How to be more creative by slowing down
As a creative person and creator, maker and owner of an accessory brand, I'm regularly thinking and looking at things in a creative way. How can I re-design that? How can I make that 2am-wake-up-with-a-design-idea into a reality? How can I write about that? What craft project am I starting next? Oh but I really should finish that knitting project! Oh but I also want to learn how to crochet and hmm, that local pottery class looks good. I'll just pop that book on the dangerously high pile of books by my bed for reading later. Ooh, I'll add that podcast to my list. Actually, I must download the latest photography app and read those newspaper articles. Now that's a good blog idea, I'll just write that down in one of my ten notebooks. Mmm, that recipe looks good, I must cook it soon. Oh I must go and photograph for my Instagram feed that stunning sunset/crunchy pile of autumn leaves/perfect flower/cute tea cup/yummy slice of cake/tiled floor/beautiful door/vintage bike...I'll do that after I've taken a photo of my dinner.
The list goes on and it's rather like an extremely hectic hamster wheel that never, ever stops. Pile on top the normal day-to-day tasks, as well as the highs and lows of life and the fast paced and time consuming world that is the internet and social media, it's a wonder anyone sleeps at night and ever sits down and just b r e a t h e s for a moment.
Why are we so creatively busy or are we actually not creatively busy at all and in fact too busy thinking about being creative or perhaps we're spreading our creativity too thinly and trying to achieve too much, resulting in disappointment?
It's an interesting topic that came up at a workshop I recently attended, which was all about telling your story online. In the case of the workshop, we were relating this issue to writing and how not to rush that process but spend time planning, structuring and editing; really enjoying the process and not just sending a rushed blog post out in order to meet some ridiculous target that you've set yourself. By spending a bit of time planning and thinking, you in fact save yourself time by not having to go back and drastically edit the piece at a later date. That really struck a chord with me and so I thought I'd delve into the topic of being more creative and enjoying the creative process by slowing down.
But why are we so creatively busy?
Why do we not just sit down or perhaps focus on one creative project at a time or just realise that we don't have to do EVERYTHING? What do you think? I wonder whether it's to do with how quickly things move now? The rise and immediacy of social media and smartphones, the next day delivery culture and the lack of patience this brings to our world; maybe even the whole throw-away culture adds to that attitude too. No one seems to have the ability to wait for things any more or even be satisfied with being good at just one thing and not having to conquer the world every day, especially creatively.
Is it a problem?
I am totally guilty of all of this and have recently realised, after two house moves this year and a load of personal life shizzle, that giving myself the added pressure and exhausting hamster wheel of feeling like I need to achieve all those creative ideas by tea time is simply not healthy. It's not good physically or mentally.
By trying to achieve too much at once you end up achieving nothing. This applies to both a creative world and life in general. There's definitely something to be said for just getting on and doing it, rather than attempting ten things at once and making yourself feel bad for not achieving any of them properly.
Now, I'm not saying that you will be an expert at calligraphy by the end of the week if you just focused on that as a creative activity but you will be a hell of a lot better at it than if you'd split your week up doing ten different creative projects. You actually meet your creative goals by focusing, slowing down and taking some pressure off that ridiculous self-imposed list of things you think you should be doing; such a negative word, should this, should that. There's no should about it. Start thinking tortoise and hare.
On the flip side of the argument however, is it a problem at all? If we have a creative urge to design, make or create something, should we not just follow that inspiration and see where it takes us? We might end up creating something brilliant.
I personally think it's good to follow that sudden burst of creative inspiration because it might not strike again and clearly your brain is in the creative zone, so that's a good time to draw, paint, sew etc. We just need to remember that it doesn't matter if by following that we miss taking an arty photo for our Instagram feed because the time was better spent.
But is it possible to slow down creatively in order to be more creative and enjoy being creative?
Yes, it is! In order to let your creativity flow better, making time to slow down and enjoy the creative process helps.
If, like me, you struggle to find the time to slow down, then start by scheduling it into your week. That may sound nuts but those baby steps will help you get into a better, healthier routine and you will feel more creatively inspired and actually enjoy being creative. So, actually enjoy the act of that paint hitting the canvas, the pencil making a mark on the paper, the knitting needles tapping gently together...
Looking at the bigger problem
If you can't even schedule or make time to do that, then you need to look at why you can't. Maybe talk to a friend, partner or family member about what's stopping you. If you have a family, can your partner and you take turns to have some slowing down time? Perhaps you're a single Mum or don't have family nearby. Can you look at turning your evenings into your creative time, after your kids have gone to bed? Explore those possibilities and give them a try.
The mobile phone time sponge
STOP LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE! This has to be the worst consumer of our creative time, right? And I am awful at this. I find myself refreshing the inboxes on my phone, even though I'm sat at the computer and can see the email alerts coming in. Shameful. It's my aim, honestly it is, to stop doing this and instead only check my phone three times a day. I can hear you laughing but really, is the world going to have come to an end by lunch time? Probably and hopefully not. The amount of time we sit scrolling through our phone, we could have drawn a pretty picture, baked a cake, knitted a few more rows, written a poem....you get my drift.
If the thought of not looking at your phone is like something out of a horror movie, try looking at it once an hour, then every two hours and so on. Try also going for a walk WITHOUT YOUR PHONE and just enjoying being outdoors, listening to the birds, feeling the crunch of the leaves beneath your feet, really being in the moment and not instagramming the entire walk!
How to work this into your creative business
If you run a creative business, then it can be pretty tricky not to be online 24/7 but you don't physically have to be. There are plenty of scheduling tools out there to help with your social media accounts and with a bit of planning you can get your Instagram images for the week photographed on one day or save images to use later. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Plenty of people do it. In fact, they have to because no one is superhuman and well, let's be honest here, the sunshine is hit and miss in this country, so we need to grab those perfect photography days when they come.
Set realistic creative goals
The last thing I'll mention is about setting realistic creative goals. It's really great to have so many ideas and feel like you want to try loads of creative activities and you shouldn't feel bad about feeling like that. Just don't feel guilty if you don't do all of them. If you do get them all done, then that's brilliant (and I want to know your secret!); sometimes it is good to grab that creative urge and just go for it. If you do, then really enjoy and make the most of that process, feeling and moment. And remember to remind yourself that if you feel that good in that moment, then you'll feel like that if you slow down and enjoy being creative, rather than rushing at it or simply not doing it at all.
One way in which I'm going to start and try to do slow down in order to feed my creative world, is by keeping a distinction between work time and play time. You know how kids go and play and really get wrapped up in playing and don't worry about feeling like they should be doing something else, well I think this should never stop. Ok, so we have more responsibilities when we're older but that doesn't mean that we can't have time to play, be creative and let our imaginations flow.
What do you think about slowing down in order to feed creativity? Does it work? Maybe you don't agree? I'd love to hear what you think!