One of the only models of creativity I saw while growing up were the creative genius type. They were the ones with a wealth of creative thought and and an unending supply of talent. They were generally artsy, messy hair and had unkempt clothing branded the “creative mess.” I wanted more than anything to be just as talented as them yet I never saw myself in their shoes nor was I deemed a child prodigy by my authorities. I fell somewhere in the middle of Type A and B. Nevertheless, creating has always been a big part of who I am. Whether it be spontaneously working on a single scrapbook page with my siblings or learning how to write Japanese characters with a brush pen to writing music arranged for flute, I looked for ways to be more creative.
Flash forward a decade later, creativity and I had somehow drifted apart. My professional life required me to be very organized in nice organized boxes and I began to find my 5×6 cubicle comforting. It was as if creating was an old love that I barely recognized and could not possibly still know. The truth is creating take courage. Kurt Vonnegut said about creativity, “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” As an adult I had become uncomfortable and awkward with the risk of creativity that I used to welcome as a kid. I began to long for outlets to create again.
So, I began to set forth challenges for myself weekly to expand and tap into my creative side. I started with drawing a different type of flower each day for a week. Then a group of my friends challenged ourselves to write and finish a new song every week for two months. Most times, the product wasn’t worth sharing. But every so often I would strike gold. Those moments of accomplishment are what has driven me to improve in non-creative ways.
So if you’re looking to tap into your creativity and its risk, here are 5 exercises you can try. More than just and exercise, I hope this preps you to take that jump!
- One Item, 7 Ways: Pick one thing you can doodle. It has to be general enough to have multiple interpretations but not too general that you don’t know where to start. I started with drawing a flower. Then, try to doodle 7 different versions of that one item without using the internet for help. Do that 7 days in a row and you’ll be surprised how life will inspire you.
- People watch: Take a seat in a semi-crowded area and observe the people around you. What are they saying? What are they thinking? What do their facial expressions say about their current state? Write all your observations on a page. You’ll find you’ll start thinking more creatively and also become an excellent people reader!
- Edit Photos in a different Style: For those of you who love social media, use it to help boost creativity. Use your apps to edit one of your photos but instead of tailoring it to your style, try and see if you can copy an opposite editing style. This forces you to look at the details and colors that make the photo.
- Write: Write anything! Whether it be a stream of thoughts or an essay, challenge yourself to write 500 words each day for a week. 500 words seems like a stretch at first, but it gets easier as the days go by.
- Encouragement Observations: Pick one person you see regularly and for 7 days write things that you like about them. Commit to writing 10 things each day. You’ll probably exhaust all the cliche phrases the first day. This will force you to look for the little things you like about them like the freckle above their right nostril or the way their hands flail when they laugh. Once you’ve completed the challenge, you can give that person your list and brighten up their day!