I first started blogging in 2006 or 2007 because I was feeling a bit stuck and needed a creative outlet that didn’t require expensive supplies or an expansive workspace. I’ve always gravitated toward writing and other forms of expression and thrive when I have projects to keep me busy, challenged and creatively engaged. If I don’t have at least 56 projects going, I get bored. And when I get bored, I get cranky. And when I get cranky, welp… I’m sorry.
Lately, I’ve been craving something a little messier than writing. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the recent snapshots of my sketchbook. I was hesitant to share those photos at first, but something I’m working on lately is letting go of perfection (Lord, is that ever a process.). Like, in all facets of life. So far, that’s not going
perfectly so well.
As a student, I had a tendency to re-do and re-re-do and re-re-re-do drawings and paintings, trying to “fix” every imperfection. A certain drawing professor (whom my sister and I grew to both love and be terrified of) once called my drawings overwrought. I would have been upset, but I was too busy fending off that random girl in our class who kept stealing our artists tape.
Now that I’m a grown-up (and no one’s after my tape stash), I get it. Also: I consider myself more of a casual dabbler than an artist, and I’ve decided casual dabblers can make as many mistakes as they want.
Back on topic: I need room to be creative. Like, even more than I need Junior Mints. Or Diet Coke. Or clean socks (we all know I hate socks, so that was kind of a bad example). You don’t need to be a painter or an opera singer to be creative. And often times that creativity comes naturally. Other times you may be stuck when working on a new recipe or article or trying to problem solve at work.
Believe it or not, creativity can be learned. (and, according to this Forbes article “creativity is far and away the most important skill needed to ‘thrive.’”) You don’t need to wear all black, or have some sort of emo haircut, or be in the drama club (though all those things are perfectly good). You don’t need to be a “creative type” to be creative or to benefit from creative thinking or practices.
Hopefully these ideas will help you make a little bit of room in your brains (or day, or spirit, or whatev) for creative solutions and projects.
Making room for creativity
Rethink your routine
Like most humans, I’ve caught myself making the old “I don’t have time” excuse. Real talk: If “x” (whether that’s doodling, or running, or eating well, or calling your mum) is important, you can make time. I promise. It’s possible.
If you’re adding something new to your day, like a sketching routine or revisiting the piano lessons of your childhood, you may need to reconfigure your schedule a bit. I wish there were a magic way to add an hour to your day, or a day to your week, but let’s be serious. I am not a magician (and frankly, they creep me out). There are only 24 hours in the day. If you want more time, you need to either wake up earlier, or stay up later. Or you know, skip 20 minutes of television watching (that’s not an admonishment, I’m thinking specifically of my undying devotion to Jeopardy!).
I’m a fan of that quiet time in the morning when Grace has gone back to sleep for a bit (hopefully) after eating at 4 or 5 AM and the sun is just starting to rise in Boston (…it was less lovely this winter when it was still pitch black, but hey). If I am not dead tired, I’ll putter around the condo a bit or grab some tea on the deck and watch the sky put on a show. For me, everything feels possible in the morning. For others, this may be true at night.
Carve our your time and protect it.
Carry a sketch pad, or journal, or violin, or wooden birdhouses and paint… or whatever with you. That way, when inspiration (or a free five minutes between meetings) strikes, you are armed and ready. On second thought, leave the birdhouses and paint at home. That project got a little messy.
A note about sketchpads: If possible, I recommend buying a few in person (like, in a real store rather than buying them online) mostly so you can get a feel (literally) for the paper quality. Inexpensive is good, but cheap and flimsy is maybe not so good. Check out a few different brands and be sure you like the weight and texture. If you’re using ink or watercolors, you may want to invest in a sketchbook designed for mixed or wet media.
I have a little travel watercolor set that I just love, some pens and a few sketchpads that fit easily into my handbag (which, in truth, is gigantic – but I think they’d fit in a normal sized bag too… especially if you remove the diapers, the wipes and Sophie the giraffe). I usually draw first, and that add color later.
