The brain works in two teams, I learnt from a self-help book recently. While I wouldn’t recommend said book to my fellow atheists, the concepts covered by the author resonate with me most pragmatically. The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, suggests that our logical, instinctive, grown-up selves suppress our more childish, playful, creative selves. This idea echoes beautifully from Freud’s theories on the human psyche.
Because of lifestyle and thinking culture in the ‘Western world’, especially in most professional environments, we are encouraged to silence our inner creativity in favour of rational and linear behaviour.
Some of the more creative among us are fortunate because we employ the childish, playful part of our brains regularly. For the majority of us, however, we have a creative side that rarely sees the light of day, locked away in the cupboard under the stairs like a naughty infant while Rational Thought patrols the hallway dominating airtime.
‘Wow… I wish I were more creative”
- You can be! I insist.
- Oh, no, I can’t, really. I don’t have the imagination/talent/skill/time/flare/dexterity/patience [delete as applicable].
I can hear the muffled protest of your creative prisoner behind Rational Thought’s self-apologetic excuses. It’s okay to come out, Creativity, I won’t hurt you; I just want to talk.
Aside from the obvious hit of happy hormones, there are further benefits to engaging in creative activity. Unlocking the cupboard and letting your childish, playfulness hare about the house for an hour or two can drastically reduce your stress levels, increase your focus and improve your ability to problem-solve. The brain needs to be challenged and exercised. If you never practice creativity, you’re like the gym junkie who skips leg day.
The sense of pride and accomplishment when I successfully complete a copywriting project or a cupcake order drowns out the self-doubt and wariness I feel before I begin.
But it doesn’t always have to be about successfully completing a project, sometimes it’s just about allowing yourself to doodle on your notepad while you’re on the phone or writing that heart-felt sentence in a greetings card that you don’t normally trust yourself to write.
The two key techniques Cameron outlines in her introduction seem rather sound:
- Engage your creative side daily, without fail, even if it’s just for a few minutes
- Commit to an allotted time each week where you feed your imagination and senses
With the former, you can train Rational Thought that creativity isn’t a threat to your credibility, and with the latter you are never short of resources from which to draw your inspiration.
From personal experience, I can add the following tips:
- Maintain a healthy brain and body to keep your creative juices in the liquid state of matter
- When you’re in the creative zone, avoid social media
- Don’t force it – children don’t play under duress
Everyone would benefit from riding the underground all the way to the zone that’s marked ‘outside of your comfort’, so why not try getting creative? Jot down your musings on a scrap of paper, turn your breakfast plate into a self-portrait, identify the dinosaur or the camel in today’s cloud formations, or dig out your sewing machine.
Who cares if you’re not Beethoven, Picasso or Philip Pullman? So what if your cake looks more like roadkill than red velvet? Give a damn if you never go for that make-up look again! At least you tried.
Give Rational Thought the night off and run naked with your creativity until your sides hurt from laughing at your own everyday reticence.