Nurturing a Creative Lifestyle

Laura teaching
Photo by Bryan French

Creativity is a beautiful part of being human.  It enriches our lives and the lives of those around us.  Yet, creativity can also be as elusive as a shy creature, leaving us wondering how to tempt it from the shadows.  If you find yourself yearning for more creativity in your life, here are some helpful tips and strategies.

Develop Observation Skills

Just as half of being able to make music is learning how to listen and half of being able to draw is learning how to really look at something, keen observation skills are immensely helpful for a creative life.  In order to pour out creatively, we must continually fill up.  Fortunately, you can practice your observation skills anywhere.  It’s a process of shaking off auto-pilot mode, being fully present, and relishing in the butterfly fluttering in the flower garden, the way the light is coming in through the window, or the nuances of the smell of dinner cooking.

Becoming keenly observant will help you notice moments you want to capture, colors that make your heart sparkle, or stories that can’t not be written.  So much inspiration passes before us each day, but we might miss it.  Becoming more observant can help us really notice those moments and feelings, which we can then channel into our creative practice.

felted hummingbirdKeep It Playful

“But where do I begin?” you may be wondering.  For some, overcoming inertia can be the sticking point.  If you spend some time drilling into this state, there is usually a creative block lurking in the subconscious that is afraid to start something (especially something new) if it can’t be perfect or at least masterful.  Fear of failure kills many a creative urge.  What is the antidote?  Playfulness!  With a playful attitude, we’re not married to being perfect or masterful or anything in particular.  Play is a critical part of the childhood of all animals.  It’s a process through which they learn about their own bodies, the world around them, the nature of a social life, and so much more.

Creativity is deeply linked with younger aspects of ourselves.  Entering the world of playfulness opens up the opportunity to ask “What would happen if…” and then chase after that if.  If you feel fear or anxiety sneaking in, time to grab the playful hat and bring a sense of festive joy and exploration.  When you become immersed in this world, you’ll find that chasing after new ideas becomes the thrill…and finishing projects becomes the hard part.  At this point, don’t worry about finishing stuff.  Just focus on breaking past the underlying fear that has held you back.

loon lake detailRemember that Creativity and Productivity are Different Processes

Sometimes, it can be easy to confuse creativity and productivity.  While I’ve written a story specifically on this topic previously, I’ll retrace the main elements.  Creativity is playful, open, explorative, and infused with divergent thought. It seeks novelty, joy, flow, and possibilities.  Productivity is organized, methodical, results-oriented, and interested in deadlines.  When viewed in this way, it becomes clear that making lots of pretty stuff that gets done on time is not the role of creativity.  If nurturing creativity is what we’re after for the moment, then we need to set the productivity hat aside for later.

Wearing the productivity hat can be very helpful when you are up against a deadline or really want to finish projects.  I’ve found, though, that living too long in this mindset can grow quite dull and grinding.  This is why I always have LOTS of projects going at once.  One might be feeding my creative practice, while another is using the grit of productivity to “get her done.”  If you’re losing steam in your creative practice, check in with yourself and see if you’ve been leaning too heavily on productivity mindset.

hemming a punch needle pieceEmbrace the Journey

Creativity is not about the destination, at least not directly.  Creativity is about the process—that magical experience of flow when either hours pass like seconds or tremendous things happen in seconds that feel like they should have taken hours.  Creativity is consciousness expanding in its nature, connecting us with the vital creativity in all beings and nature.  It refuses to be boxed up in neat packages or tugged on a leash and demanded to perform.  Either of these situations will cause creative impulse to run hiding back to the shadows.

Instead, creativity is an energy to befriend, to walk with in life.  Nurture your creative self just like you would a loved one.  Show patience, compassion, and trustworthiness.  Be encouraging of yourself on this journey.

Let Go of Expectations

canoe trip progressOur modern society is very focused on results, so we can lose sight of or shortchange the journey.  If you start your creative day by inscribing demands of what your creations will be, this leaves no wiggle room for the divergent nature of the creative process.  Often with creativity, something is seeking to be represented, and you and your method of making are the vessel or the vehicle for it, rather than the driver.

Sometimes, the expectations we foist onto our creations come from voices we’ve collected from authority figures in our lives (teachers, relatives, etc.).  Learn to create a sense of sacred space in your creative practice, where these voices are asked to step aside.  Let go of the need to be perfect, to be liked, to be “normal,” or any number of terms or conditions you might add to that list.  Instead, just allow yourself to be in the moment, free of the pull or confinement of expectations.

Give these ideas a try and see what flourishes!