Accept a challenge
It takes all of two minutes on Pinterest or Instagram and you’ll find enough doodle-a-day or photo-a-day prompts to last you ’til 2033. While participating in challenges like these can be fun in real-time, I always feel a wee bit guilty when I lose momentum and forget to post a photo… on the second day. Using challenge prompts for inspiration, instead, eliminates the guilt factor. Scroll through a list the next time you find yourself asking, “What should I draw?” or “What should I write about?” or “What should I name my new harmonica jam?”
You might also consider creating your own sort of challenge. Maybe you want to commit to writing daily, even if it’s a line or two. Or perhaps you’d like to blog or vlog (I will forever think those two words are weird) for a month. Deadlines and due dates and schedules can be helpful to some, but limiting to others. As Plato and a bunch of other old people used to say, Know thyself.
Set it to shuffle mode
Yes, I am talking about music. And yes, I am talking about other things too. Lately I’ve been both enjoying and being overwhelmingly mortified by my digital music library. I got bored with my playlists and started defaulting to shuffle, so my commute usually sounds something like this:
- Weird Christmas song
- A song about (but not by) Tupac
- Michael Jackson
- The soundtrack to Summer Heights High
- Ambient Reiki or yoga music
- Sad Whitney Houston song
- More Michael Jackson
- Jock Jams
- Another weird Christmas song
- An awesome Christmas song
- Three different versions of Raffi’s “Baby Beluga”
- Another sad Whitney Houston song
- A HIDDEN GEM!
Those hidden gems – the songs you haven’t heard in ages – make the embarrassment of having downloaded an entire Glee album (But seriously, when did I do that? I never liked the show.) worthwhile. Those songs might remind you of a specific time, place or person and may help to inspire your next project.
Other ways you can embrace shuffle mode: Open the newspaper (they still exist, I assure you) and read the first article you land on. Scroll through your phone and call the first person you see (it helps to maybe do a clean sweep of your phone and delete those randoms — you know: first name “Mary”, last name “From Yoga Class 2011″– first). Close your eyes, point to the menu, and order (disclaimer: not safe if you have food allergies).
Enjoy a change of scenery
I’m a big believer in the power of a simple change of scenery. We’re lucky that we can see the ocean from one side of our condo, and skyscrapers from the other. If you look directly out the front of our building, you’ll likely see one of my neighbors running some sort of insurance scam involving a neck brace and various other medical accessories, but that’s another story.
Regardless, one way to get creatively “unstuck” is to move. Duh. Take a quick walk, make a day trip to the country, visit a farm and pet some animals, enjoy a friend’s garden, spend the afternoon in the library or a bookstore reading through travel books, go for a hike, take a nap on the beach. When you’ve got new or different things to look at, your perspective is bound to change.
Oh, and this should go without saying, but… please don’t be like,
“Elizabeth! I took your advice! I saw sort of a weird, dark, kind of dangerous looking alley… and, um, I thought it might inspire me… so I walked down it. And now I am missing my wallet. AND AN EAR!”
Very Van Gogh, but also very NOT OKAY. Be careful and be safe. Think with your right brain while using your left brain. Please.
Pick up your camera. Or don’t.
These days, quite a bit of life is experienced from behind the screens of our smart phones or tablets (do I need to mention Google Glasses? Does anyone out there wear them?). On one hand, I love being able to take a quick photo of something that grabs my attention or type a quick note about a book title or upcoming event. On the other hand, I know I miss all kinds of things by being glued to my phone. I try to use my actual camera as much as possible for this reason. I only dig it out when I want to capture something… and I see those “somethings” because I am not preoccupied by looking at my camera. Mostly because it’s just a camera. It can’t text my sister a sloth pic.
Wheewwww. This was a long one. Think of everything you could have created and accomplished if you didn’t bother to read this post. My apologies.
Also On Tap for Today:
- Lookin’ for more? Check out these TED Talks on creativity
- Celebrating peak tomato season
- C25K Week 2, Workout 2
How do you make room for creativity in your day? What are you working on lately?