With today's hectic schedules, you often have to balance what you'd like to do against what you have to do. In the struggle to make those decisions, creativity is often sacrificed for a seemingly greater cause. But utilising your imagination can sometimes be exactly what you need to find inspiration and maintain a true sense of balance.
“Taking up a creative passion revitalises us and allows us to tap into our own creative channel and foster what is calling to us,” said Gail McMeekin, author of The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women: A Portable Life Coach for Creative Women. “Pent up creativity or self-expression are unhealthy and can block our happiness and fulfillment in life.”
However, many of us may not think we are the creative type. You don’t have to be good at dancing, painting or knitting to reap the benefits of being creative. You just have to do it.
“We would never tell a friend or our kids to not do something just because they thought they weren't good at something, would we? So why do we listen to ourselves? No one is good at everything," said Jane Buckingham, author of "The Modern Girl’s Guide to Life." "But if you try something new, you might tap into something that you are good at. Or you are bad at but you like anyway. No one is expecting you to become a professional artist at 35. The whole point is to feel and do something different. Even if that feeling is of trying something scary or exhilarating or different.”
So put aside the house-work, cancel a meeting, and embrace your inner creativity.
We all live in an overly demanding, stimulating and technically challenging world. ... In order to make time for your creative exploration, you must make a space for it in your life.
Gail McMeekin, author of The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women: A Portable Life Coach for Creative Women
1. My kids have class
Mums juggle children’s activities -- getting them to ballet, football, art class, wait an hour and then head home. But why waste that precious hour? It is an opportunity to take advantage of no-kids time.
“Go to class when your kids are in class,” Buckingham said. “So many of us mums sit and watch our kids take classes. ... Why not take a class at the same time? If it's dance, see if you can get another teacher to teach the adults, same for tae kwon do, tennis, anything.”
Push yourself into new activities to give your left-brain a rest and exercise the right side for a while. Not only does this give your brain time to breathe, but it also helps you look at daily problems with a fresh perspective.
“We're so caught up in the details that we need to take time to think beyond what needs to get done. We need the time to see things differently,” Buckingham said. “Sometimes by taking the time, we find some things don’t need to get done or there is a better way to do them.”
2. I’m attached to my phone
A good rule to follow is permission to put the phone down for 30 minutes. Not only does that give you a little extra time in your day, it frees your hands to do something creative.
“Use your hands. Instead of texting all the time try something different,” Buckingham said. “Knitting, needlepoint, macrame, even a friendship bracelet. Don't go for the Vogue Pattern 112, just try something simple to start.”
Now that your mind is getting a rest from the daily grind by trying a new, creative endeavor, the healing process can begin.
“There continues to be more research about the power of creativity and self-expression to reduce stress and to help us to heal body, mind and spirit,” McMeekin said. “Taking up one creative activity, like dancing, can inform our creativity on many levels. For example, when I am writing a book and I get stuck, I go into my painting room and do my watercolors and almost always get an important clue from the flow of the color and the water, that helps me to untangle my dilemma.”
3. My schedule is slammed
Buckingham notes that people are not only multitaskers, but “hyper-taskers." With busy schedules and responsibilities to families and careers, there's hardly time to breathe.
“We all live in an overly-demanding, stimulating and technically challenging world,” said McMeekin, “I teach the Power of Subtraction as a strategy for stress reduction, which means get rid of people, things, activities and limited thinking that undermine what you really want. In order to make time for your creative exploration, you must make a space for it in your life.”
Although negotiating time in a schedule may seem impossible, Buckingham has a tip to carve out time at least once a week.
“Cancel a meeting,” Buckingham said. “Every Monday morning look through your meetings or appointments for the week and see if there is one you can do by phone instead. Chances are you will free up at least an hour. Use that time to be creative and do something you wouldn't have before. Whether it's taking a class or reading a blog you wouldn't have, at least your mind will feel freed up and open.”
4. I’m afraid
Creativity is not just for artists, writers and actors. As Pablo Picaso said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
The No. 1 thing to begin or continue any creative outlet is to not be afraid to start or to fail.
“The biggest obstacle for women is fear of failing and not giving themselves permission to flop while they learn a craft or skill,” said McMeekin. “We expect perfection too soon and often get discouraged and quit. Low self-esteem, past trauma that has not been healed, inner and outer saboteurs and perfectionism are all enemies of the creative spirit.”
5. It’s so hard to go it alone
Invite people to help. Talk to strangers you find inspiring. Have your girlfriends keep you accountable. We don’t have to be alone in our creative pursuits. We just have to do it. Like jumping into a cold pool, jump into creativity. Besides, aren’t pool parties more fun with friends?
“Throw it out to the world,” said Buckingham. “Whenever I’m looking to try something new, but don't quite know what, I throw it out to the world. I mention it to people I hardly know. ... You never know who is doing something exciting and new that might spark your interest.”
Aside from talking to people to help get the creative flow going, it is OK to directly ask people for help. We tend to take the, I-can-do-it-all-myself route. The truth is, we probably can. But why make it harder than it has to be?
“Smart women value their time and self-worth and either subtract or delegate out tasks that drain off their creative energies,” said McMeekin. She suggested hiring virtual assistants, college students or women out of work to handle tasks that need doing. By giving yourself these extra hands, you can think big and follow your passions.
“I also encourage women to support each other by helping each other in baby-sitting, going on retreats and teaming up in support circles,” McMeekin said.
Finally, don’t keep it to yourself. Not everyone will realize you are on a creative quest to nurture your spirit. Let your loved ones know you will need some personal time.
“Talk with your family and friends and let them know that you are on a quest and to grant you some space,” said McMeekin. “If you have elderly parents, get your brothers involved. If you are in a relationship, carve out alone time so that you can ponder and tune into your creative channels. If you are willing to be confident and negotiate for what you need, people will respect you.”
5 Ways to jumpstart your creativity
Now that you are out of excuses, it’s time to get creative. McMeekin shared five easy tips to get you on your path to creativity.
Keep an ongoing excitement list of every idea that intrigues you and look for patterns.
Find or create a private space in which to work and decide if you want to work collaboratively or on your own.
Set aside money to invest in your creativity. Do you need a teacher, a business adviser, a support group, materials, a coach? Write out a plan with specific goals, due dates and expenses. You are worth it.
Allow yourself to be in "beginner's mind" and try new things. Go look at other work in your field, identify your creativity catalysts and build them into your life.
Keep a journal about your creative project/process/business and keep track of your inspirations and your questions.
There are days you just don’t want to be creative. You’re tired, you’re stressed, you don’t feel inspired. However, don’t rob yourself of a time to be creative. Even taking a few moments to read inspirational quotes will keep you on your path to creative growth.
Keep the following quotes in a journal, drawer or on a note stuck to your mirror just to help you out of a rut and give you a creative fix for the day.
“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!” -- Dr. Seuss, author
“The chief enemy of creativity is 'good' sense.” -- Pablo Picasso, artist
“Sometimes you've got to let everything go, purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything … whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you'll find that when you're free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.” -- Tina Turner, entertainer
“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” -- Sylvia Plath, poet
“Only one thing makes a dream impossible: the fear of failure.” -- Paulo Coelho, poet