Growing up as an only child, you get very creative at finding ways to entertain yourself. One summer, on a particularly long and lazy day, I remember starting an idea jar. I carefully cut several pieces of paper into small strips, grabbed a box of crayons, and started writing down every activity I could possibly think of. Then I went to the kitchen cupboard, grabbed a mason jar, and filled it with all the little strips. After taking some time to make an elaborate label for the jar, I gave it a shake to mix up all the creative goodness. Time and time again, I returned to this jar, usually out of boredom but sometimes out of the thrill of letting the fates decide how I might spend my afternoon. I continually added to the jar whenever a new idea struck me, and the possibilities grew and grew.
As a self-employed individual, it’s often challenging to know how to productively use breaks throughout the day. Most times, I’ll turn to whatever book I happen to be reading or my coloring book, or, if weather permits, I’ll go outside and take a short walk around my neighborhood. But lately, I’ve been looking for something new, and I remembered the idea jar I created when I was a kid. I immediately had an ah-ha moment: I need an adult creativity jar.
So, I reverted back to my eleven-year-old self. I carefully cut several pieces of paper into small strips, grabbed a box of crayons, and started writing down every creative exercise I could possibly think of. I started with each creative habit I’ve shared in this series – it seemed like the logical jumping off point. Then I continued to brainstorm and get specific – go outside, sit in once place for fifteen minutes, and write down at least fifteen observations… take a book from the shelf, open it to a random page, choose a word or phrase, and start to free write… pick a playlist, put it on shuffle, and dance it out to at least three songs (thanks for the idea, Jess Grippo!).
For this month’s AOC Blog Creative Habit Challenge, start with a jar and fill it with every creative exercise you can possibly think of. Get started with the concepts from this series, then let the ideas flow from there. I’m always on the hunt for new creative activities and sources of inspiration, so please share one of the original ideas from your creativity jar using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreative habit.
As much as I’m artistic and right-brained, I’m equally logical and left-brained. I’ve spent much of my life mediating a war between the creative and the control freak within me. Common sense has talked me out of numerous leaps of faith. Any friend or family member would probably say I’m one of the most cautious and least impulsive people they know. Yet when it comes to written language, from poetry to the writing on this blog, the right side almost always wins. The world may not always be my playground, but words most definitely are.
Ultimately, when I find a balance between the two sides, I feel it’s a pretty spectacular combination. I possess a little more restraint than the super-artistic and a little more imagination than the ultra-rational. As a creative entrepreneur, the blend of right and left brain usually works to my advantage. But, when it comes to just wearing one hat, namely my creative hat, I’ve rarely been able to completely silence the judgmental murmur from the other side. A part of me has always longed for that reckless abandonment that so many creatives possess.
This year I’ve somewhat unintentionally started to break down these left-brained barriers. I let spontaneity in before logic had a chance to shoot it down. I made same-day plans with a friend, something many people do on the regular but something I’d sworn off since high school. I bought a plane ticket less than 24-hours before the flight departed, and the only downside was that I flew Southwest, missed the 24-hour check-in, and got assigned to group B, number 17. I invested in a DSLR two days before my first NYFW, and instead of letting the beast of a camera intimidate me into submission, I strapped the sucker on and took my first amateur photos from the second row of a runway.
I know plenty of people who consistently make last minute plans, take unplanned trips, and make big purchases on a whim, but I am none of those people. To me, these recent happenings were genuine feats, and in doing them, I finally got to experience that rush in throwing caution to the wind. I truly feel and believe I’m evolving into a better creative person because of it.
So for this month’s AOC Blog Creative Habit Challenge, do something that makes you scared or uncomfortable. Conquer your own fears, push your own boundaries, and get out of your comfort zone. We’re all different, so remember that your exploit may seem easy or commonplace to someone else. As always, I love to see you share your experience using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit. For more creative challenges, check out the full series.
For the past five months, I’ve given you a variety of ways to make a habit of being creative – spending more time enjoying your natural surroundings, working with your hands, coloring, writing, and reading. When you take a moment to think about it, there’s no shortage of activities to get your creative juices flowing. What I’ve realized in taking my own creative challenges is that I’ve neglected the number one reason that inhibits us from accessing our creative selves: time. As a whole, we don’t make enough time for creativity.
Making time for creativity always seems to fall to the bottom of our never-ending to-do lists. I think it comes down to the age old battle between subjectivity and objectivity. Measurable tasks inevitably take top priority in our schedules: a project with a deadline, a launch that’s crucial to achieving a monthly goal, a deliverable owed to a client. Creative tasks are often more challenging to measure – with creativity there’s not necessarily an end goal or even end product. You’re rarely getting pressured or paid to be creative. Creativity doesn’t have a particular due date. You may be starting to wonder why should make time for creativity in the first place!
