‘I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking’ – Albert Einstein
I don’t know about you, but by my nature, I like to be safe. Most of the time I like to know where I am, know what I’m doing and know where I’m going. It’s reassuring to be surrounded by the familiar. Familiar faces, familiar tasks, familiar places. It creates a certain level of confidence and calm within me. I know I’m not unique to this feeling. At times, we all want to know that we’re secure, doing things we feel confident about, visiting places we already know inside and out. Rational thinking is on the whole safe and regimented. However, Einstein’s quote struck a chord with me. Can we truly reach our full, creative potential if we’re always playing it safe? Using logical thinking and pragmatism as a means to an end? Well, no, I don’t believe we can! When you’re close to full capacity, it’s very easy to fall into a creative slump. Our brains become so bogged down with administration, daily errands and career demands that it can be difficult to think or see outside the box. How can you expect yourself to be a creative virtuoso when you’re worn out and have nothing left to give?
Being creative is difficult. It’s scary. It means letting go of our perfectionist attitudes to accept the wonder of a new, abstract, many times unfinished creation. When we’re at our most creative, we’re entering into the unknown. Take me writing this blog article for example, I’m shaking nervous before I even begin typing. I sort of know what I want to say, but I don’t always know how I’m going to say it. I type away, and very often, rubbish comes out first. So I have to take a step back, look at the words in a different way, and realign my thinking if I want a creative (but coherent) outcome. In order to be creative, I strongly feel that we all need to enjoy exploring new avenues and start waving a different kind of fairy dust around from time to time, whether that’s travelling to another city or picking up a tool you don’t normally work with. The writer who picks up a paint brush and lets their imagination run free now and again will bring colour to their life’s work. To feel fresh, inspired and on the ball with our creative ventures, whether it’s for business or for pleasure, we must break the routine and set aside valuable time to be creative.
Out of my comfort zone. A random picture of my partner that I decided to draw and colour when feeling bored and unmotivated. It’s weird, but I somewhat appreciate its quirkiness.
So let me give you three really simple exercises that serve to flex your creative muscles.
Do the word splurge!
As a writer, I have a particular fondness for this method. But you really don’t need to be a writer to find benefit here. Start by setting yourself a time limit of 10 to 15 minutes or a word limit of say, 200-500 words. Then grab a pen and paper or sit down at your computer. Take a deep breath and then literally start writing the first things that come into your mind. Enjoy writing the random stream of consciousness that follows. Whether you type words or full sentences, just let your mind take you where it wants to take you! Not only is this creative - it’s also cathartic. The benefits of journaling for emotional release are frequently documented and I believe a word splurge can provide a similar emotional release. The beauty of this exercise is that your piece of writing may not make sense, but you’ll be amazed at how many ideas and sparks of inspiration you can find hidden within the text. You may end up with the idea for a new sculpture, find the premise of a new short story, or even envision the colour scheme and layout of a room you previously couldn’t decorate. The possibilities of where this exercise leads are endless.
2. Make an effort to visit somewhere new.
Seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and even tasting are a big part of creativity and experience. Exploring somewhere quirky is one of the most simple and inspiring acts that you could attempt. It doesn’t have to be anywhere that costs money. Visiting a free exhibition at a local museum and art gallery, a park, monument or café can be just a fulfilling as hopping on a plane to visit a country you’ve never been to before. As an open sufferer of anxiety and depression, this can be a very difficult thing to do because it’s out of my comfort zone. It can sometimes require immense effort. Plus, I can’t always connect with or appreciate my surroundings. But, just forcing myself to visit a new space from time to time is an exercise in growth as well as creativity. So if you’re ever feeling this way, go anyway and don’t overthink anything. Try to see things, hear things, touch things without projecting your internal monologue – just let yourself be. Use the experience as a way to reconnect with yourself, generate random ideas and then incorporate them into your art. Order a coffee, sit back and start basking. You could be surprised at where the trip takes you.
3.Start a project in a different art form.
If you’re a painter, begin a writing project. If you’re a writer, take up sculpture. If you’re a sculptor, take up ballroom dancing! Sometimes we feel like we only ever have the time to focus on our main day job or hobby. But start making a conscious effort to flex your creativity and artistry by partaking in another art form. Use parts of your brain that don’t always get a workout. Use your whole body to make art. Find new ways to express yourself. This is a fantastic way to develop ideas and cross collaborate with others. Maybe you can find a way to combine two art forms you are passionate about? Learn to please and satisfy your inner innovator! For me, as a writer, I love to make films, draw/colour and craft. Not only do these things enhance my writing, but they also allow me to recharge my batteries. My brain expands rather than shuts down. Then when I come back to my writing, I’m more able to write creatively and hit upon ideas more easily. So get messy, get creative, get going!
There are so many ways in which you can improve your creativity, artistry and utilise new ideas. Reading and being around nature are two other notable methods of flexing your creativity. The important message here is to find what works for you. What can you do to recharge, mend and trigger your best work? Do creative exercises as frequently as you can to maintain your A-game. When your brain is full and you’re starting to flail around, know that it’s time to do something new. Save the rational thinking for tomorrow, today you should wander, creative and free.