If the monotony (or anxiety) of life is weighing on you, this might be a great time to explore your creative side. Anyone can be creative because creativity is simply about expressing what’s inside of us. Skill and craft and talent have very little to do with it — it’s about the process, not the product.
Intentionally adding some creativity to your day will liven up your experience, enrich your interior life, and could just help you arrive at some new insights or connections. Not to mention the originality and beauty you can bring to your living space.
For some of us, creating feels like second nature. For others, the last time we created was for an assignment in middle school. But the truth is that we all have the ability to create, and the benefits of using this side of our brains are countless. A short amount of time outside our comfort zones, engaging with the arts, and tapping into our creative natures might free our minds up in new ways and unlock new approaches to bring to our routine tasks.
So if you’re interested in becoming a more creative person, here are some steps that you can take during a time of social distance or in your everyday life to begin a creative adventure.
1. Say this aloud: “I am a creative person!”
I recently returned from a facilitator training through First Aid Arts. One of the guidelines we repeated during our time together was, “I am a creative and artistic being” (accompanied by a funky dance motion to depict this statement). Did we look and sound silly? Of course! But that was kind of the point!
If we want to embrace creativity, we need to convince ourselves that we can be creative — and that begins with some healthy self-talk. Whatever your personal mantra might be, I encourage you to write it on a sticky note or color it on your mirror and incorporate this reminder into your daily routine.
We all have the capacity to create in some way, shape, or form. We already engage in practices of creating every day that we might not even realize: making a meal, choosing our outfit, styling our hair, listening to music, and scheduling our day, to name a few. If we shift our mindset, we begin to see that our entire day is a canvas where we are invited to creatively experiment.
2. Identify your obstacles
Listing the real or imagined obstacles that you believe stand in the way of engaging with a creative process is a great place to begin. The physical process of writing down our stumbling blocks gives our brains a moment to judge whether our fears are real or imagined. Sometimes we realize that creating seems like a chore because we expect a beautiful product or feel that we don’t have the time, space, or materials to freely create. Many of us are haunted by memories from our younger years when we were told to follow strict rules and directions, or were graded harshly and told our process or product was incorrect. Maybe our lives feel stretched thin at the moment and creating seems to be a luxury when “more worthy work” should be done.
Whatever finds its way onto your list of obstacles, I encourage you to reflect on the roots of these stumbling blocks, weigh which fears need your time and attention to truly tackle, and push yourself to begin somewhere — anywhere — even if it’s within these boundaries. For some, creating regardless of our obstacles can be a form of resistance and empowerment, but to others it may feel like a temporary escape that cannot last. You will know if you need to spend more time and energy simply trying to ignore your obstacles or truly working through and examining them.
3. Do not see time as a stumbling block
We too often believe that being creative means setting aside hours to get messy in the kitchen, go for a long walk to capture photographs, or prepare materials to paint. Maybe there are moments when setting aside large blocks of time would be energizing or relaxing for us. But we can create in five minutes or less if that is all our schedules (or energy levels) allow!
Many activities and projects can be completed in a few minutes or stretched into an entire afternoon. Think of taking photographs, playing with yarn, doodling with a pen, or scribbling with markers. When we take away the pressure of trying to make something look good, remove the time it takes for prep work and major cleanup, and allow ourselves the freedom to create uninterrupted for a short amount of time, we might actually come to believe and see that we have room and space for creativity without having to do a lot to carve space into our daily routines. We also need to give ourselves the freedom to come back and finish works or add to them at a later date.
4. Utilize your environment
Without a large canvas, room to get messy, paints in every color, and an artist smock, how will we ever create? We forget that we are surrounded by creative media, interesting techniques, and the freedom to experiment. Try not to write off the materials around you or see yourself as too advanced for a pen or pencil, a vibrant song, a ball of yarn, a carpeted dance floor, or a pair of scissors. Research crafty ideas online or challenge yourself to think of your own.
If you have been stuck inside for a bit too long, I encourage you to wander outside for a brief walk to collect inspiration or materials from your environment. Pick up a leaf to trace or transfer onto a piece of paper with crayons or pastels, grab some sticks to build a mini fort or table, or take some grass home with you and add it to a collage of nature pictures. Making your own mandala, coloring page, music playlist, photo album, collage, poem, short story, or recipe can all be engaging and challenging creative experiments with just a few, if any, materials. Try not to underestimate the power of a spontaneous dance party, scribble drawing, word dump, silly writing prompt, or blindfolded fingerpainting!
5. Take creative risks
Many of us have go-to “safe” ways to create. Whether it’s in the kitchen, with a thread and needle, on the computer, or with a canvas, we may have a space, genre, or medium that feels comfortable. I encourage you to take a risky step into the unknown and experiment with something new.
Maybe music is a jungle of confusion for you, or watercolor seems like you are just asking to throw out any sense of order and control. What if you have never picked up a paint brush, baked without a clearly defined recipe, or used ribbons to add to an expressive dance? When was the last time you touched a piece of chalk, danced when no one was looking, or got your hands messy with clay?
Experiment with something new and check-in with how you are feeling as you take a creative risk and jump. I really believe another word for creative risk is play. Have fun! Challenge yourself as much as you feel comfortable.
6. Refrain from value judgements
Finding time to simply create for ourselves allows us the freedom to refrain from assigning a judgement to our creations. Moving away from a focus on what we produce allows us to lean into the process of how we create. When we let go of the end product and instead attend to the colors we’re using, the amount of time we are giving to the work, our feelings or emotional temperature, the memories that spring up, then more of these resources and connections become available. This is what happens when we tune into the journey of creating.
Some suggest we should forget the “gallery” in which our artwork could be displayed, but I would invite you to imagine presenting our piece and creative process at a “gallery talk” — examining, laughing at, and noticing the steps it took to create. Assign value to the truth that you are making time to celebrate your creative energies. Embrace an entirely new grading scale that you yourself get to imagine.
With these tools in your back pocket, I wish you all the best as you tap into your creativity (even if you think it is hiding deep, deep down inside).