Indulging in your own creativity may be just that – a luxury, like ordering a decadent dessert. Maybe you just simply enjoy the times when you get to be creative, and you deserve to make time for the things you enjoy! On the other hand, getting creative can be more than a leisure activity. Creativity can be an asset to your livelihood, your relationships, and your life. Opening your mind to creative thinking can help you to solve problems and spark ideas, and it allows you to open yourself to new possibilities. Earlier in this series, I discussed how judgement is the enemy of creativity, and judgement goes hand in hand with the objective tasks that rule our lives. We are constantly critiqued, and making time to tap into creativity allows us a reprieve from judgement by others and, more importantly, ourselves.
Before we embark on another Creative Habit Challenge, we need to vow to ourselves and to each other to make time for creativity each month this year. Will you close out each month with a creative ritual? Will you set aside a Saturday just for creativity? I want you to share how you’re going to make time for creativity – head to Twitter or open your Instagram app, use the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit or #MakeTimeforCreativity, feel free to share the graphic featured in this post, and tell me how you’re going to make time for creativity each month in 2016!
It’s funny that I often forget about reading, considering it’s such an essential part of being a writer. I’ll go through spells where I’ll collect a bunch of books and read them one after the other, then I’ll go weeks if not months without reading. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of blogs and magazines and online articles. I read daily doing research for clients or simply staying up to date in my industry, but I mean reading (a book).
Reading a book seems pretty self-explanatory, right? But there are a few ways you can make a habit of reading books in a more creative way. I’ll give you a pass if you absolutely adore your Kindle or the like – they do make things quite convenient, particularly for those who travel often or commute on public transportation and need a one-handed approach. However, I encourage you to read a physical book whenever possible. We look at screens all day, and many of us are conditioned to certain habits when reading on a screen. You may associate reading on screens with work as opposed to pleasure, and you may tend to skim to get through the material more quickly. When you read a book, it should be a ritual – you should slowly slip away from the world around you and into the pages. I believe physical books help facilitate this practice – they help to ensure reading is a leisure activity, and they help you to slow down and really take in each and every word.
What you read also impacts the creative habit of reading. I had such an “ah ha!” moment when I heard Cyndie Spiegel, a business strategy coach for creative entrepreneurs, talk about the benefit of reading fiction versus non-fiction. In one of Cyndie’s newsletters she discussed “turning down the noise” and reminded us that constantly reading non-fiction books on your industry or interests or stage of life can influence your connection to yourself. When you’re disconnected from yourself and more vulnerable to outside influences, your creativity is impacted. You may be more judgmental or less inspired. So, I love Cyndie’s suggestion to read more fiction. Escape into another universe, dive into the life of a character, and allow yourself to fantasize.
The holiday season and end of the year is an incredibly hectic and stressful time for almost everyone. Now more than ever, we need a creative outlet, particularly one that can easily be carried in a pocket or purse. Pick up a book this holiday season. When you need a break from the bustle or family, drift away into a story without even leaving the room.
If you’re just joining the creative habit series, be sure to look back at the challenges for the past four months for more creative inspiration and learn about the book that sparked the series, Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. Finally, don’t forget to share your experience making a habit of reading (a book) using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit.
I may be a little partial to the art of writing for obvious reasons, but even if you’re not a writer, there are creative benefits to writing. If you really want to get your imaginative juices flowing, the key is to write it! Don’t type it.
With the evolution of the digital landscape, people have gotten away from turning to pen and paper to write. There are notes in our phones for list making and blog platforms to help us tell our stories. Those of you who know me recognize that I’m pretty old-school when it comes to writing – I have a physical planner as opposed to a digital one, I handwrite my to-do lists on post-its, and I have at least one journal on my person at all times. In fact, it took me a long time to move away from handwriting everything. I vividly remember when we transitioned from handwriting to typing papers in school. For a long time, I continued to handwrite my first drafts, then type them. I believe that ideas free flow more organically from the brain to the hand to the pencil and finally to the page and that writing with pen and paper is crucial to the creative process of writing.
There’s another less obvious difference between handwriting and typing: privacy. The digital landscape has made it almost too easy for us to share everything. With a couple clicks you can send a note in your phone via text or email, in seconds you can publish your writing on a blog, and much of our days are spent sharing status updates on social media. However, when you handwrite a note and place it in your planner, no one will see it unless you physically pass it along. If you write in a journal, no one will read your entries unless you want them to. So, why is this important to the creative process? Judgement is the enemy of creativity. Most artists and creatives would be called crazy if they shared every idea that came to their minds. The creative process is filled with outlandish and seemingly illogical notions, but when executed properly, they’re brilliant. If you allow judgement to interfere, you’ll never reach the point of carrying out the concept.
For the month of December, turn to a pen and paper not the computer. Set the scene, buy yourself a cool new notebook, light a candle, steep a cup of tea, and enjoy a private moment with your thoughts without judgement. It’s that time of year when you may be thinking about ideas, goals, and plans for the New Year. There’s no better way to spark your creativity than setting aside some time to write with pen and paper.
If you’re just joining the creative habit series, be sure to look back at the challenges for the past three months for more creative inspiration and learn about the book that sparked the series, Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. Finally, don’t forget to share your experience making a habit of handwriting using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit.