So often as I'm scrolling through my Instagram feed or browsing Etsy or reading (or writing) an interview with a successful maker, I find myself falling into that dangerous place of comparison: I would have never come up with that idea. I could never make that. I'm just not that creative! Sound familiar?
It's time we stop. The truth is, there are no Haves and Have Nots when it comes to creativity; everyone has the potential to be creative, it just takes a little digging. Remember when you were a child and the mere suggestion that you were in a far away land made it real? Remember how easily you could conjure up wild fantasies of exotic worlds and mystical creatures? It's not until we grow up, when our imaginations begin to be graded, weighed, measured, and compared, that we question our ability to be creative. And when we question and compare, we lose the freedom that ignites our creative selves.
But all is not lost. With these 12 tips, you can once again tap into your creative soul.
12 Ways to Nurture Creativity:
1. Believe you are creative. You may have temporarily fallen off the creativity wagon, but that doesn't mean you can't chase it down and hop aboard once again. Pick yourself up, dust off the fear of failure, and start believing in your ability to create.
2. Do something creative every day. Creativity is like any other skill - use it or lose it. Get your juices flowing by forcing yourself to regularly exercise your inner creative genius. Whatever creativity looks like to you, do it daily. Once you form the habit, it will feel unnatural to go a day without it.
3. Simplify your life. There's no greater creativity killer than an over-scheduled, anxiety-riddled life. Learn to say no and then actually say it - say no to invitations that don't excite you, extra projects that don't feel right, that pair of shoes you don't really need. Self-care is the quickest route back to your creative self, and only time and space will get you there.
4. Find what lights you up inside. Being creative is all about having fun. Don't force something just because you think you should enjoy it. Figure out what gets your blood pumping and forget the rest. 'Everyone else is doing it' has never been a good reason to do anything.
5. Embrace imperfection. There's a time and place for self-editing (like when you're working on a client project). This isn't it. Perfection is boring and it's creativity's biggest nemesis. If you're constantly backtracking to make it 'perfect,' you'll find you're dried up creatively halfway through the process. Remember that whatever you're doing, no one is doing it quite like you. Now work it.
6. Stay curious. I have a bad habit of asking way too many questions. Why? How? What else? But the same trait that drives my husband up the wall is also what keeps my ideas flowing. Ask questions. Wonder. Dig deeper. Fall into the rabbit hole. Make unexpected connections. These are the things of which creativity is made.
7. Give your inner critic a voice. If you plan on sharing your creative output, come to terms with the devil inside. You know every bump, edit, flaw, rewrite, redo, and remake that it took to get your work where it is, and often those 'mistakes' are all you can see. Refuse to play the victim or let the negativity fester; give you inner critic a voice by allowing yourself to explore what he or she has to say. Write it down, internalize it, recognize that it's likely the harshest criticism you'll hear, and then move on.
8. Stop comparing. I talked about the dangers of comparison when chasing your dream job, and the same applies to finding your creative self. Comparison is the thief of joy; don't rob yourself of something great before you even have a chance to get started. This is for you and no one else.
9. Spend time in nature. Museums, galleries, and exhibits are fantastic sources of inspiration. But the most inspiring artist of all is Mother Nature. Study after study has shown that spending time in nature has a powerful positive effect on our mental wellbeing, even in short bouts. That means even city dwellers can reap the rewards of this free wellspring of creativity.
10. Accept that creative blocks are an inevitable part of the process. Creative blocks happen to everyone. Everyone. In the age of the internet and the carefully curated online persona, it's easy to forget that the well dries up for even the most creative, talented, driven people from time to time. Don't let temporary roadblocks come between you and your work. Forge ahead armed with the knowledge that the fog will lift and the ideas will soon flow again.
11. Rack up the ZZZs. By now, you surely know all the reasons why sleep is so vital to our health and why we should get more of it. Here's another: logging a solid 7-8 hours means your mind is running on full capacity, which means more fuel for the creative fire. Naps are great too, but they're no substitute for quality REM.
12. Open a book. Reading is the most accessible form of relaxation and escape, as well as a tried-and-true way to expand your vocabulary. But it also introduces other people's thoughts, concepts, and knowledge into your consciousness, where they percolate alongside your own ideas. And that, friends, is when the magic happens.