Creativity is a wondrous gift, isn't it? But how many of us told ourselves in our youth that we weren’t creative or artistic? I know I did and had lots of reinforcing opinions to strengthen it. As I moved into adulthood I became very good at practical skills like my office skills, which are not particularly creative. I also became skilled at being a wife, mother, and homemaker. I enjoyed these roles and was proud of the home I created but didn’t think it was anything special.
When I look back now, I realize how erroneous that statement is. I decorated our homes (7 in total), made clothes for my kiddos, and of course cooked and baked to make everyone happy and try to keep them healthy. In reality, those are very creative efforts, wouldn’t you agree? As I reflect now, I realize that as my years ticked by, I began doing ceramics, writing poetry, and starting a business. But I still believed I wasn’t creative. It seems so awkward to say that now, but we live and learn, don’t we?
Having the gift of creativity is like having an inner well that never runs dry, always offering fresh ideas, solutions, and perspectives. It serves us by fueling innovation, problem-solving, and self-expression. Sometimes that problem-solving isn't even for us, but for a colleague, friend, or family member. When we create, we tap into a part of ourselves that is purely instinctual and uniquely human. Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book "Big Magic," talks about creativity as a force of enchantment—not just a skill but an essential part of our existence. It's a source of deep satisfaction and joy, allowing us to bring something new into the world, whether it's a piece of art, a novel solution to a problem, or simply a new way of looking at things.
Moreover, our creative endeavors often serve others by inspiring, teaching, and bringing beauty or innovation into their lives. Think of the last time you were moved by a piece of music, a book, or even a wonderfully designed piece of technology. These creations started as a spark in someone's creative mind and ended up enriching our lives in profound ways. That’s what happened to me when I began creating resources for my wellness business. That began feeding my creative spirit and a new level of confidence and belief in the value of they would provide to clients and beyond.
I also became a bit of a fabric fanatic creating small items for gifting, learning how to quilt from a good friend, and seemingly accumulating quite a stash of fabric that brings me such and is fuel for my creativity. I was in a Jo-Ann fabric store with my granddaughter once and getting all excited pointing out beautiful and fun fabrics. She stopped, looked at me, and said "Grandma, you're dangerous in here!" It certainly made me chuckle, but was such a true statement. Where do you find your inspiration and joy? Quilting has brought me such a treasure trove of gifts to create from pocket-size to queen-size. It has also brought me friendships and purpose when creating items to give to young mothers' organizations or seniors who have few visitors in senior residences. The possibilities are truly endless.
However, like any powerful tool, creativity comes with its own set of challenges. The very same imagination that fuels our creative fires can sometimes burn us out or lead us astray. The struggle with distraction is real for creative minds, often bouncing from one idea to another without seeing a project through to completion. This phenomenon, sometimes referred to as the "shiny object syndrome," can lead to a cycle of excitement and frustration. It's like having a browser with too many tabs open (how many do you have open right now - I’m at 27 - LOL). Each idea seems too good to pass up, yet focusing on one means neglecting the others.
The Upside of Having a Creative Mind
Innovation and Problem-Solving
Creativity is at the heart of innovation. It allows us to see beyond conventional solutions and imagine new possibilities. Creative thinking skills are highly valued across all sectors because they lead to breakthroughs that can change the world.
Emotional Expression and Healing
Creativity provides an outlet for expressing emotions in a healthy and constructive way. Art therapy, for example, has been shown to significantly reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It's a way to communicate what we sometimes cannot put into words.
Connection and Community
Sharing our creative work can foster connections with others. It can build communities of like-minded individuals who share similar interests and passions. There's a beautiful exchange that happens when we share our creations; it can be profoundly validating and supportive.
The Downside of a Creative Mind
Distraction and Lack of Focus
The downside of a creative mind is the tendency to get distracted by new ideas, making it hard to focus on the task at hand. This can lead to unfinished projects and a sense of unfulfillment.
Overwhelm and Burnout
Creativity can also lead to overwhelm, especially when we put pressure on ourselves to constantly produce new ideas or when we compare our journey to others. This can result in burnout, which stifles creativity rather than fostering it.
Fear of Failure and Judgment
Creativity involves risk-taking. There's the fear of failure, of not living up to our expectations, or of being judged by others. I often find my own judgment is the harshest. This fear can paralyze us and prevent us from sharing our work with the world. There is also the reality of unmet hopes of past projects or creations.
