A friend of mine recently told me she doesn't feel like a creative person. She works long days juggling the demands of two young kids and an important job as a lawyer working to bring integrity and humanity to systems that decide the fate of people's lives. I visited her and we decided to take a road trip to get out of town. We loaded four kids ages 2-8 in the back of the car and I braced for the hours of whining and chaos to come. But that didn’t happen. As soon as we pulled out of the driveway, my friend reached over and turned up the music until the car was shaking and we could feel the music in our bones. I looked back and saw her 8 year old daughter, eyes closed, belting out words from a place deep inside. I had forgotten what it felt like to experience music like that and joined in. We sang for the next hour. All of us. At the top of our lungs. It shifted something inside me that has stayed with me. Though we were singing along to someone else’s music, each one of us was doing it in our own way. Creativity gets talked about as something only a few possess, but in fact it is our own nuanced way of being in the world. If we can tap into our own voices, our creativity, even in moments that seem banal—especially in those moments—we tap into something beyond us that has far reaching ripples.
So in honor of my sweet friend, who opened something for me, I made a list of 10 ways to infuse your life with creativity when you are stretched for time, or don’t feel like a “creative person.”
10 ways to infuse your life with creativity when you are stretched for time, or don’t feel like a “creative person.”
Make up stories. While in line waiting or watching people pass by invent a story about them—for example—“I see a woman walking by—she just lost her job last week so she’s feeling worried which is why she has a furrowed brow, but she has a slight glimmer in her eye because for the past 3 years she’s stayed up at night working on an invention that is finally working! She’s carrying it in her purse and taking it to share at a huge inventors convention. The only problem was she wasn’t invited but she is planning to sneak in the back door…”
Move your body. Stand up from your computer and take a break every 50 minutes. Set a timer and dance it out for 5-10 minutes (I close my eyes because it makes me feel less shy)...or go on a 15 minute walk, or a 30 minute run.
Create an “art zone.” This could be a table, a small corner of a table, or even just a couple of inches on your dresser for a piece of paper and a pen (or get fancy with colorful markers). The idea is that it is not something that you have to set up and clean up—it just stays there. Then as you walk by—do a 2 minute doodle—don’t judge, just let it be what it is. Leave the paper there for a week— just keep adding to it and laying on top of what is already there.
Change it up. Are you cooking? How can you break out of the recipe, even if it’s just adding a dash of cinnamon? Are you walking or driving somewhere you always go? Can you take another route? Do something differently to give your senses new stimulation and your mind will think different thoughts.
Make easy poetry. Find an old newspaper or magazine or any written document. Black out words until the remaining words create a poem (check out Austin Kleon’s work with this)
Create moments of boredom. Lie on your bed for 5 minutes. Stare at the ceiling. Resist the urge to “do” or “reply” or receive input. (I have to keep a pen and paper next to me so you can write important things down—and then go back to being bored) Let your mind wander to unexpected places.
Go outside (ideally somewhere in nature). Check in with your body and notice your 5 senses. What do you see, smell, touch, taste, hear? Pay attention to your body and observe what’s around you. Sit without judgement and just notice.
Consume art. Go to concerts, art shows, the theater, and dance shows. Surround yourself with creative people, communities and events.
Try something new. Go to a beginning hip-hop class. Look up “how to bellydance” on YouTube and follow along. Post a word in another language on your mirror every day. Doesn’t matter if you get good, just expose yourself to something new.
Make up a song. (I saved the best and hardest for last) Take a strong emotion you are feeling and turn in into a song. It doesn’t need to rhyme or sound good or be sung to anyone. “I’m sooooooooohohhhhooo maaaad, yes, I’m so mad—I can’t believe how mad I feeeeeellllllellleeeelllll.” The physicality of singing helps the emotions move through us and release. For me, this brings up all sorts of feelings of embarrassment, but wow does it shift something for me when I can move past that!