It’s hard to be creative all the time.
Or even some of the time.
Many of us never feel as if we’re creative, perhaps having been labelled as ‘uncreative’ at school.
But if that’s you, you need to expand your definition of creativity.
Creativity isn’t dichotomous; on, or off.
It’s a continuum. Some activities are highly creative, others are very monotonous. But a huge amount of our day-to-day activities are in the middle. Moderately creative. The opportunities are there – in many ways, we’re constantly creating.
And we can find a huge variety of ways to feel creative. The arts are an obvious way, of course, from the act of composing a song to writing a book, but we can also be creative in our everyday life. From choosing a birthday present to cooking a meal, there are plenty of small ways in our lives we can be creative and experience the benefits (which aren’t just that it’s a sought after commodity in business).
How do I hold onto the feelings from a creative moment?
One of the free resources I offer to readers is the ‘101 Ideas to Boost Your Creativity, Have Fun, and Play.’
The list of ideas began when I was going through The Artist’s Way, a wonderful book on recovering your creative self (you don’t have to be an artist with a capital A – I’m certainly not!). One of the activities the author prescribes is an ‘Artist Date’ each week. A time, on your own, to nourish your soul – to restock your creative well. I began to create my own list of possible Artist Dates, which eventually turned into this PDF.
I recently had a question from a reader, who was enjoying the 101 ideas, and was including them in her life. But she said ‘I don’t feel any more ‘creative’ because those joyous bits get lost in the drudge of work minutiae and housekeeping. How do I hold onto those feelings I get from a creative moment?’
I thought it was an interesting question, and one that we could probably all benefit from focusing on. Here then are five suggestions to help those moments of creativity, fun and play last a little longer…
1. Reframe the Drudgery
Look for ways to make the mundane more marvellous.
I sometimes do this by multi-tasking. I’m not someone who enjoys exercise that much. So these days I listen to podcasts when I go for a walk. This both ‘fills my creative well’ with new ideas, and, as I try and save the podcasts I like best for the walk, means I look forward to the walks because I’m going to get to listen to shows I love.
Perhaps you could put on your favourite music and dance while you do the housework. Or time yourself when you’re doing your admin, and give yourself a treat (such as reading a few pages of a novel) every 25 minutes.
Depending on your personality, you might find spreading out the mundane so it’s little and often better, or, for some, batching admin works – having an admin day every few weeks where everything gets done at once and you reward yourself at the end of it.
Reframing the drudgery in terms of the ‘why’ can also help. I feel OK about cleaning because I love a tidy house at the end of it. I find invoicing boring, but it means I get paid. Working out the technical bits on the website drives me crazy – but I love sharing my thoughts and experience with my wonderful readers, so it’s more than worth it.
Action: Consider a tedious task you have to do regularly. What’s the ‘why?’ How does doing this contribute to your life? What other activity could you engage in whilst doing it (dancing, singing, listening to podcasts, audiobooks, music, the radio, etc) that would make it more fun?
2. Spread out the ‘good bits’
If you’re in a job you don’t enjoy, then it can be hard to reframe every aspect of what you do, though reframing certainly still applies, especially the ‘why’ – after all, if there’s not a good reason for you to be working there, and you don’t enjoy it, why are you there?
Spread out the activities that you find creative. Intersperse the creative with the less fun. Make sure that you have ‘creative’ time in the evenings, of activities that nourish and replenish your creativity, rather than just crashing out on the sofa and watching whatever is on. Kids can be good for this – and making, drawing or painting something with them after work can kill two birds with one stone!
Action: Make a list of some of the ‘easy’ things that you find creative. Look at your schedule for the next week and plan in three small creative activities across the evenings.
3. Schedule in creativity
An excellent article I read recently, The Five Daily Rituals That Will Make You Happy noted that in order to flourish we need to engage regularly in ‘non-purposeful work,’ that is, work where we’re not always driven to be productive. He suggests after every 60-90 minutes of focused attention on the hard stuff, we should take a break. This is a great time to do some of the more fun creative activities. Show your boss the research and tell her or him how much more productive you’ll be if you include this in your day!
Action: Make a list of 10 quick creative activities you could engage in (like these colouring books for grown ups) that are non-purposeful at work. A couple of times a day, engage in one of these.
4. Have ‘Creativity Reminders’ Around You
When I had a permanent work space, I used to have pictures of beautiful landscapes on my desk to remind me of the holidays I’d had. I had a couple of fun ‘stress toys’ to play with, and various coloured pens (without having too cluttered a workspace, obviously!).
In my current home in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I work at home or in coffee shops, I bought a rainbow coloured hammock, and I have a screensaver on my laptop which is also rainbow coloured, because I love the vitality and brightness of a rainbow. This is a creative touchstone for me.
Action: What could you put up in the place you find it hardest to hang onto those creative feelings – the car, your desk, the kitchen – that could be a creative touchstone? That could remind you of creative feelings?
5. Know Where You’re At
Sometimes, our creative well runs dry, and we need to take a break from the ‘elephants’ (big tasks) or ‘frogs’ (nasty tasks), and get some of the less significant stuff done. Be mindful of where you’re at – if you’re going to do your best work, sometimes you’re going to need to make a choice to pull back from creative activities until you’ve looked after your basic needs like sleep, food, and fresh air.
After a break you can attack life with a renewed sense of purpose and energy, ready to get down to the creative aspects of your day. Plus, you might get some of the smaller tasks off your list, which can be just as useful.
Action: Look at your diary. When does your well tend to run dry? After a visit to your parents? Or a meeting with your boss? Try and schedule in some clear space after these activities to replenish your energy and be kind to yourself. Be careful about putting ‘big’ deadlines too close to these activities.
How do you make your creative moments last longer?
Creativity itself means different things to different people. For me, it means writing and planning. I love both those activities and can engage creatively in both. For you, it might mean singing and sewing, or sports and woodwork.
How do you extend that feeling of creativity, fun and play into the everyday? Share your ideas in the comments so we can all benefit :-)