You are a creative person. Even if you think your imagination stalled in elementary school, and even if your indecipherable stick figure drawings make you the final choice for Pictionary, creativity is an integral part of who you are.
We often assume that creativity is limited to people who have a talent for painting, an eye for decor, or a natural ability to turn an everyday story into an engaging story that will get others to lean on. But creativity is so much more than whimsical design or right brain thinking. It’s creativity we turn to when we need to organize a random closet, resolve conflicts at work, and turn a month’s pay into food on the table and a safe place to live. Creativity is in everyone.
In a pandemic world, our search for the spark that inspires us to act or art can leave us feeling empty-handed. Virtual working means we don’t have access to the chatter of the water cooler and lunch that the language and nuance of body language feed into our days. Roadside pickups, outdoor seating, and takeout helped keep us safe, but they have also limited the harmless interactions that come with people watching and chatting with baristas.
Then calendar-specific events that keep our brains informed are deleted. Concerts, neighborhood get-togethers, family reunions, summer vacation, spring vacation plans – their postponement is temporary, but the momentary effects of their absence are real.
As winter falls and the isolation of the pandemic continues, you may find yourself feeling sorry for yourself in the film Groundhog Day with Bill Murray’s character who woke up and lived the same day over and over again.
The monotony of waking up, working, partying, eating and relaxing within the same four walls can exhaust us emotionally and creatively, but even if you didn’t call yourself artistic, it’s important to find ways to inspire the creativity that comes up Crucially flowing naturally through your veins. Whether you design technical marvels, write poetry or manage complex logistics in the supply chain – the world needs your creative perspective.
If you’re feeling a little uninspired about your own version of Groundhog Day, try these creativity catalysts to re-ignite the spark of your imagination and harness the spirit of innovation that only you can offer.
1. Redefine creativity.
Creativity brings magic to everyday life. Toothbrushes come in a rainbow of colors, not because they are more effective at cleaning teeth, but because they are meant to attract our attention when we are looking for a fairly simple tool. Art and functionality go hand in hand and fill every corner of our lives. In what we wear lies the art, the meals we prepare and the jokes we tell about (socially distant) drinks. When we limit creativity to finite categories, we deprive ourselves and others of the imaginative beauty that makes pedestrian tasks more enjoyable. Cleverly crafted art for museums and color-coded spreadsheets that keep meetings running smoothly are both based on the same imagination. Adjust yourself to the unique way you make everyday tasks shine and discover your own creativity.
2. Develop creative muscle memory.
Monotony can consume our imaginations, but it can also serve as fuel if used properly. Pay attention to when you feel your work flow increase and the mental blocks against creativity subside. What does your environment look like when that happens? Is there music or complete silence? What time is it? Do you sit or walk, in a group or alone, outside or inside? Arranging these little factors with intent and repetition can create a daily rhythm so that the surroundings will eventually signal your mind that it is time to get creative and avoid distraction.
3. Untangle your rhythms.
Once you’ve developed a pattern, how and when to create it, turn it upside down from time to time. If you usually sketch in the morning, make a pot of coffee and draw with lamplight. Change your order for lunch, listen to music instead of podcasts during your afternoon workout, take a different commute to work, or cook something you’ve never tried before. All of these simple changes may seem silly, but turning off the autopilot can be key to unlocking a creative solution to a crisis at work or providing clarity for a project where you are getting stuck.
4. Always take notes.
Everyone knows the feeling of waking up in the middle of the night to a brilliant idea, only to discover that it has vanished from memory in the morning. Some of our most visionary ideas are simply lost because we haven’t written them down, but taking notes doesn’t have to be time-consuming or awkward. Use the Notes app to quickly brainstorm in-store and record your brainstorms on the go using voice notes on your phone. Evernote or OneNote provide digital storage solutions that can help you organize your notes and thoughts, even if they start as doodles on the back of a receipt. Don’t rely on a crowded mental list. When inspiration comes up, take note.
5. Travel outside of your comfort zone.
Our most creative moments happen when we travel into the unknown. Remaining in the safety of what we do best rarely leads to revelations or wow moments. It pushes us into a category that we cannot navigate expertly, which forces us to use our creative abilities. Professionally, it means that you dare to work outside of your particular niche. If you’re a scholarship holder, give fanfiction a try. If you are a vegetable grower, plant a bed filled entirely with flowers. The goal is not to become an expert in a new field, but to look at what you are already great at from a new angle to find the innovation that lurks beneath the surface.
6. Try to fail.
Everyone you consider an expert today was a novice when they started out. It takes time and practice to be achieved, which means you have to be ready to be really terrible for a while. Realizing that failure is part of the process opens the door to creativity in courageous ways because it prevents us from demanding excellence to get started. When we decide that perfection is meant for the finish line, we leave the beginning full of necessary mistakes. When we offer ourselves the privilege of failure, we have the freedom we need to fly.
7. Set the deadlines.
Pressure and creativity go hand in hand. It is remarkable how inventive and diligent a person can become when driving against the clock. If your project doesn’t have a deadline, set one. Say it to a friend or share it with your team to add an extra layer of urgency and accountability. Infinite time doesn’t produce clever solutions, but time constraints and healthy peer pressure do.
8. Close the programs running in the background.
Sometimes the programs that use up the most CPU and memory on a computer are the programs that we don’t even know are running. Like a computer, you process and manage several things every day, reducing your bandwidth to visionary or imaginative thinking. Go for a walk without headphones and pay attention to the intricacies of the world you encounter. Hear how the wind sounds when it blows through the leaves. Stop and watch as a duck glides on a lake or a squirrel nibbles on acorns. Focusing on environments where you don’t charge for anything can act as a fresh start and clear away the mental clutter that is slowing us down.
9. Find the fun.
A few scrolls through social media can give the impression that creativity is easy, but that is not real life. Leave the creativity comparison game behind and get back to basics by just creating for fun. Add memories to a colorful scrapbook, reupholster an old chair, make DIY fishing lures – every hobby is so much fun that you lose track of time. Separate creativity from unrealistic expectations and watch it come back to life.
10. Burn off excess energy.
There is an uncanny connection between our physical activity and our spiritual progress. Warming up our muscles and beating our hearts fast has somehow the ability to clear the fog of confusion or apathy. Go for a walk, dance to the music, jump in the living room – anything that gets your body moving. Listening to your body is important, but you can only hear it if you allow it to speak.
Photo from stockfour / Shutterstock.com
Sarah Paulk is a freelance writer best known for interviews with the thought leaders of multi-million and multi-billion dollar brands. Her cover stories and articles have been featured in Success from Home, Direct Selling News, Empowering Women, and others. Sarah is also an author and ghostwriter who helps her clients bring their memories and research to life in book form. Connect with her on her website www.sarahpaulk.com.