What Does it Mean to Live a Creative Life?
Over the last few months I’ve been having a think about what it means to live a creative life and how that might look. Not necessarily for people who are established artists and designers, but those of us who are doing other things with our lives but consider ourselves to be creative people anyway.
Living a creative life is something I want to do. I can’t imagine living life in any other way. I would feel like I was living a shadow version of myself if I didn’t.
But what exactly does it mean, and how might it look in our lives as ordinary people?
As well as having a good think, like any self respecting grown up, I can’t do anything without also consulting Google.
The search results showed a number of posts that talked a lot about “committing” and “showing up”. The gist of these posts was that we have to dedicate ourselves to painting, or drawing, or sewing, or playing the piano every day, with the implication that if you don’t, that somehow you are not committed to being creative and you have failed.
Of course, having the time and space to do the creative things we love to do is important. Creativity is like a muscle, and it helps to exercise it regularly.
However I would express this idea more kindly. Finding time when you are busy is never going to be as simple as just deciding to spend half an hour doing something you love. We’ve all got a lot going on. But sometimes with a little bit of creative thinking, we can find pockets of time that we can use. I wrote a post about it which you can find here.
Likewise finding the space. Most normal people do not have a studio. Some normal people have a craft room, but depending on your circumstances, that might not be possible either. But we can make the use of the space we have, and a corner will do. I’ve found in the past that just having somewhere where I can leave my sewing machine out means I do more sewing. It really helps if you don’t have to spend 10 minutes getting it all out, then another 10 minutes putting it away again afterwards. I wrote a post about finding a space to sew in a small house a few years ago.
But I also think that being a creative person and living a creative life is more than having creative hobbies, and the idea that not doing them when there are other things that need our full attention means that we have failed somehow is utter nonsense.
Somebody doesn’t stop being a creative person because their child is having problems at school and they are spending all their time chewing the ends of their fingers off with worry.
Needing to spend your spare time taking a much loved pet who is nearing the end of their life to the vet, dosing them up and trawling the supermarket for things they might like to eat doesn’t mean that you have failed or that you are not committed.
Feeling tired, burnt out, not creative, stressed or being just plain busy, and creative hobbies needing to take back seat for a while doesn’t mean we are not creative or that we’ve failed.
We all have other things going on in out lives, and sometimes those things have to take priority. And creativity ebbs and flows. That’s normal. Somebody hasn’t failed just because they haven’t touched their sewing machine in the last month.
So what does it mean to be a creative person and to live a creative life if it is more that just having creative hobbies?
How Else Might Creativity Look in our Lives?
I think being a creative person and living a creative life is about the kind of outlook we have.
Even the most mundane, everyday things can be approached in a creative way. As well as giving us extra ways to be creative, it can help to make some of the more boring tasks less tedious!
We don’t have to pretend that we are on Masterchef or the Great British Bakeoff and spend hours to making something to have it devoured in 10 minutes, or worse, to have our loved ones declare that they don’t like it!
We can use an old recipe that we love, and cook it as well as we can. We could a change a recipe a little bit, or make a different version of an old favourite. We can come up with imaginative ways to use up leftovers, or things that are in the freezer that need using. Or we can invent a recipe based on what we have in already instead of going out to the supermarket or ordering a takeaway.
Deciding what to plant and where, wondering whether we can grow lettuces in with sweet peas, squeezing in a she shed and a trampoline but still having space for actual green things, growing a wild flower meadow and a nettle patch for butterflies and having a pond for frogs and things even in a tiny garden are all ways to be creative.
Choosing an Outfit
Whether you’ve made the clothes yourself or bought them ready to wear is irrelevant here. It’s not about that. It’s about you being you. What colours do you like? What kind of things do you want to wear? Who says red and pink don’t go, or pink and green? Who cares if nobody wears Britney jeans any more? You can wear what you like and make it yours.
Another way to take a creative approach to what we wear is to decide what you want to wear then make it work. Maybe you want to wear your favourite summer dress but it’s snowing. So perhaps you could put thermals on, then the dress, then a big cardi and a pair of boots. It might look unconventional, but just think how you will feel wearing your favourite dress when most people wouldn’t even consider it!
