Creativity is a powerful ability. It’s a skill that is honed by years of practice and nurture. My belief is that creativity is like any other skill – you have to nurtutre creativity. If you neglect it and assume it’ll be there when you need it, it’ll abandon you. Maintaining your creativity is a holistic process. The world around you urges you to think one way, part of creativity is being able to ignore those parameters and see the alternatives.
Creativity is that marvelous capacity to grasp mutually distinct realities and draw a spark from their juxtaposition.
– Max Ernst
When your vision is clouded by strong emotions consistently over a long period of time it gets more difficult to see the beauty in the juxtaposition. One of the many emotions that can have a serious impact on your creativity is stress. If the current administration (yes this is political) has quadrupled your stress levels and made it difficult for you to find your creative rhythm, this post is for you.
This is a list of things that I have been more mindful of as I try to regain my footing. None of this is to say that you should suppress your emotions – feel them and raise them up, but don’t let them leave you helpless.
Give yourself a break
Recognize that it’s okay to not be creative all the time. Our creativity is directly linked to our emotions and under high stress circumstances it is hard to create. That’s okay.
Take on a little less
If you’re anything like me when you get stressed or feel like you’re not doing enough you start feeling inadequate. You take more on – more at work, more in your personal life, more freelance, more everything – and that definitely doesn’t help the situation.
Say ‘no.’ Give yourself a break and take time to sit back. Give yourself the opportunity to do things you’ve been too busy for. Sit outside with a glass of water and a book, or just observe the things around you. We draw inspiration from daily life, how can you be inspired by it if you never take time to observe and enjoy it?
Following the same exact routine over and over is going to lead to the same results. When you change your routine – even slightly – it can lead to all kinds of new things! For example, I always make green by adding 3 parts yellow to 1 part blue. One day I decide to add 6 parts yellow to 1 part blue. The result is vibrant and bright and compliments the green I’ve been using forever so nicely. I never would have gotten it if I had only stuck to my tried-and-true formula. With one experiment I have added dimension to all my future projects.
Try creating something just for the heck of it, do a super low consequence art project. Keeping it low consequence is important because it helps to remember that not everything we create needs to serve a purpose. It’s ok to make something just to try out a new technique. Every project will not be a blueprint for something bigger, or something that will become a product to sell (because OMG EVERYONE NEEDS PASSIVE INCOME!!!!!! *eyeroll*)
No guarantees it’ll be fun the first time – in fact it’ll probably be incredibly frustrating. First tries are filled with fumbles and mis-steps. That’s how you develop your process and discover the new.
One of the exercises I do to unblock my brain is sit with a piece of paper and colored pens or markers and fill the page with shapes. No rhyme or reason, just mindless doodling. I also love to go sit at my favorite coffee spot and draw what’s in front of me. The goal isn’t necessarily to create an exact replica, but a general representation.
Did you do the thing?
Ok cool, now crumple it up and throw it away. Like I said, do something just for the sake of doing it.
Find your retreat
Take a walk around the neighborhood or go on a bigger adventure. Whatever you do, do something that gives you enough of a break from your normal space. This will help to reset your thinking and your creative processes.
I love going to Asbury Park in the summer. It gives me a chance to enjoy the beach but is still relatively low key. There are cute shops with local goods and curated clothing options. Fun places to eat and drink, and even a Yappy Hour where I can sit and stare at puppies :D.
For a more accessible retreat, I’ve transformed my back patio into a little oasis. It feels like a vacation right in my home. If you follow along on instagram, you’ve probably seen my daily stories from the patio. I am out there for at least a few hours each week day. The best part about this space is all I have to do to access it is walk out my back door.
Both of these give me a chance to not focus on the things that have been taking over the space in my mind that used to house creative energy.
Become more aware of what’s really worth your energy
Start to recognize the things that drain your energy. I made a point to turn off push notifications for all of the news sites. This is not to be uninformed, but rather to be informed on my terms. I read through the morning’s news each day and then cut myself off. If I go down the rabbit hole with the current administration I end up a paralyzed stress ball with no clear vision of what’s up or down.
We can’t do any good if we are so emotionally unstable that we can’t take action. Frankly, I think that’s part of the Trump administration’s strategy. Shock people into an ineffective state.
There are a million things that have happened since Trump took office that are inhumane and have slowly chipped away at people’s view of normal. Anyone who feels that way does not need further proof. The goal at this point is to find ways to help.
Spend the time you have been looking at news stories throughout the day researching ways to help the ACLU or similar watchdog groups that have been effective in the past. Keep taking steps to support these groups and slowly rebuild the confidence you once had in humanity brick by brick. We have to do everything in our power to help, and to do that we need to be ok.
Minimize your clutter
You’ve stepped back and assessed the relationships you have with people and things – now take it a step further. Marie Kondo your possessions.
I like to start with cleaning out my closet. I know, you’re probably thinking, “Sarah what does my closet have to do with creativity?”
There’s a reason that style is a form of self-expression. The things we choose to wear share a small window into the things we are drawn to with the outside world. What you put out, you bring back in. Rather than let your overfull or worn out closet be another source of stress taking space in your brain, why not make sure the things you have available are the ones that best represent you and who you want to be?
Minimizing the physical clutter is a way of clearing the distractions you have control over. Let the things that you don’t need go to somebody who will get good use out of them. Alternatively you can use whatever you deem unneeded to create something new when you are expirmenting a la Tip #2. Our very own trend forecaster Christina takes used clothes and repurposes them into patches on t-shirts for her brand Resewn Rags.
The moral of the story is – Less clutter in your physical space can start leading to less clutter in your mind.
Be a better friend
I’ve noticed a trend lately where people in my life (myself included) are unable to hear other people’s problems without putting it in the context of themselves. There’s a side of that that’s natural, but just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s the best way to handle it.
Do your best to listen to what somebody is going through and simply hear it. Remove your own lenses and hear it from their perspective. The burden to solve the problem for them is not yours – Chances are you probably can’t. What you can do is listen. If they need a shoulder to cry on, or for someone to say, “Wow I am so sorry you are going through this,” be that person. If they have worked really hard to achieve something (even if it’s a thing you don’t understand or don’t want for yourself) say, “Congratulations!” Be happy for them in their joy.
Ground yourself in being a support for the people you care about, whatever their path may be, without regard to how it compares or contrasts to yours.
When you are being a better friend you feel better about yourself, so there is a selfish side to this but it’s true. This is how you build your community – and community makes the good and bad things that you’re facing daily a lot easier to handle.
Find the good
Find the good in your day. There is a lot of heartbreak on center stage right now. Give yourself permission to enjoy the things that are good in each day.
Cold water on a hot day.
A good workout.
Completing a task.
These can pass without notice because they happen so regularly, but they are good. Let yourself appreciate them. Shift your perspective to focus here so that when the heartbreaking stories need attention, you have it to give. This will lighten your load a bit and allow you to express your feelings more clearly – and if creativity is boiled down to its simplest form, it’s expression of feelings.
Channel that energy
Finally – channel that energy. When it still feels like everything is crashing in, channel that energy into creating something for good.