In most cases, when you want to make room for something new, you have to let go of something old. If you want to update your wardrobe, you might consign or donate items in your closet that no longer fit or are out of style. If you’re moving into a new home, you may have a garage sale to get rid of furniture that you no longer need. There are even small, everyday instances in which you simply remove the old to make space for the new without even thinking. Before taking a trip to the grocery store, you might clean out your fridge and discard leftovers or items that have spoiled. Purging something old to make room for something new comes naturally to us in so many facets of our lives, yet we don’t instinctively turn to this practice when it comes to creativity.
Creativity is intangible – it doesn’t literally take up space like a new pair of shoes or a couch or a carton of milk. Even though you don’t physically have to make room for a great big piece of creativity, you have to make space for it mentally. Just like your dresser or fridge can become unbearably full, so much so that you can never find the right pair of jeans or marinade when you need them, your mind can become cluttered and creativity can get lost. It’s easier when you can physically see that you have so many throw pillows you can no longer comfortably sit on your couch. You know it’s time to sell or give away a few. However, when you’re dealing with something more abstract like creativity and making space in your mind, it can be more challenging to know when and how to clear things out.
Like New Year’s Resolutions or bikini season diets, spring cleaning is a bit arbitrary. There’s never a wrong or right time to define goals, commit to a healthier lifestyle, or clear out clutter in your life. While these annual milestones are somewhat trivial, they serve as good reminders that it’s important to regularly set intentions, practice healthy habits, and let go of something old to make room for something new.
For this month’s AOC Blog Creative Habit Challenge, do a little metaphorical spring cleaning. Actively find ways to clear your mind and make space for creativity. This could be as simple as shutting off your computer, powering down your phone, and allowing yourself to detach and decompress for a few hours. Maybe you just need a breath of fresh air – go outside and get lost in the beautiful spring weather. Perhaps you’ve always been curious about meditation, and now could finally be the time to give it a try. If your mind is feeling particularly cluttered and the thought of freeing your mind sounds paralyzing or impossible, you might want to dig deeper into your spring cleaning.
Over time, the buildup of stress or the pressure of the never-ending to-do list can really start to saturate your mind. In these instances, a simple walk around the neighborhood park won’t suffice – you don’t just need spring cleaning, you need deep cleaning. Carve out some time and space to ritualize the process. Grab a pen and paper, and physically free write or sketch whatever you need to release. Try to be as raw and honest as possible. Then, tear it up, burn it, or throw it into a nearby body of water – really let it go and allow your mind to empty.
Whatever mode or method you choose, don’t just clean out your house this spring. Clean out your mind and make space for creativity. Let’s continue the conversation – tweet me @AOCBlogGirl using the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit!
Today I’m kicking off a monthly series, the Creative Habit, inspired by Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit (which I highly recommend reading). The focus of the book and this new monthly series is best summarized in a passage from Tharp’s practical guide:
“The routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more. And this routine is available to everyone. Creativity is not just for artists. It’s for businesspeople looking for new ways to close a sale; it’s for engineers trying to solve a problem; it’s for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way… Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits. That’s it in a nutshell.”
Since leaving college and the cushion of being surrounded by countless peers, professors, and mentors all of whom were writers or dancers or artists, I’ve struggled to maintain my creative self. In my experience, the older you get, the more you lose that youthful abandonment and in turn, begin to lose your creativity. In addition to outside forces impacting our creative selves, we’re at greater risk of inhibiting our own creativity as adults. We allow the left brain to kick in with logic, analysis, and judgement, and we become quick to extinguish or abandon our natural creative impulses. Slowly but surely, over the past five years, I’ve fought to maintain my creative self. It’s challenging, and that’s why I believe in forming a creative habit.
For this Creative Habit series, I’ll present you with a creative assignment toward the end of each month. Then, for the thirty days that follow, I challenge you to incorporate the creative habit into your routine. The tasks will start out very basic so that you can discover what creative habit works best for your lifestyle and your creative self. September’s challenge is to simply embrace the last several weeks of summer weather and go outside every day. I don’t just mean walk from your car to your office or step in the backyard to let out your dog – really go outside! When was the last time you sprawled out in the grass and gazed at the sky? Do you ever go on a walk or run without your headphones and let your surroundings speak to you?
So many of us are confined indoors for 80-90% of the day. As a freelance writer who typically works from a home office, there have been periods where I didn’t leave my apartment for three to four days at a time! This is an extremely unhealthy work practice, and I can definitely say my creativity was at an all-time low during these stints. Now, living in New York City without a car, I’m forced to spend time outside almost anytime I need to go somewhere, but that doesn’t always mean I’m engaged with my surroundings. Most people who are going from Point A to Point B on the streets of NYC are in their own worlds – talking on the phone, listening to their headphones, or even reading a book or newspaper. Remove the extraneous technology, noise, and distractions! Don’t just go outside, be present in the outdoors and appreciate your natural surroundings.
Over the next month please share your experience making a habit of going outside with the hashtag #AOCBlogCreativeHabit
As kids we eagerly anticipated the moment that signified summer. School was out. Vacations were planned. Summer meant freedom. For three warm months, we got to relish in being young and carefree. Then we grow up, reality sets in, and summer isn’t what it used to be.
As adults, summer can be torture. While we’re confined to our desks, we long for those youthful days spent by the pool. Trips must be carefully coordinated with corporate calendars. We seize and treasure any time spent outdoors enjoying the warm weather and working on our tans, even if it’s just on our lunch hour.
Summer will never be quite the same as it was in our youth, but it’s still possible to savor this amazing season in adulthood. I try to soak up the sun and all this season has to offer right from my own neighborhood. No elaborate trips or lofty expenses required at these 5 fashionable places you’ll find me this summer.
1. THE PATIO
On warm summer nights, you’ll find me on the patio, getting lost in conversation and watching the sunset from a table filled with food, drinks, and friends.
2. THE FARMER’S MARKET
On Saturday mornings, you’ll find me at the farmer’s market, relishing in produce at its peak and carrying out my family’s weekend ritual.
3. THE PARK
At the end of the work day, you’ll find me in the park, escaping the concrete jungle and observing life outside the city.
4. THE KITCHEN
In the evening, you’ll find me in the kitchen, indulging in seasonal fare and forsaking my bikini-season diet.
5. THE SALON
At the height of heat and humidity, you’ll find me at the salon, abandoning my dedication to long locks and embracing a fresh summer cut.
It may be nearing the end of July, but it’s never too late to recapture that youthful freedom summer has to offer. This season is one of the best times to rest and reboot before the crunch of fourth quarter and the holiday season, even if only for a staycation. The patio, the farmer’s market, the park, the kitchen, and the salon are all places right in the comfort of your own neighborhood that can allow you to escape the everyday hustle and bustle and bask in the warmth and wonder of summer.