An obvious statement: nurturing your creativity is critical for creative types. But how many of us do it? Do you ever take your creativity on a date? Here’s how I got my mojo back.
I recently took a week off the day-job to work on what really matters to me – my creative life. For the last few months I’d been reading business-related books on internet marketing, how to create secondary income-streams through information publishing… you know the kind of thing. Having done my fair share of dangerous sports in my time, I’m a great believer in having a reserve – be it a parachute, an oxygen-tank, or extra income.
I’d spent some considerable time planning the week ahead. Time had been chunked into creative and business slots. There were periods of learning, and periods of activity – both left- and right-brained. I would treat it as a job. I’m an early riser, so I’d switch off the radio at 08:15 and get on with the first task. At nine I’d go for a run, then work through to lunch. You get the idea – I’m very disciplined.
It just didn’t work. Simple as that. It was dull, dull, dull – and I was going nowhere. On the Wednesday evening I sat down and thought through what had gone wrong.
- First, I’d starved my brain of really good fiction during those months of business-related reading and video-viewing. Your imagination’s like a factory: if you put plastic in one end, don’t expect hand-crafted gold watches out of the other end. The two (justtwo!) fiction books I’d read were two-penny trash. It had been a deliberate delve into the depths of Kindle bestsellers as an information-gather exercise. Yes, I’d learnt what I’d needed to learn, but they’d not fed my creativity.
- Second, I’d polluted my brain with too much unrelated factual information.
- Third, I’d not given my brain any time between finishing my day-job and starting my creative work the following morning.
On Thursday morning I dealt with all of the niggling things that get in the way of creativity. I dealt with email, bought groceries, tidied away distractions, and completed little tasks that were on my mind. I had a good run and enjoyed my lunch. I then went to a matinee of Oz the Great and Powerful in 3D at my local cinema. Popular movies are often popular not because they’re unchallenging or crass, but because they speak deeply to us. Walt Disney was so successful because he knew how to tap into mythologies that are common to all cultures. The new Oz movie was no exception, and my examination of it would merit another post. Seeing it in 3D really helped throw my brain into new and more constructive patterns.
On the Friday I went to the Lichtenstein retrospective at Tate Modern. I’ve always loved his work, and I’d intended to go with an artist friend – but she was working. I took another friend – someone unfamiliar with his work, who’d spent her youth in a repressive Eastern European regime. (On a related tack – gratitude is really important to personal growth and wellbeing. I realised much later that this made me grateful to have been brought up in a free society.) Having to explain the context and evolution of Pop Art and Lichtenstein’s place within it – from my own understanding – was a tremendous help in firing up circuitry deeper in my tired little brain. And, of course, immersing my visual cortex for two hours in a gallery of big, bright, bold images which resonated with other memories was immensely powerful.
So what of Saturday and Sunday? I’m happy to say that my creativity had kissed and made up. We were back in love, churning out marvellous ideas, and dreaming wonderful dreams. The only regret was not taking my creativity out on a date earlier.
How to boost your creativity:
- Get rid of all of the annoying little tasks in your to-do list. If you can’t get rid of them, make a written commitment for some future point to do so. This will free up space in your brain.
- Read for inspiration. Have an emergency stash of fabulous fiction to hand – words that make you weep with envy for not having written them yourself
- Expose yourself to a variety of stimuli – visual, audio, kinaesthetic, gustatory, olfactory – things that you don’t normally experience
- Block off a time in advance where you will let your creativity pour out – let it know it’s wanted and welcome
Treat your creativity like a lover – take it on a date. Do it in advance of asking anything of it, and it will love you right back.