid it like the plague because it is negative and negativity is dark and draining.
I recently read an article from a psychotherapist about just how much negativity alters our brains. Instantly, I thought about someone I know who is a creative. Whenever complaining or gossip comes up in a conversation, they immediately excuse themselves. I've seen people get offended by how abrupt they are, but I get it. They'd rather protect their creativity and energy than not appear rude.
That's something else about creatives—they are very loyal, intensely so, to their creative space, both internally and externally. The more light (positivity), the better.
Creatives Listen to (Different Genres of) Music
There are a lot of artists and musicians in my space. When it comes to about half of them, if someone were to ask me what kind of music that they did, I'd categorize it as being "genre-less". That's because you can tell that they are fans of Biggie and Sade and James Taylor and Mozart and Dolly Parton and The Clark Sisters and Duran Duran and all of 90s R&B andLizzo and Insecure's soundtracks—all kinds of music inspire them.
Same goes for creatives, at large. It's not uncommon for them to create with the most random playlist you've ever heard before (or complete silence). As far as the music goes, that makes sense because scientifically, music makes us happier, reduces stress and improves our learning and memory.
If you are a creative who always has a set of headphones on, I will give you a heads up on an article that I checked out on this very topic. Apparently, if you want to make the most out of your creative time, avoid rock music, only listen to classical if you really dig it and reserve new tunes for when you're relaxing as opposed to when you are creating. (Feel free to hit up the comments section to let me know if this is true for you or not.)
Creatives Unapologetically Require “Me Time”
Only a creative will really appreciate what I am about to say. When we're doing something that is the epitome of being a creative entity, it not only benefits us; it blesses others too. Because this is the reality of creating, this means that our energy is constantly being used with other individuals in mind. That's why creatives have absolutely no problem with falling off of the grid from time to time. In order to remain balanced, focused and secure with oneself, there has to be moments when we get alone in order to hear our own thoughts, cater to our own needs and not hear other people's opinions.
It could come in the form of journaling, binge-watching a show all week long or taking a weekend trip to a B&B. But you can best believe that we're gonna shut the world out sometimes, and it's gonna be fairly often, and we're not gonna apologize for it.
Creatives Make Having Fun and Pleasure a Top Priority
Every year, I make it a point to have a theme word—and an anchor text—for my birthday. My peeps are used to that and so, when they asked me what it was gonna be for 45, I knew right away—pleasure. Some of them gave me a sheepish grin but it's whatever. And yes, I have a Scripture to back it up. Two, in fact. The New King James Version of Psalm 16:11 says, "You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore" and the Message Version of Ecclesiastes 9:7-8 has a line in it that says, "God takes pleasure in your pleasure!"
What both of these verses remind me is there has to be room for doing what I enjoy, what makes me laugh, what is pure unadulterated fun.
A lot of creatives remain in a constant state of what I call "purpose fatigue" because they act like it's some sort of crime to get off of the clock and do something for the sheer delight of doing it. But seasoned creatives know that if they don't, they will burn out, possibly get sick and end up miserable. Yep, fun and pleasure are constants for creatives. As often as possible too.
Creatives Unplug and Hang Out with Nature
Wanna know one reason why it's a good idea to put your smartphone down more often? It competes with your creativity. Think about it. Pretty much everything that we take in online is the manifestation of someone else's ideas. And while sometimes that can be inspiring, other times, it's nothing more than a colossal waste of time. True creatives know this; that's why there are moments—days even—when they may be unreachable or they'd much rather take a hike than watch a movie. They need to unplug for a bit.
This point reminds me of the classic readThe Celestine Prophecy. It spends a significant amount of time talking about how nature teaches us things and recharges us. If you're currently having a creative block, get out of your phone and go outside into the fresh air and sunlight for a bit. Out of all of the things that have already been created, just looking at nature can remind you just how beautiful true creations actually are.
Creatives Make Some Pretty “Strange” Sacrifices
The textbook definition of a sacrifice is to give up something great for something better. I'm not sure if anyone does this better than a true creative. They might let go of a relationship in order to get an idea off of the ground. They might move in with a friend so that they can put their rent money towards a bomb business concept. Although they may traditionally be the life of the party, you might not see them for half a year while they try and turn their art into something that will pay their bills.
To the outside world, going for months eating not much more than quinoa and beans or selling your car so that you don't have to take out a loan may appear cr-a-zy. But not to a creative. To them, the sacrifices that they make now speaks to how much they believe that their dream(s) will manifest—and payoff—later.
Creatives Keep Their Circle Super Tight
Oh, how I wish I could give the person who said this their just due! I just can't remember where I stored the quote. Anyway, it was from a guy who posted on one of his social media accounts that we should be careful who we share our ideas with because they will first try and make us feel insecure about them and then turn around and attempt to do them instead. Pearls. Of. Wisdom.
The funny thing about creatives is, oftentimes a lot of people know who they are without truly knowing them (because someone can't "know you" unless you agree that they do). Because creatives are full of concepts and ideas, they have to be very careful who they open themselves up to. This means that their circle is usually very small because, while they are (hopefully) polite to all, they are intimate with only a few.
It might come off as standoffish at times, but it's not meant to be. Creatives just have to protect their head, heart and inspired space. It will be very difficult for them to create if they don't.
Creatives Take Lots of Risks
And finally, creatives are risk-takers. BIG TIME. However, a wise creative knows that there are such things as good risks and bad risks. What's the difference? I once read a writer compare investing money in the stock market to playing at a casino. Because putting money into stocks typically requires research, you're able to understand the probability of making your money back. It's a risk, but it's a calculated one, making it (usually) a good risk. On the other hand, taking your rent money to casino and playing random games, hoping that you'll be the Black version of Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore in the movie Indecent Proposal (before Robert Redford's character jacked it all up) is basically like playing roulette with your cash, ultimately, making it a bad risk.
Creatives know they have something special. What they also know is a lot of people are hoping that they don't see just how special their ideas and talents are. So, while they do make it a practice to take on ventures, pretty much on a regular basis, they don't do so without doing research, weighing out the pros and cons or without allowing their gut instinct to play a role. They're risky but they aren't super hasty. They know that what's right for them won't pass them by; that the best opportunities will be totally worth the risk and will only take their creativity—and themselves—to new heights. Habitually so.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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This 5-Minute Workout Can Help You Build Muscle Strength & Endurance
EMOM is short for "every minute on the minute." This form of exercise is quick and efficient; it will get your heart rate elevated fast while simultaneously building muscle strength and endurance. To start an EMOM, you select an exercise and choose the allotted number of reps you'd like to perform within the minute. The goal is to finish as quickly as possible, with the correct form, so you can get a longer break between sets.
In the 5-minute EMOM below, you'll complete the designated number of reps for each exercise listed without a break in between, and once you're finished, you'll rest until the next minute begins. At the top of the next minute, you'll repeat all the exercises again and rest until the following minute beings. Your goal is to complete this cycle for a total of 5 times.
A friendly tip before you begin is to make sure you have at least 20 seconds of rest between each set. Also, note if you're finishing with more than 30 seconds on your time. If so, add two additional reps to each exercise. (i.e., 4-inchworms would become 6-inchworms, etc.)
The goal of an EMOM is to challenge yourself and work towards simultaneously developing cardiovascular endurance, as well as muscle strength and endurance.
Exercise 1: Inchworms
Try to have at least 20 seconds of rest between sets and if you're getting more than 30 seconds of rest add more reps equally by twos to each exercise.
Repeat this EMOM 5 times for a focused warm-up, workout finisher, or when you're low on time and simply need to get your body moving.
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