An artistic practice lets you be intimate with something you love: color, shape, sensation, gravity, vibration, rhythm, word, image, light, shadow, texture, scent...
My two root practices are singing and writing, but I have others, too. (Read about them here.) Because I've practiced singing and writing for decades, under all circumstances, they've become my refuge. No matter what's happening, I'm more alive if I've practiced.
Because I want to see a world of citizen-artists, I teach. This is one of the astonishments of my life: given the right conditions and a minimum of instruction, the most extraordinary, memorable, art will arise from regular folks in unglamorous settings.
An artistic practice can be a private source of nourishment or it might unfold in such a way that it eventually becomes relevant to a community. Either is fine. Either way, the world is better off.
Here's my list of the hallmarks of a good artistic practice:
1) You can do it no matter how you feel.
2) It requires minimal expense and preparation.
3) It allows for the free flow of feelings. More importantly, it helps you to mix feelings - to combine opposites.
4) It has a structure, shapeliness: a beginning, middle, and end. A time limit is a useful way to create structure.
5) You are your own teacher. You give yourself a small assignment at the beginning. As you go, you change your mind or stay the course.
6) It teaches you about your style, temperament, and themes.
7) It helps you to notice the world.
8) It connects you to the spirit of your "materials." In other words, it helps you to feel the character - and will - of whatever it is you work with: wood, say, or clay. Paint or words or vibration or gravity...
9) It helps you to enjoy not knowing what you're doing.
10) It has a few ground rules - not many, but, without them, all you've got is permission which gets boring.
11) One of the rules should address the role of outside opinion (praise, comparison, criticism, or advice) in your practice. It takes a lot of practice and a strong relationship to your muse before you are ready for someone else's assessment of your work.
12) It's a pleasure, even if you sometimes feel resistant, and you will, which brings us back to #1.
Further reading: My Artistic Practices blog post.