Are you feeling burned out, stressed out, fresh out of ideas and inspiration? Is the craziness of trying to keep on top of everything zapping your creativity?
Many people in modern society are moaning the collective waning of our creativity. It seems that in the process of becoming technological experts, we may have become deficient in originality, curiosity and inventiveness.
My brother is a professor of art and graphic design at a small mid-western college. He recently told me that some students in his pottery class have never made anything with their hands in their entire lives.
They have used their hands for manipulating video game controls, for “mousing,” and for texting—and they are good at those things. But they have never created anything tangible. They have never experienced the joy of holding something in their hands that they have made completely from their imaginations.
Barriers to Creativity
Everyone is born creative. Because we are made in the image of God, we are gifted with the ability to participate in the spiritual process of creating. Unfortunately, we often lose our creativity under the stress of daily living, the pressures of societal expectations, and the fear of failing to measure up.
“If you’re afraid of failing, you will have a hard time succeeding,” said a wise person named John Smith. And, I believe, you will also have a hard time maintaining your creativity.
Another problem is that many of us don’t have an accurate understanding of what creativity is or how to protect it.
The general opinion is that it relates to music, art, dance or writing. We must come to understand that true creativity is a quality one brings to an activity—any activity. Creativity is more about attitude than aptitude. It is centered around a mind set rather than a skill set.
We need to be creative in order to be fully alive. We yearn to experience that freedom and passion and joy that results from impacting our world in some way.
As a suffering creature, I cannot do without something greater than I—something that is my life—the power to create. —Vincent Van Gogh
Here are six practical ways to increase or strengthen your personal creativity.
1. Manage your Mind
Our thoughts about ourselves largely define who we are and what we do. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” Prov. 23:7 NKJV. The quality of your thoughts determines both your level of happiness and the focus of your life. Choose to think positively about yourself and your talents and abilities. And avoid comparing yourself to others—it never helps.
2. Simplify your Style
Creativity is enhanced through adopting the idea that less is more. The philosophy and practice of rational minimalism is becoming increasingly popular as a backlash against materialism. Decluttering your life frees your mind. There is plenty of decluttering advice out there. Here’s a basic guide to get you started.
Leslie Berland, SVP of Digital Partnerships and Development for American Express, says, “I find the most creative ideas are often the most simple. We live in a very noisy and information-cluttered world; true creativity becomes apparent if you can figure out a way to break through with a simple and powerful idea.”
3. Stimulate your Senses
We can re-learn creativity through consciously blocking out the stream of digital information that overloads us every day and developing the awareness of our physical senses. Close your eyes and practice listening to sounds. Take time to smell things: flowers, rain, your food. And speaking of food, take time to really taste what you eat. Slow down and pay attention to the textures and colors.
Artist Hans Hofmann says, “The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color.”
Researchers estimate that 80 percent of all the information we receive comes through our eyes. It will pay to hone your observational skills.
4. Boost your Body
If your health is dragging, your mind will suffer. Sleep deficiency, even at low levels, will compromise your output. So will malnutrition. And I’m not talking about a lack of food—I’m talking about low quality food. Not getting enough vitamins and minerals from what you eat. Junk in, junk out.
Another really important element of physical health is exercise. Even moderate activity increases blood flow, thereby bringing fresh oxygen to your brain. A good rule of thumb is 5-10 minutes of movement for every hour spent sitting. Research shows that creativity can be boosted by up to 60% while walking, as opposed to sitting.
5. Firm your Focus
When you’re working on something, be completely immersed in the present, focusing entirely on the current activity without allowing distractions. Shut out (or off) everything except your immediate project.
Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. —Pablo Picasso
6. Build your Beauty
Beauty nourishes your soul. It refreshes your mind. Experiencing any type of beauty lifts your creativity.
One of the best ways to boost your beauty exposure is by reconnecting with the natural world. A study conducted by Texas A&M and lead by Dr. Robert Ulrich showed that having flowers or plants in the workplace promoted innovation and the flow of creative ideas. Contact with the mysteries of life and the loveliness of nature inspires like nothing else. If you can’t go out to nature, bring nature in to you (plants, small water fountains, etc.). Nature is infinitely more beautiful than anything humanity can devise.
In a TED Talk titled Moveable Art, Louie Schwartzberg uses incredible photography to showcase the beauty of nature. Drawing on the philosophy of Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, Schwartzberg explores the idea that nature’s beauty is a gift that cultivates appreciation and gratitude in those who engage it.
Those virtues, when developed, lead to a mind set that stimulates creativity. If you truly believe that life is a gift you have right now, and if you unwrap it with wonder as if it were the first day of your life and carry it out with passion as if it were the last day of your life, you will live this day well.
And you will live it creatively.