It’s interesting to me that some people will hesitate to call themselves creative. Creativity involves that process of being able to imagine something and make it reality. Our ability to move between “what is” and “what could be”. Every single person has creativity in them as a result of being human. The creativity may range from innovate solutions to woodworking to scrapbooking to writing to drawing to novel ideas to figuring out how to stretch your paycheck until the end of the week. As Agustin Fuentes, an American primatologist and biological anthropologist, says “The truth is, humans have the capacity to be creative every day, but in the modern world we often fail to recognize it“. Creative opportunities are in our homes, our workplaces, our relationships and our hobbies. Creativity is described hereafter as a means to living life to its fullest. I would argue that being creative is getting in touch with your most authentic humanness.
Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, says the power to success is to cultivate and harness that creative edge. We are more successful when we procrastinate a bit and therefore allow the original creativity to flow. This finding was pretty rattling as I consider myself a moderately creative human, yet I like to schedule everything out to the T. It does, however, align with how our society’s culture of burnout and constant scheduled doing prevents us from living our best lives. People are starting to notice that we need rest in order to function at our best. Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive has some great research on the societal issue and how to combat it.
One thing that I started to notice about my orderly schedule is that it puts me on a strict agenda when I write and work, which are supposed to be the times I am most creative. I tend to let “other things” like painting, reading, meditation, and writing fall to the side as non-essential parts of my day because I am ‘too busy’. Then I get caught up in this world and after taking a step back, I realize I’m not at all as creative as I know I could be with my work OR with my academic papers, I’ve just been going through the motions. I wasn’t allowing myself any time to just be. In occupational therapy, we have a term for this: occupational imbalance. If we’re always “do this, do this, do this, and this, then this”, we suddenly find we don’t have time for the activities that are typically (unjustly) lower on our priority list (like painting, writing, yoga, meditating, baking, sufficient time to discover creative work solutions etc). This imbalance is only sustainable for so long and leaves us burnt-out and unhappy, not to mention less creative. Perhaps we should move these “other things” higher up on our lists. Here are some ways to get in touch with your creative self.
One absolutely essential tip for capturing your creative edge is to know yourself. Are you an owl or a lark? Do you work best alone or when you can bounce ideas off others? When does your brain function at its peak? For me, it’s between 8am and 12pm, I do not function best later in the day and especially not in the evening.
So maybe you’re like me and you know you do your best and most creative work during the mornings. Just because we know when we work best does not mean that we are always able to work on creative projects within those time frames, for instance, you might be in a meeting or at work. Elizabeth Gilbert has this amazing idea of creativity being a flow that’s available at sporadic times, searching for someone to capture it. When we don’t capture it, we let it pass us by (and we stay stuck in our rigid routines). One way to grab the creativity when it comes at a seemingly inopportune time is to immediately jot it down. Carry a notebook or write it in your phone. I keep sticky notes of different ideas for blog posts that come to me suddenly either during work, meetings or while I’m writing an academic paper. It’s one sure way to say “Hey, you! Yes, I want you to keep coming, here I’ll hold onto you, I won’t let you pass me by this time”. It’s one way to take the first step in putting a creative thought into reality. As Maya Angelou said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have” so grab everything you can.
So, when I was reading tips on how to become a better writer, I came across so many people suggesting you write X amount of words every single day. I don’t know about this. It seems to completely contradict the exact nature of the creative process when you try to put it into this rigid box that has pre-determined parameters and expectations. Instead, I say write when you feel like you have something creative to say or when you just feel that creative push. When you’ve had an idea that you’ve grabbed just now or previously and you’re ready to put the idea into reality. For me, with writing, I also can’t just pick up my “grabbed ideas” and get going at it like it’s a task on my to-do list if I want to do my best work. While I made sure to collect the creative inspirations as they came, in order to be truly creative you have to feel the surge within and that’s what ignites the creative flow. So how can we go about creating the flow?
The space you’re in and the activities you do just prior to attempting to unravel your creative edge are crucial to consider. Make sure you’re in a space where you won’t be interrupted. Turn off your phone. Get yourself a nice hot or cold beverage. Start to cultivate your edge by simply being. That’s right- I’m suggesting you just stop doing for some moments. This might include meditation or time for introspection. It could include doodling or singing or yoga in your living room. Use these centering activities as a way to ground yourself. Treat yourself to yourself. This is when and where you will naturally and authentically feel ready to embark on your most creative journeys.
Let’s go out there and try to be our most authentic and creative selves today.