Yes, Everyone Has a Creative Muscle. Here Are Some Creativity Exercises to Flex It
As a creative professional, the comment I hear most re: my career is: “Oh, I could never do that. I’m just not creative.” This is the moment where I have to decide to accept their statement as a compliment, or step high onto my soapbox and say, “Yes you are. Creativity is not a gift. It is a muscle.”
Consider this post my soapbox, and my feet are firmly planted atop it. If you want to keep believing people are either creative or they aren’t, get out now, while you still can! We’re about to debunk some serious myths and clear the runway for everyone to accept what they inherently are — creative.
Now, I am by no means the first person to claim that creativity is a muscle, rather than a gift. In fact, in the creative community, this idea is often used to ground creative minds during panicked mental blocks and periods of burnout.
Every single day, I have to come up with something new–as a writer, that means looking for new angles to the same general themes and stories, and as an entrepreneur that means finding creative solutions to difficult problems. I don’t have the luxury of sitting around “waiting for inspiration.” Either I find it, or I don’t eat.
But I’m not just talking to those of us who make our living being creative every day. In fact, I pen this post to inspire those who believe that because they aren’t creating traditional artistic output, they inherently are not creative. We are all creative. Whether or not we choose to hone and practice our creativity is entirely up to us. And the good news is, it’s never too late to start. Here are some ways to unlock your good stuff with creativity exercises that you can introduce into your everyday life.
First, the easy stuff.
Find out how you are already creative.
Get out a sheet of paper and write down things you do every day, down to the minute details. Do you put on makeup? Do you create timelines or agenda notes? Do you write Post-It notes in your kids’ lunchboxes? Do you cook dinner? Do you love browsing for new wines, shoes, watches, or Netflix shows? Great news: You’re already creative. If you put on makeup, whether you love it or hate it, you’re creating a look for yourself. If you love it, practice more! If you hate it, try something new! Whether you’re creating something for yourself (a meal, a look, or a watchlist), or for someone else (a note, an email, or a gift) you’re creating something.
Now, let’s dig a little deeper and see how we can flex your creative muscle with what you’re already doing.
Like weight training, up your reps and your weights.
Go back to what you do every day. If you’re cooking, branch out — order a subscription box like BlueApron and try new recipes. This way, you can try out new things, not have to shop for obscure groceries or pay for a full bottle of spices you may never use again. Also, the recipes are guaranteed to be only 30-45 minutes of prep time and can feed two.
Are you making agenda notes or sending out instructional emails? Level up what you’re making by using new fonts, highlight colors, and text decoration. Also, everybody loves a .gif. Go to Giphy.com and search for a great (SFW) .gif and drag it into the signature of your email. Look at you, you’ve just created something new! *flexes bicep*
Do you just want to go home and chill? That’s okay, we all do. Good news is you can chill and still be creative. If your only enjoyment is Netflix and takeout, you’re not alone. Because of that, you can maximize your Netflix-ing and work out your creative muscle at the same time. How often do you get asked for recommendations of “what to watch next?” While you’re lounging, surfing for what to watch, make note of the movies and shows you’ve loved. Create a list and post it to social media, text or email it to a friend, or keep it on hand for the next time someone asks. Thought you weren’t creative, well now you’re curating film suggestions for your friends and family like a real cinema connoisseur!
Now, here’s where it gets tough.
You’re only as creative as you allow yourself to be.
I’ll be the first to say that creativity is not only inherently present, it is also inherently hard. To be creative, we must instill a part of ourselves into something we think, feel, and do, then dare to share it with the world. And the world isn’t always kind. This is most commonly what holds us back from using our creative muscles through childhood and into adulthood.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fervent believer in all things Dr. Brené Brown, which I am sure I will cover in the future. But I wanted to share this tidbit from her research that may highlight why you or someone you know isn’t too keen on being “creative” as an adult.
“…85 percent of the men and women we interviewed for the shame research could recall … a specific incident where they were told or shown [in school] that they weren’t good writers, artists, musicians, dancers, or something creative.”
It’s hard to put yourself out there, especially if you’ve been told in the past that you’re not good at it. Compounding on that (and another subject entirely), it may feel foolish or childish to do creative things as a part of your every day life. But the research also shows that it’s a very important part of a well-balanced, mentally-healthy lifestyle.
So start with what you know. Allow yourself to open the part of your brain that allows you to be creative, and relish in what comes out, no matter what it is. Just like any other muscle, your creativity must be stretched, rested, fed, and exercised in order to grow and flourish. From there, let go of comparison and the fear of looking silly, and find new things to try. Starting to love cooking? Host dinner for friends. Starting to really get the hang of your email styling? Learn to code or do graphic design. Becoming the next Netflix watchlist master? Go to the arts cinema and watch something different. You might find you have a taste for discussing film of all kinds!
Good luck! Stretch, flex, and rest your creative muscle, and you’ll be amazed by what you can create.
“The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity.”
Dr. Brené Brown