Advice on “how to be creative” may feel like a contradiction in terms, because if we’re following a formula, or set of repeatable instructions, it seems like we're tamping down our creativity, not enhancing it. And yet, we live in an adult world that ignores our innate creative nature, so much so that some of us have started to believe we have lost our creativity somewhere on the way from childhood to adulthood.
Rest assured, it is still there, but we may need some extra support once in a while to remind us where to find it. And while there is nothing that will spark your creativity more than literally creating something, making a soufflé or a pair of earrings or a garden bench takes time and raw materials. In this post, I'm interested in how we can access our creativity in subtle drips and drops, to gently increase its flow through our days and weeks.
If you aren’t sure why you might want to re-discover or strengthen your creativity, consider how it often translates into the work world as initiative, curiosity, and innovation. Consider how it may manifest in your relationships as playfulness, spontaneity, or adventure. I believe these qualities are examples of our innate creativity channeled into our daily lives in ways that make them meaningful.
That said, here are four tiny tips to try at home, at work, or anywhere in between:
1. Stories – Whether realistic or fantastical, a good story or novel stimulates your imagination, re-familiarizing you with the realm of possibility. Reading stories trains your mind to imagine things that do not actually exist (at least not yet). This is one of the many thresholds of creativity. If you've ever spent time with children, you know how much they love story time before bed. Every adult has an inner child who never forgot about that sacred time. As Julia Cameron writes, your inner artist is a child. Indulge her. Try NPR Books if you're not sure where to start.
2. Nature – A generous and visceral reminder of the eternal process of growth and change, the natural environment embodies the creative cycle. Walk in nature, listen to the birds, keep a potted plant on your desk, or simply observe the trees, flowers and grasses that peek through our urban landscapes. Consider that your life also is a unique process of growth and change.
3. Doodle – No great masterpieces, or even recognizable images are needed for this to work. Lines, circles, loops, scribbles, and squiggles are the name of the game. Fill up the margins of a notebook or keep scrap paper and a pen by the phone. Make some tiny marks with real ink on real paper with your real hand. The linking of body and mind through this simple movement instantly puts you into the mode of creator, whether you realize it or not.
4. Organize - I truly believe that creative opportunity is everywhere. If I'm really feeling stuck or unmotivated, sometimes I'll just organize a drawer or a closet. This seemingly mundane act of spatial problem-solving is a super practical way of boosting your creative energy. The trick is to actively choose to see this as a creative challenge rather than an unpleasant chore, and to get some part of your body engaged with the ordering of physical objects in ways of your own choosing.
How do you keep your creative energy going? Please leave your personal tips and tricks in the comments. And if you're interested in exploring your own creativity more deeply, check out my upcoming retreat, CREATE, March 22-25, 2018.