Deciding What to Do With Our Hair
Sometimes we feel obliged to do what society says. I remember years ago when I still worked in a regular job, I was in the staffroom, and somebody reading an article from a magazine that said women past the age of 40 shouldn’t have long hair and it should be kept “pixie short”. It was a very odd article. If somebody wants to look like a pixie, that’s their choice. But I don’t think we need 2 thirds of adult women going around looking like pixies. Some of us prefer to look more like overgrown fairies.
It’s our hair and we can choose what we want to do with it. Long or short, a naturalish colour or a mad colour, symmetrical or asymmetrical, bald on one side, pixie or fairy, it’s for us to decide what to do with our hair, not someone who doesn’t know us and has a thing about pixies.
Solving a Problem
Problem solving isn’t always seen as a creative thing, but it is something that creative people are often good at. Sometimes it might be one of the things I’ve already mentioned, like turning what you have in your kitchen cupboards into a meal that your family will eat, or making an outfit out of what you clothes you have that fit, that are clean, that you like and what is suitable for the weather and what you will be doing.
There are always going to be problems of one sort or another. Living in a small house with growing teenagers and too much stuff presents me with opportunities to be creative all the time!
Recently I needed to solve the problem of what to do for my 2nd son’s happiness levels. My boys share rooms, 2 in one room and 2 in another. Mostly it works, but despite my best efforts, my 2nd son felt that the room he shared with his brother wasn’t really his.
I’d tried everything I could think of. I got a big desk with an allocated spot each, I sorted him out with storage for his things, I rearranged the furniture, but it still didn’t work. When I asked him, he said he was fine sharing, but I would often find him hanging around like a nomad without a spot to call his own.
So I sorted out the tiny room where my boys slept as babies and which more recently has been where the Lego lives. I got rid of some stuff and rehomed other things to make enough space to get in a desk, a new wardrobe and the kind of chair that the villains have in the James Bond films. Now he has his own space to play his guitar and do what he likes.
Feeding Our Creativity
The other part of living a creative life is feeding our creativity. In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about having a weekly artist’s date.
Calling it an artist’s date implies trips to art galleries and workshops and things, and that’s not always possible.
I think the idea is right though. We can’t expect anything to come out if we don’t fill up the tank first. But I think the idea of an artist’s date can be broader than visiting an art gallery, especially if you don’t live in a city.
Getting Out in Nature
As well as nature being full of things that can inspire us, getting out into the fresh air and moving about is good for our brains and for getting ideas flowing.
Noticing What’s There in Front of Us
Modern life seems to require us to be forever rushing from one thing to the next. Actually slowing down a bit and noticing what is there right in front of us can help to feed our creativity. It might be a pattern on a tile, the textures of moss on a branch, the colours of buildings contrasting with the sky or how the light falls.
To notice it we need to slow down, to allow more time and not rush, to put our phones in our pockets and to give ourselves time to enjoy it.
Visiting Somewhere We Haven’t Been Before
Visiting somewhere unfamiliar can be good for our creativity.
It isn’t always possible to visit somewhere new, but there are other things that are almost as good. For example, you could take a different route to work. Google maps makes this much easier to do with much less chance of getting lost!
Another alternative to going somewhere different is to walk a favourite route in the opposite direction. It’s always interesting to see how different somewhere can seem just walking the other way.
Enjoying the Results of Other People’s Creativity
This can include visiting big galleries and things, but it can also involve enjoying the work of local artists. There are often open studios at certain times of the year, and the tiniest towns will sometimes have exhibitions of local artists’ work.
Going back to what I said about expressing our creativity in different ways, we can enjoy other people’s different kinds of creativity too. There’s a lady who lives near me whose garden is always beautiful, and another lady who I see at the bus stop sometimes who often wears interesting necklaces. I have also enjoyed the colour of somebody’s coat, or the design of their bag, while waiting in the queue at the Co-op!
In towns and cities, there are often beautiful parks and interesting buildings. Sometimes all we have to do is look up!
Keeping a collection of things we find interesting and inspiring can help, especially as a reference for when we need ideas for things.
Pinterest is good for keeping things digitally, and ideas can be organised onto different boards.
Google Keep is also useful. I can take photos on my phone and make notes as well, and it prevents pictures I take getting lost in the mass of pictures I take all the time!
If you prefer physical copies of things, an old fashioned scrapbook might appeal more.
In the end, there’s inspiration to be found in everything.
If you have any thoughts about what it means to live a creative life, please leave them in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you think!