Creativity is not exclusive; it’s not something that belongs to others, to those with special talent or skills. On the contrary, a creative life is an option for every single one of us. The sense of well-being derived from spending time in pleasurable creative activity is well documented. It makes us feel as though we are living a worthwhile life. I’m not referring specifically to the creative making of “stuff” from wood or fabric; or activities like painting or writing or photography. These are obvious creative activities. A recent conversation with a friend, who considers that she doesn’t have a creative bone in her body, is the prompt for my thoughts today.
For sure, there are people who consider they possess little or no creativity. It’s like me saying that I’m not competitive. I’m not, until it comes to having a showdown with myself. Then I definitely am and will always give myself a good run for my money. My competitiveness has nothing at all to do with anyone else however, it’s all mine, and how I use it is up to me. Creativity is the same, in that it is individual and means something different to each one of us.
It’s whatever we make of it too. Creativity is about exploring and discovering fresh ways to do any task or activity, so that it takes us outside of our normal everyday habit and comfort zone, and into new pastures. There are opportunities everywhere for us to express ourselves and have fun with creativity in our everyday existence, even when time and money are tight.
“Creativity is the quality that you bring to the activity that you are doing. It is an attitude, an inner approach – how you look at things . . . Whatsoever you do, if you do it joyfully, if you do it lovingly, if your act of doing is not purely economical, then it is creative.”— Osho
We can all enjoy the wonderful sense of relaxation and satisfaction that results from being creative, and experience time and mind space away from the everyday humdrum and pressing necessities, space where you can really be you, the original and best version of yourself, free to express your thoughts and ideas in whatever form they take. Creativity is liberating. We just need to ditch the blinkers we’ve got so used over time to habitually wearing.
Off the top of my head, I suggested that my friend might have a shot at a couple of these –
Dressing creatively – experiment mixing and matching different items of clothing and accessories;
Dancing creatively with your favourite music playing loudly – completely losing yourself in the music and the movement;
Cooking creative meals – source some new ideas for dinner and concoct some amazing dishes, or simple dishes even, just make sure they are different to the usual meals you make;
Shifting the furniture round at home; create yourself a new perspective from which to view your world;
Taking a bath with candles flickering and scented bath water – luxuriate creatively for a while;
Gardening – work with the soil and plants to create an area of natural beauty to enjoy;
Travelling a different route to or from work, noting the details of the fresh environment as you pass through it;
Communicating with colleagues in a fresh, creative way;
Spending break times walking outdoors and eating lunch on the hoof instead of sitting in front of a computer;
Learning a new language – download lessons to your phone, and listen in any spare time you have whilst walking or travelling, and speak the unfamiliar new words in a creative out loud voice, fully emphasising the accent of the foreign language.
Less specifically, and once you’ve stopped giggling Mrs H, try spending your spare time more creatively than you do currently; be active in your leisure pursuits rather than passive. Turn the TV off. No-one needs pointless drivel piped into their home. Nor do we need to be bombarded day and night with news and current affairs, to worry us half to death. If you want to watch something, go to the theatre or the opera or a sports event. Even better, try watching paint dry after you‘ve creatively applied it to a canvas or an old chest of drawers or the walls of your house, or whatever it is that floats your boat. I have barely touched the tip of the iceberg with these few suggestions; there are a thousand and one different small ways to get creative in a day.
The act of living creatively in selected areas of your life on a regular small-time basis initially means that you are repeatedly practising how to be creative, allowing your creativity to develop, flourish and grow, and ultimately your mind and body benefit. Individual creativity increases a person’s sense of their own worth and self-esteem, and it contributes hugely to personal happiness.
The concentration required in being creative, no matter what the area of interest, means that your mind is channelled precisely into thinking of the present activity only, and it can remain like this for significant periods of time, because you are doing something you have chosen and enjoy. Understanding the benefits of creativity and consciously making it an integral part of our life, opens doors to a wonderful state of mind, that amazing place we get carried away to, where we forget the time and completely lose track of ourselves, simply by concentrating completely and becoming totally engrossed in what we are doing.
