I was a wild child. I climbed trees, ran barefoot all summer, played in the creek, went hiking, made concoctions in the kitchen, spent endless hours curled up under a tree reading, built tree forts, had crab apple fights, and hung out with my mom’s tenants, who were artists and intellectuals. By the time I was eight, I had learned to paint, was well-read, and had quite the vocabulary. At a very young age, I learned to rely on my imagination to figure things out, come up with solutions, and fend for myself. My world was one of expressiveness, originality, and imagination.
We didn’t have the technology, video games, or Google that kids do now to entertain us. I never asked my parents what to do because the response was always the same, “Go outside and find something to do. We were not put on this earth to be your entertainment committee.” There was a whole world out there to explore, and I was an intrepid adventurer.
When I became a parent, I taught my kids how to live creatively. They had no interest in tv or video games but loved reading, trying new things, traveling, being outside, and exploring. At some point, though, I realized that I had forgotten how to live creatively.
It happens to the best of us; we get stuck in a routine. Instead of living life, we find ourselves mindlessly following a schedule. But we all can break out of that routine.
10 tips for living a creative life
Try something new
When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone to try something completely new? There are so many new things to learn no matter where you are in life. At 39, I agreed to learn to ski downhill if my son learned to waterski. Honestly, I thought he would forget this agreement by winter. Nope, he had the memory of an elephant. There was no way he was letting me off the hook. So, despite every shred of common sense in my body screaming, “OMG, no!” I took creative action and joined a women-only learn to ski program. In 10 weeks, I realized I enjoyed skiing, made new friends, developed a love of the mountains, and forged a common bond with my son. No matter your age, take that painting class, learn a new hobby or sport, travel, or go on a new adventure. You won’t be sorry.
Find your inner artist
Whether you like to write, dance, act, sing, draw, paint, or create with your hands, use your imagination, and go for it. Some of us find our inner artist and never lose them. Others must rediscover them. I was one of the latter. When my youngest son, Alex, was 14, he helped me pack up some stuff in the basement. Alex was a talented artist, so naturally, he was curious when he discovered some large dusty portfolios packed away on a shelf. He pulled them out, brought them upstairs, and was sifting through piles of art when I walked into the kitchen. He said, “Mom, whose are these?” I told him they were mine from my teenage years and college days. He looked at me with his mouth open and said, “Oh my gosh, Mom, I never knew you could draw.” It was then that I realized I hadn’t picked up a pencil in over 17 years. How was it that my children never knew the artistic side of me? Life gets in the way if you let it. And, I let it.
Make it a point to do what feeds your soul. Find whatever creative outlet resonates with you, and as Nike says, “JUST DO IT!”
So, I took my advice and started drawing again. A little rusty, but the artist within is still there 🙂
Travel with an open mind
How many of you travel and fall into all the tourist traps? Rethink the way you travel. If you’re investing the time and money to travel, make it an adventure you’ll never forget. Take the time to do your research upfront and plan; it will go a long way in helping you make the most of your trip. Traveling gives you a unique opportunity to go on a fantastic adventure. It’s a chance to go off the beaten path, fulfill your bucket list, explore, learn a new language, connect with another culture, meet people, learn new ways of doing things, volunteer your time for a passionate cause, or re-energize and regroup. Some of the happiest people I know are avid travelers, explorers, and adventurers.
“Still round the corner there may wait a new road or a secret gate, and though I oft have passed them by, a day will come at last when I shall take the hidden paths that run west of the moon, east of the sun”
Spend time in beautiful spaces
The idea of a beautiful space that encourages creativity is different for everyone. Think of creative spaces as an environment that challenges you to re-energize, think, explore, and just be yourself. It might be a beautiful public park or garden, planetarium, museum, concert, annual art show, theater, lake, beach, or trekking through the mountains. Those creative spaces can change from season to season or based on your mood. The commonality of these spaces is they are creative sanctuaries that inspire you.
When I discovered kayaking, I found one of the world’s most peaceful, creative spaces. Being alone on a body of water with my camera, exploring and observing nature provides me with a new perspective, opens my mind to the possibilities, and inspires me to create.
How often have you heard someone say, “no question is a dumb question?” Human beings are naturally curious. We are forever asking questions; it’s how we learn. Don’t be afraid to ask someone you admire or an expert in an area you’re interested in to learn new things. YouTube, Google, and Pinterest are also my favorite resources for learning something new or expanding my knowledge on things that pique my curiosity. One of my hobbies is redoing furniture. I’ve learned some fantastic techniques by asking experts and exploring the many DIY videos, blogs, and articles online. Never stop learning.
“Curiosity is the most powerful thing you own.”
Make your environment inspiring
Whether it’s your office, home, backyard, or vacation home, your environment can influence your ability to live creatively. Surround yourself with meaningful things that you love, motivate you creatively, spark memories, make you smile, and encourage you to think. Think about the colors in your space, the type of furniture, decor, lighting, and your surroundings. Are you more creative in bright rooms, or do you need a more earthy, calm, or serene space? Is your space more minimalist or cozy? If music sparks creativity, think about what music is playing. Create a playlist that moves you. Your environment should be one you want to be in; that inspires you.
Be willing to jump in feet first
Some of the most creative people I know didn’t discover they had a talent until much later in life when they finally took the time to “rediscover” themselves and explore new things. They were fearless, jumping in with both feet to follow a pursuit they were passionate about and mastering their chosen form of creative expression. When asked why they waited to pursue their dream–the answer was always the same. 1.) No time. 2.) Fear of failure. Make time and let go of the fear. Failure is necessary to learn, and grow; it often leads to great things.
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
STOP striving for perfection
Imperfection is normal—especially when it comes to creativity. Some of the most creative results and best discoveries happen by accident. They are the result of imperfect action. One of the best know accidents that made a profound impact on the world was discovered in 1928. Penicillin was one of the world’s first antibiotics, but the man who discovered it, Dr. Alexander Fleming, never actually meant to “revolutionize all medicine,” as he later described it. Instead, Fleming came across the antibiotic by chance when he left out cultures of Staphylococcus aureus in his lab for two weeks and returned to find that their growth had been prevented by a mold called Penicillium notatum.
Maintain a sense of humor and have fun!
Be willing to laugh at yourself. Let go of the seriousness, insecurities, and fear. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Chances are you won’t see them again anyway. Remember when I said I learned to ski at 39? Well, it wasn’t all fun and games. I face-planted the first time off the lift, spread-eagle in the snow directly in front of the lift. As any skier knows, there is no graceful way to get up. The lift operator stopped the fully-loaded ski lift and came out to the unloading area to ask me if I was OK. Despite being wholly mortified, I sucked it up, put on my best smile, laughed, and said, “Well, unfortunately, my pride is horribly wounded, but I’m fairly confident that I will live.” The lift operator gave me a huge smile as I proceeded to pick myself up, dust myself off and ski off, cracking up. I quickly learned how to get off the lift after that.
Don’t limit yourself
You can have many creative outlets in your life. You don’t have to limit yourself to one pursuit or medium. Throughout life, you will be exposed to new people, places, things, and ideas. You will encounter inspiration everywhere if you take the time to look. It is natural to evolve and change—embrace that change. You are the captain of your ship. You have it within you to chart your course to live the creative life you desire.
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Photos by Tammy Drost