Creativity comes from how we inhabit this amazing life.
It comes from how we wander through the world, how we view ourselves.
It comes from listening to the heart (often) instead of the limiting, habituated, restrained rational mind.
It comes from remembering to play a lot….remembering what feels good and then doing that thing. For many, it might be yoga or painting, but it might also be sewing, baking, parenting, teaching, dancing, fishing, knitting, coding, marketing, branding, acting, graphic design, kayaking, writing, business, gardening or playing the fiddle.
But, whatever it is that you love to do, it is just one part of the sum total of your creative life. Creativity is evidenced in our creative work—but it doesn’t start there.
A creative life yields some amazing fruits. It illuminates us from within. We can think more clearly, see more clearly, feel more clearly. Plus, it makes our craft come alive even more. And it just feels good.
In the spirit of the New Year, I give you the following list of fun ideas to spark your creative life based on my book, The Little Spark–30 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity. Off you go!
1. Creativity is like a pilot light.
It is always on, even if we aren’t using the stove. It has been there at the center of us, flickering away since we last used it—maybe as a child. But it didn’t leave us. It was a gift we were given by our ancestors who were always making things and finding creative solutions to problems. It was handed down through generations.
It looked different with each passing—our great aunt who canned peaches in that lovely linen apron. Or our father tinkering at his garage workbench (even if it just seems he is avoiding our mother). Our grandmother and all those impatiens and petunias going limp every day waiting for water. Many of our ancestors had some spark of creativity. And so do we.
2. Creativity is not something we do.
It is who we are. It is in the way we see the world and engage with it. The creative life means thinking from the heart and being awake to the senses. Just because we take that watercolor class we’ve been waiting for, that doesn’t mean our life will be more creative (although, it is a good start because we’re trying something new). The creative part about taking a watercolor class for the first time is that this age we are willing to try something different. Even if it is a class on something rather banal like how to use Quicken software or the new iPhone, creativity is inherent in the curiosity, the exploring, the trying, the willingness.
3. Just so you know, you can draw a stick figure.
Not only that, but if you were asked to draw a person with a round belly wearing a jacket and holding an umbrella, you could. And it would be fun.
Our life has trained us to believe that we can’t.
Something happened at some point because at age six, if we were asked to draw a person with a round belly wearing a jacket and holding an umbrella, we’d be delighted to do so.
4. We are the same inherently creative child we once were.
They are inside of us right this very instant. Our feet have grown so our shoes are bigger, but they are just inside our bones. Right now. Tucked into the softest center folds of our heart is that same brilliant, curious creature we were as a child. We just have to lightly scratch the surface and we’ll find them staring at us with those big, round eyes, waiting for us to notice.
5. To have the most creative year of our life we are going to need to find our inner-kid.
Our inner-kid will teach us to play.
Can we shove the unwieldy stack of bills aside for a few weeks and wander back into the forest of the soul and play until the sun goes down?
Can we follow the fireflies back into the corner of the yard?
Can we run back to the house to get a jar to try to capture the fireflies because they are so magical that all we want is to keep one?
Can we get down on the wood floor underneath the dining table and eat just one meal under there—maybe with a sheet thrown over the top of the table—maybe with just a flashlight? Can we please eat under the table instead of on it?
Can we then maybe make a picnic of sandwiches and pickles and eat it in the backseat of the car while listening to a book on tape (CD)…maybe Harry Potter? Can we do that just once?
6. We will, indeed, have to break our habitual patterns.
Leave the trail a bit.
Seek the unexpected.
We are all creatures of habit. Habit and routine make us feel safe. We’ll need to stop following the rules we have worked so hard to follow our whole life. We don’t need to do anything illegal or dangerous, just try to bypass our knee-jerk urges towards the habitual in little ways. Put our left foot in our sock first, if we always start on the right. Write with our non-dominant hand for one hour or one whole day. Go to the grocery and pick out three vegetables we have never bought—ever. Take them home and figure out how to do something with them.
7. And we do need to make a mess.
We need to make a giant, horrible mess of some things (but hopefully not our relationships). If we set out to find our creativity by playing and exploring, the end result will certainly be a mess. We can’t stop when we actually realize what a mess we’ve made.
We can’t zoom back into the perfectionistic adult. In fact, we mustn’t do that ever again. Because here is a big, big secret about the creative life: perfectionism is the enemy of the creative act. And there are deep psychological reasons why.
This is just a short list so I can’t go into it in depth, but here is the skinny: if we spend all our time trying to perfect everything—our life, the stuff we make, our work, our family—it is likely because we feel on some deeper level that we are flawed and not enough. And so we run around in an exhausting fashion trying to prove to ourselves and to the whole world that we are, in fact, good enough.
“See how well I baked these cookies for the school bake sale! And see how hard I work and see that I am the first person to arrive everyday!?”
Guess what? In this post-Oprah culture we all know the truth.
Self-help is no longer a dirty word.
We’ve all watched the Brené Brown Ted talks.
We have all been in therapy.
And we all know a Photoshopped life when we see it on Facebook.
We have to get dirty. Right now. We can all see each other’s flaws anyway. And if we’re lucky, we will start to love those parts of ourself instead of putting a big, distracting bow on top of them in the form of perfectionism.
Our flaws will only serve to connect us more deeply to ourself and everyone around us if we stop trying so hard to cover them up.
8. “Follow your bliss.”
Because to follow our bliss, we have to begin to remember who we are, what we like, what we want, what lights us up and makes us come alive. The more we step into a creative life, the more questions we’ll find there waiting for us. We have to dive in—to lose ourselves, even for just a few minutes in our baking, tango classes, acrylic painting, jewelry making, yoga, guitar lessons, quilting, kayaking, sewing, gardening, Adobe Illustrator 101—whatever it is, we have to fall in.
We must stop stopping ourself. It will not affect our 401k to take a class and follow our bliss. We won’t throw all caution to the wind and end up at Burning Man (I mean, we might, but we shouldn’t be too afraid).
Even as a lifelong artist and art school grad, I still sometimes struggle with the above ideas because we all seek the comfort of habit and auto-pilot very often. Life is big and scary in so many ways. The least we can do is to control what we can, right?. But often, this comes at the expense of our creativity. We end up being in our own personal lock-down because we have limited our choices so much in favor of feeling safe.
Instead, we have to let go.
Wander down the dirt path and back into the self.
Remember the creativity that is flickering at the very center of who we are. It is waiting.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Carrie Bloomston
Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Author’s own.