Note from the Editor: Writing and creativity. They just go hand-in-hand, don’t they? That’s why we’re republishing this piece from Shannon’s blog. Find the original here. (And be sure to check out her other stuff while you’re at it.)
When you think of a creative person do you visualize a person with pots of paint and brushes and canvases? Maybe it’s somebody who writes daily and publishes poems, stories and books. Do you picture a photographer or a clothing designer or an architect? Those are the types of people my mind used to conjure up and for the longest time I thought I wasn’t a part of that group of people.
But I wanted to be, so I gave myself permission to be.
I write. I have pots of brushes and paint. I am learning to take pictures. Sure, there are things I don’t do. I mean, I dress pretty conservatively. I am not famous for my work—in fact most people don’t know how much I love art and crafting. I don’t dance. I don’t have a creative job.
But I have a creative soul and I can live a creative life. Anyone can if they want to–if that’s how they decide to define their life.
Some creative people are innately talented, but the rest of us can live creatively in a general sense. Being creative can be a lifestyle, a way of living, a way of perceiving the world. We are creative, not just because we do digital photography or create beautiful landscapes but because we are interested in new ways of operating, in thinking in new ways, and don’t feel constrained by other people’s expectations of how we should live our lives.
That is what creativity is about.
Sometimes I don’t feel creative. I feel flat. And dull. That’s when I know it’s time to remind myself to pay attention to my creativity and not neglect it. Here are some proven practices I’ve learned that help me live creatively.
Six Tips for Living a Creative Life
1. Get Out of That Comfort Zone – Comfort Zone can sometimes be a dirty word (phrase) to me. There is no courage or progress in a comfort zone. Sure, sometimes I need comfort zones, but not if I’m going to be creative. This can be as simple as reading a book, magazine, or blog that is not the type I typically read. I learn so many new things and learn about different (and usually very interesting) kinds of people when I do this. Maybe getting out of your comfort zone means trying a new kind of food, or adding a new color to your wardrobe. Get a little uncomfortable for a while to see where it leads.
2. Creative Pages – By now you probably know of Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. I honestly have not read the book cover to cover but I do practice a form of her creative pages. She teaches that we should begin the day with three pages of long-hand stream of consciousness writing. I can tell you that three pages can get to be a lot for someone with my attention span but I can do two! Cameron says the purpose is to get all that “angry, whiny, petty stuff” written down. She says it “miniaturizes our censor, calming us down, cheering us up, inspiring us, consoling us and emptying ourselves of disturbing distractions”. I don’t know what it means to miniaturize our censor, but I know when I do this practice I start the day with a pretty clear mind. I tend to write out my concerns, frustrations and roadblocks, let them go, and address my ambitions for the day (or life). Since my handwriting can’t keep up with my thoughts, I have to slow them down to process them. It’s a calming kind of brain dump that settles me and helps me articulate what I want, what my thought processes are, etc. I don’t ever re-read what I wrote—just cram it onto the page and let it go. I also never re-visit the writing, but start a clean, new page the next day. Usually, I maintain the creative pages practice for a week or two until I don’t feel the need for it anymore. I can always start it up again when I think it will be helpful.
3. Idea Books – I always have a couple of notebooks that I use for doodling, to save ephemera, write down quotes I find, jot down ideas that come to me, start post ideas. These notebooks can get messy but that’s ok—they’re just for me. Yours might be streamlined and ordered. Whatever works for you is fine, as long as you have a place to keep track of all your creative thoughts. Sometimes I forget great ideas I’ve had or forget a quote I thought was amazing (life is distracting, you know) but when I thumb through my notebooks, those ideas come back to me. It’s energizing and gets my creative juices flowing again.
4. Design an Environment that Encourages Creativity – I move from the kitchen table to my work space upstairs because a change of scenery is nice, but when I really need to buckle down, I go upstairs. Even though I have to do my not creative 9-5 work up there, it is a creative space that reminds me of the things I like to do when I shut the 9-5 down for the night. It’s colorful and probably too busy for most people, but it feels good to me, so I do better work. I hang fun artwork, quotes that motivate me, pictures of people I love, and knick-knacks that make me smile. Sounds like a lot of office cubbies, doesn’t it? The point is, any work space should make you feel good. Maybe that is neutral and sparse, but hopefully nice. I am always boggled when I walk into somebody’s work space and it is a sensory deprivation chamber. I am highly suspicious of those people and wonder how they manage.
5. Engage in Creative Practices – Practice makes perfect—or at least makes you better at whatever you’re doing, but practice is also a lot of fun. If you’re a musician, you know that you’ve got to get past the hard stuff in order to make beautiful music. Then it feels great! As you engage in the creative practices you love, you improve or re-connect to your true self. I belong to a fantastic writers’ group to read other writers’ work and try to improve my own. I am hosting a crafting party with a friend to meet new people and try fun new techniques. These types of activities keep our creative juices flowing and keep us engaged in our creative interests and our creative lives.
6. Find Inspiration – I don’t think this is cliché. I do seek out lessons and inspiration from creative people and I love learning how other creative people live and work. I also really enjoy celebrating other creative women so I feature them here on Salt Lick Lessons in the relatively new Really Cool People series. I make no bones about the fact that they inspire me and that I would like to be more like them. It is so much fun to feature them so other people know about them too. Let me know if you know somebody I ought to include!
There are other things that matter like staying healthy, getting enough sleep, and being social. Try one thing you haven’t tried before like an Idea Book or Creative Pages and see how it helps you be a more creative person.
How do you practice living a creative life?
Shannon maintains her own blog with her daughter, Brittan. Called Salt Lick Lessons, the site provides fun and helpful resources, tools, stories and ideas of all kinds.