Creativity is a strange concept. Many of us think it means being able to paint, sing, write, or dance. Others see it as the way in which the brain processes–and uses–input. Look at inventors or engineers. They’re constantly creating solutions!
But many people put creative pursuits aside. Perhaps you gave up art at school because it clashed with a more ‘important’ subject in the timetable. Maybe you stopped dance classes because you didn’t think you’d ever be a professional dancer. Creativity is abandoned when the pressures of adulthood exert themselves.
Don’t let stress overcome your creativity
Lifestyle practices like mindfulness recognise the joy in creativity. Bringing creative pursuits back into your life can return a semblance of balance. If you’ve ever despaired about your own creativity or lack thereof, then worry no more. We will look at ways to locate your own brand of creativity–and how to express it.
Get to know yourself.
How well do you know yourself? I only ask because it’s possible for your sense of self to get buried beneath the many tasks on your ever-expanding to-do list.
Take time out of your day to reconnect with yourself. Put your phone on silent. Turn off your laptop. Just focus on you, and what you’d like to do. Think about the person you were three, five, or even ten years ago. Were you more creative then? If not, why not? Think about why you want to be more creative now.
Maybe you want to run your own business from home. Perhaps you’ve learned that the creative industries are worth £84 billion to the UK economy per year. Do you want to express yourself in a more unusual way? Pinpointing the reason can help guide you towards the creative pursuits right for you.
Even if you’re already creative, taking time out to test your creativity can be a beneficial exercise. Spending time with like-minded people, like other artists or writers, is a real shot of adrenaline to your creativity.
Take long walks around your hometown.
You can always try letting your intuition guide you towards creative activities. Head out for a long walk in your area. It might be in a city centre, around a village, or just along a high street. Don’t hurry around with your head down – you’re not in any rush to get anywhere. Instead, pay attention to what’s around you. Check out window displays. Notice signs. Eavesdrop on snippets of conversation.
An interesting window display can give you a clue to your secret creativity.
Make a note of the things that draw your attention. These are the things with the potential to direct your creativity. If the window display of an art shop catches your eye, maybe you’re intended to make art. Likewise, if you keep noticing the window displays of fashion shops, maybe your creativity lies in clothes and colours. Maybe you’ll overhear eight different conversations. But the only one you remember involved a dance class.
Take these cues from your unconscious mind. It doesn’t mean that the things you try will be the creativity you stick to. But it’s a good place to start.
These walks are useful if you’re already a creative person (like a writer). They can help refill the creative well and get your imagination going.
Go to a museum.
In a similar vein to the previous activity, museums can be a good place to find ideas. Most cities have more than one type of museum. Do you get the urge to try anything yourself? An art museum might leave you cold. But you might be excited to try the hands-on exhibits at a science museum.
Browse the gift shop. What items speak to you? Some museums also hold workshops or talks about certain areas. Find out if there are any related to your favourite parts of the museum.
Use your responses to these spaces as a guide to the creativity that appeals to you. You might wonder what all of this has to do with creativity. But remember that creativity is the act of creating something new. That can be problem-solving as much as it is making art or music.
Revisit childhood pursuits.
Have you ever watched children playing? They show an almost limitless amount of creativity with ordinary items. Two chairs and a blanket can become a secret hideout. A washing up bottle is a rocket.
Children are instinctively creative.
You may not want to build your own Tracy Island out of pipe cleaners and sticky backed plastic. But think back to what you did as a child. Did you enjoy colouring in? Drawing? Playing a musical instrument?
Many childhood pursuits are transferable to adulthood. Look at adult LEGO sets or the trend for adult colouring books. Those that don't often have an equivalent. If your favourite pastime on a rainy afternoon was playing dress up, join a theatre group. If you enjoyed playing with paint, try expressionistic art.
Ask friends and family about their own creativity.
You're bound to know people who express their creativity in a range of ways. Consider the woman at work whose outfits are always immaculately styled. Or think about the guy next door who plays in a band. Maybe you went to school with someone who is now a freelance illustrator.
Ask them about their own creative paths. How did they get started? What do they enjoy about their chosen area? What advice would they have for beginners?
You can even ask friends and family who aren't creative in an obvious way. You don't have to be a writer or a designer to be 'creative'. Their lunchtime pursuit or Sunday morning routine can be just as inspirational for you.
Browse local classes in your area.
Don't worry if you still aren't sure what you'd like to try. Get hold of the prospectus of your local college. Check notice boards in your library. Or log onto Meetup.com. Find out what local classes exist in your community. Perhaps you can try a watercolour painting course. Or there may be sketch crawls or photo walks on a weekend.
Maybe you can try a new pursuit at a class.
Trying a course or a class is a good way to experience a range of creative pursuits. You'll get instruction - which is helpful since not being able to do something can be off-putting as an adult. But you'll also be in a safe space for beginners, surrounded by other beginners. Not only do you have the chance to make friends - you can also make mistakes in private.
Colleges often offer things you wouldn't have the chance to try otherwise. Their facilities mean you could do anything from screen printing to ceramics, or darkroom photography to woodwork. Many of the courses are only for a few weeks so if you don't like it, you can move on to something else.
Dance like no one is watching.
This is an old adage, and it's become beloved by the 'inspirational poster' brigade. Yet there's a surprising amount of truth in it. No matter what branch of creativity you explore, you should pursue it without fear of judgment. You don't have to share the results of your creativity if you don't want to.
Dance like no one is watching.
In fact, you'll get more pleasure out of your creative pursuit if you keep it for yourself. At least in the beginning. Your creative self may be an introvert - unless you're heading for the stage - so take the time to get to know him/her before you try to introduce them to everyone you know.
Taking the time to understand what it is you want to do, and how you want to do it, means you can switch between creative pursuits until you find the one you want. You need not announce your intentions until you're sure it's where your passion lies.
Above all, enjoy it.
Try out the range of exercises in this post. Pick what suits the time (and budget) you have available. If something doesn’t fit, just pick something else. Creativity should never be a chore, and if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t see the benefits.
You might find that keeping a journal about your experiments helps you to see patterns. Maybe you enjoy your creative endeavours more during the morning. Or perhaps you enjoy them more when you’re part of a group. Use these patterns to inform when–and where–you do your creative work.
Over to you! Which methods have you used to find your perfect creative outlet?
Check out 52 Dates for Writers for creative ways to tackle your novel draft