Creativity is about more than just “creating things.”
It’s also about self-reflection.
At the beginning of the pandemic back in March, I was listening to this kabbalah recording in an attempt to wrap my head around what was happening and what the future was going to look like. And one of the main messages in this piece was the idea of being proactive in one’s life. Instead of seeing COVID-19 through the lens of a “victim,” feeling as though this horrible thing was happening to all of us completely outside our control, I asked myself what it would look like to put myself back in the driver’s seat.
At a time when we felt the most helpless and out of control, what could I control?
All throughout history, tough times have always given way to some of the world’s brightest ideas. The car radio came out of the Great Depression. Amazon and Google came out of the dot-com bubble. It’s human nature to want to take action, overcome obstacles, and move forward. And the root of that action is always inspiration — feeling inspired to create something new.
There’s a great Forbes article about the effects creativity can have on your health, citing everything from increased happiness from dopamine releases to reduced anxiety and stress. It has been found that creativity can help defend against dementia, and even boost your immune system.
I am a big believer that we can all live happier and healthier lives with a little creative inspiration on a regular basis.
Here are four ways I have incorporated creativity into my routines over the years (and especially during COVID) that may help you integrate some creative time in your own schedule.
1. Morning pages
This is an exercise from one of the best-selling books on creativity ever written, called The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron.
The exercise emphasizes the importance of getting your creative juices flowing first thing in the morning. No editing. No critiquing yourself. Just 40 dedicated minutes of freewriting, preferably by hand, until you have three full pages of thought poured out in front of you.
At first, most people are skeptical when they hear about exercises like these. But there’s a reason The Artist’s Way has become a beacon of light for so many people: it’s a daily reminder that what tends to get in the way of our creativity the most is our own critical nature. Morning pages are less about writing and more about practicing letting go.
2. Personal projects
I have been an entrepreneur and business owner for over a decade.
This pandemic has given me a lot of time to reflect on the ways in which I want to continue building my business — as I know it has for many other business owners. And one of the big realizations I’ve had is that I am far happier and more engaged in the work we do when I’m connected to some sort of creative pursuit. Much of the time, that means being creative on a client’s behalf. But after 12 years with the same brand identity for my company, the pandemic seemed like a good time for a rebrand. And the project gave me some creative inspiration and a fresh new look for the agency (nice to have something tangible and positive coming out of all of this).
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or not, there is something to be said for pursuing personal creative projects. It could be having fun rebranding your company, it could be writing a book, it could be picking up a hobby like drawing or painting.
What’s important is that it’s yours.
3. Sing, dance, play
I have been taking dance lessons for about three years now. It has become a huge part of my life and brings me tremendous joy (and a much-needed release) on a consistent basis.
Because of COVID, our lessons are mostly on Zoom now, and I miss the community and group experience, but am so grateful to be continuing with these classes and also my private lessons with my teacher, Kiari Kirk. (BTW, you can join us on Zoom or at his weekend beach classes so check it out).
Expressing through your body is a powerful thing. When I’m learning choreography, I have to be laser-focused which allows me to shut out all of the miscellaneous (and there’s lots of miscellaneous). This is therapeutic and freeing, and for me, an hour of dance class is more effective than a year of therapy!
To top it off, many Nobel laureates swear by the importance of the arts as crucial inspiration for meaningful scientific discoveries.
4. 21 days of sketching
I love trying new things and exploring ways of deepening a connection with self. My most recent project was 21 Days of Sketching with my dear friend Sheila Darcey (SketchPoetic).
Similar to the morning pages, sketching can be a release and a way of expressing — and unloading — the unconscious. Sheila is an artist who has created a powerful platform around sketching as an emotional release. She’s hosting workshops and developing tools that use sketching as a tool for emotional therapy.
I enjoyed doing this on a number of levels, especially as another form of exploration.
And, as is often the case, I was confronted with my perfectionistic tendencies. I noticed how difficult it was for me (and this is true for most other things as well, including dancing) to sketch without judgment (actually, Sheila may have been the first one to point this out). I was acutely aware of how much better my elementary school sketches were than my adult versions (this is obviously not the point). Sketching isn’t really about sketching at all. It’s about letting go, releasing judgment, unloading emotional weight, and so many other things.
Letting go is what allows us to create in the first place.
Amy Stanton is the founder and CEO of Stanton & Company and co-author of “The Feminine Revolution.”