In middle school, a couple of friends and I were carving pumpkins one Saturday night before Halloween. We had pizza, delicious junk food, and a classic thriller movie on in the background. These types of nights were my favourite.
As we chatted away and worked on our pumpkins, I looked over at my friend Jess, who was quietly focusing. I watched as she did her best to meticulously carve her pumpkin and stay within the pre-made outline of the cat design she chose. This was a tricky design. There were lots of small and precise cuts to be made. As she went to complete one of the cat’s whiskers, the knife slipped and she was left with a wobbly line as opposed to the perfectly straight line the design called for. Jess sighed in frustration, complaining out loud that she was “just not creative.”
I wondered to myself why Jess was being so hard on herself. The pumpkin still looked great. To give her a boost, I rattled off other ways she was highly creative. For instance, she was a talented dancer who loved to choreograph her own shows. Who cared about an imperfect pumpkin?
Looking back on that memory years later I realised that, like so many people, Jess associated creativity primarily with artistic ability. In fact, being a creative person and living a creative life expands far beyond this narrow pursuit. The dictionary defines creativity as the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.
I also love the way Elizabeth Gilbert describes creative living in her book Big Magic: “A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner – continuously and stubbornly bringing for the jewels that are hidden within you – is a fine art, in and of itself.” It’s creative mentors like Liz who have completely opened my mind (and the minds of her millions of readers) to what it means to live a truly creative life, with fewer restrictions and limitations.
Let’s talk about your own relationship with creativity. One of the ways to live more creatively is to exercise your imagination. What might this look like for you? Are you creative in the kitchen? Do you love to experiment and come up with new ways to combine the few ingredients you have in the fridge? Are you excellent at budgeting? When you open up your spreadsheet, do you see new possibilities for your cash? Are you the person your friends always come to for advice? Do you have a magical ability to listen and offer helpful insights or options they hadn’t considered before? Are you always pottering around doing home improvements or craft projects? Do you love the process of making your home look and feel beautiful?
Of course, creativity when considered like this has nothing to do with being the best or achieving perfection. If your inner critic is creeping in and making you doubt your creative abilities then stop right there. There’s no point in comparing yourself to others. Living creatively isn’t supposed to look perfect and there’s no precise goal you need to focus on attaining. It’s simply about expanding this aspect of yourself and experiencing life through a fuller and more interesting lens. Plus, when you feel creative, you also feel more energised, generous, courageous and more confident. Who doesn’t want that?
I personally like to think of creativity as a resource, so here are four suggestions to get you started:
Make space for it. If you’re constantly over-stimulated, exhausted, or focus on areas that deplete your energy, you will feel anything but creative. If suits you, mornings (before the obligations of the day set in) can be a great time for creative energy to flow.
Experiment without judgement or expectation. Take a curious approach and allow yourself to follow your intuition. Think outside the box, do things differently but most of all, keep going.
Endorphins are your BFF. Exercise and releasing endorphins can be an excellent way to increase your creativity. My best ideas always flood in when I’m on a run, listening to classical music.
Meditation helps too. There are many wonderful guided meditations that can help calm your mind. My personal favourite is Kundalini Yoga – here’s a free class that always helps me stir up creative thoughts, especially when my mind is racing.