If like me, you are a jiffler with an overactive mind, and find sitting quietly in one position really difficult to maintain for the purpose of what’s popularly known as “meditation”, then you may well discover that total absorption in a creative activity is the next best thing. And because your mind is concentrated on just the one thing, and it’s not wandering all over the place, there is less opportunity for random busy thoughts to rush back and forth across your consciousness. Your mind is quiet; you are calm and mindful. For me, creativity works in magical ways.
Creativity is my personal form of meditation. It is the nearest thing to actual meditation I think I’ll ever achieve in my life, and it’s certainly not its poor relation. The richness of it in my memory carries me through long days of work, until the next time I am able to fully focus on my creativity. For those who successfully introduce creativity into their “everyday” the benefits will be profound. Even the most mundane tasks can be made attractive if you apply the principles of creativity to them.
If we only put into practice one or two creative activities / functions in each 24 hours, we will notice the feel good factor it generates. And once we enjoy a regular taste of how amazing living creatively makes us feel, it becomes a habit we really want to adopt and pay attention to.
Once you’ve decided which element of the day you’d first like to get creative with, focus on it, and do what’s needed to make it happen. Do this one thing creatively and with purpose every day for four weeks. The next week, try the same approach with a further additional element of your life each day, whilst continuing with the first element as before. And so on. By repeatedly and consistently doing this on a regular basis, you will eventually be living more creatively.
“Every day is an opportunity to be creative – the canvas is your mind, the brushes and colours are your thoughts and feelings, the panorama is your story, the complete picture is a work of art called, ‘my life’. Be careful what you put on the canvas of your mind today – it matters.”— Innerspace
Only you will know what “creative” means in your world. And I think we should pay very little attention to someone else’s interpretation of it, as we can soon get side-tracked or be put off by another person’s different ideas or criticism.
“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.”— Charles Brower
The best thing about creativity is that there’s no correct or incorrect way to do it. One can set about a project knowing that no-one is qualified to tell you that you’re doing it all wrong. In fact, the only mistake you can make when it comes to creativity is to think that you don’t have any. Creativity provides us with the wings of freedom and lets us fly. It allows us to transform the mundane into the extraordinary.
Throughout her teenage years my elder daughter considered that she wasn’t at all creative; that she lacked imagination in art or design or writing. As a grown up she’s a horticulturist. In a job she loves, she is one of the top “creatives” in her company across 150 UK sites. Her work features in magazines in her industry. She now considers herself to be successfully creative, and the self-confidence this has given her is immense. The joy it brings her is beyond measure. How has she achieved this? Firstly, she’s engaged in an activity she genuinely enjoys and secondly, the creative element of her job has to be repeated on a daily basis, with space in her role to experiment. Combine those factors and you have a winning formula.
A useful note here – new habits can be made in 30 days. And old habits can be broken in 30 days – by creating new ones. If we regularly and repeatedly implement a thought or an action it does eventually become a habit.
Another friend started walking 3 miles every day after work to get fit. Some days she struggled to fit it in with a busy work schedule, but she stuck at it. She soon noticed an improvement in her fitness levels, but more than that, the evening walk became a habit, and one that she very much enjoyed. Being outdoors in the fresh air and at one with nature, she was able to clear her mind of the day’s “busyness”. Now my friend puts this daily walk before most other activities; she says that if she has to forego her walk for any reason she really misses it.
The way we get good at stuff is by doing it and then doing it again. And again. We all know this. It’s called practice. Enough said. I hope this has given you a couple or three useful pointers Mrs H.
For those of you who are completely in touch with your own creativity already, I have no desire to teach you how to suck eggs. I’ll leave you with these words though to ponder over – “The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.” – Alan Alda
Do you think creativity is an attitude, and how does it fit into the framework of your everyday life?
All photographs © Suzy Barker 2016 and they may not be used elsewhere