Balancing Creativity and Focus
So, how do we harness the benefits of creativity while managing its challenges? It starts with self-awareness and strategies to keep our creative energies focused. Mindfulness practices can help us stay present and engaged with our current project, rather than being pulled away by new ideas. Setting clear goals and deadlines can also provide structure, helping us to channel our creative energies more effectively.
Implementing strategies to manage creativity and maintain productivity can be a game-changer, especially for those with a vibrant creative streak. Let's explore a variety of strategies that cater to different aspects of the creative process, ensuring there's something for everyone.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique involves working in focused intervals (traditionally 25 minutes), followed by a 5-minute break. After four intervals, take a longer break (15-30 minutes). This method helps by creating a sense of urgency and keeping the mind fresh. It's particularly effective for large, daunting tasks, breaking them down into manageable chunks.
Time blocking involves dedicating specific blocks of time to different activities or tasks throughout the day. Unlike the Pomodoro Technique, these blocks can vary in length depending on the task's complexity. This method helps in dedicating uninterrupted time to creative work, minimizing distractions, and ensuring other responsibilities don't encroach on your creative time.
Setting SMART Goals
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Setting SMART goals for your creative projects creates a clear roadmap and benchmarks for success. This strategy can help in maintaining focus and motivation, as you have a clear understanding of what you're working towards and a date when you aim to achieve it.
Popularized by Julia Cameron in "The Artist's Way," morning pages involve writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts first thing in the morning. This practice can clear your mind of clutter and anxiety, making way for focused, creative thought throughout the day. It's a form of mental decluttering that prepares you for a productive day.
Mind mapping is a creative and logical means of brainstorming that allows you to visually organize your thoughts and ideas. It can be particularly useful in the initial stages of a project, helping to explore different directions and connections between ideas. This method can also be used to plan out projects, breaking them down into smaller, more manageable tasks. It’s kind of fun to just let it flow and then use different colors to categorize all those ideas.
In an age of constant connectivity, digital detoxes—periods where you intentionally avoid digital devices—can be incredibly rejuvenating for the creative mind. They help reduce distractions and can lead to increased productivity and creativity. Even short detoxes, such as during a lunch break or the first hour after waking up, can make a significant difference.
The Two-Minute Rule
If a task or action can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately. This rule, popularized by productivity consultant David Allen, helps keep small tasks from piling up and distracting you from more significant, creative work. It's a simple but effective way to manage potential distractions.
Establishing rituals around your creative work can signal to your brain that it’s time to focus. This might include setting up your work environment in a specific way, a particular playlist that gets you in the zone, or a warm-up sketch or writing prompt. Rituals can help transition into a creative mindset more smoothly.
Reflection and Adjustment
Regularly reflect on your productivity and creative output. What times of day are you most productive? What strategies are working, and which aren't? Adjust your methods and routines accordingly. Continuous reflection ensures that your strategies evolve with your creative process.
Incorporating one or more of these strategies into your routine can significantly enhance your ability to manage creativity and stay productive. It's all about finding what works best for you and being willing to experiment and then adjust as you learn more about your creative habits and preferences.
Additionally, embracing a routine that includes time for exploration and time for focused work can help manage the ebbs and flows of creativity. Julia Cameron, in "The Artist's Way," recommends regular "artist dates" to refill our creative well, balanced with disciplined work time to bring our ideas to fruition.
Creativity is indeed a double-edged sword, offering incredible gifts while at the same time creating challenges. By understanding and respecting both sides, we can better navigate the creative journey. Let's cherish our creative minds, with all their brilliance and their quirks, as we continue to create and share our unique contributions with the world.
Remember, creativity isn't just about producing art; it's about living creatively—a mindset that can transform every aspect of our lives. So, here's to embracing our creative spirits, managing the distractions, and making the most of this wonderful gift.
As a member of the Board of Directors of the non-profit This Girls Story, we encourage the creative spirit of teen girls through their writing, art, photography, video, and poetry. It’s so exciting to see how teen girls express their feelings about a multitude of topics. The quarterly digital magazine is produced by an editorial team consisting of teen girls who choose themes, cover images, and so much more. It’s very exciting to see it come together and share it with the world. I urge you to check it out, subscribe, donate, or invite a teen girl you know to share their creativity in one of the modalities available for submissions.
My wish is always for you to Be Well
You can always check out some of my creative items in The Relax Me Store
And that includes all the creativity within you and finding outlets that bring you joy, satisfaction, and an incentive to continue bringing it into the light of day.