One of the biggest barriers to creativity is lack of time. You’re busy. Your days are demanding. You have a long list of tasks from last week that you’ve yet to tackle.
But is it really a tangible, true-blue lack of time, or more of a belief or feeling that time is scarce or non-existent?
“If there is something you want to be doing, you have the time to do it,” said artist and author Bridget Watson Payne. She interviewed numerous people for her book How Time Is On Your Side who didn’t seem to have time for their creative work—and yet carved out “pockets of time in all sorts of amazing ways.”
Payne interviewed a woman who wrote two children’s books in 10-minute bursts on her phone while riding the subway. One book took 3 months to complete; the other took 1 month. Payne interviewed an artist who works for a ride-sharing company and “lets creative ideas percolate in the back of his mind while driving” and jots them down in his notebook between rides.
Prioritizing creativity—even in the small pockets of your day—is worthwhile.
“These days it can feel like we’re living our lives as watchers, and not doers, said Diana Rowan, a musician, composer, and author of the book The Bright Way: Five Steps to Please contact practitioner for fee informationing the Creative Within. That’s because we’re constantly consuming, scrolling, clicking.
However, “By directly engaging creatively, much as we did as children, we can literally come back to life,” she said.
Below, you’ll find nine small but impactful ways you can nurture your creativity every day—regardless of how much time you do or do not have.
- Recognize the creative acts you’re already performing. Creativity doesn’t live in a vacuum. Rowan believes that creativity happens anytime we “directly engage with something. Whatever you add your energy to, you transform forever.” In other words, we can be creative while we’re cooking, gardening, putting on makeup, penning a marketing plan, or playing with our kids. As Payne also noted, “daily creativity doesn’t have to look like standing in front of an easel wearing a beret.”
- Use Beginner’s Mind. This simply means pretending that you’re experiencing any activity for the very first time. Eating your turkey sandwich. Drinking coffee. Talking to your spouse. Chopping up vegetables. Reading this article. “Beginner’s Mind brings new perspective and enthusiasm to whatever you’re doing, which sparks your creativity,” Rowan said.
- Keep an idea book. Jot down the first thing you think of every morning into your “idea book,” said Miriam Feldman, a fine artist and author of the forthcoming book He Came In With It: A Portrait of Motherhood and Madness. She stressed the importance of not editing or judging your ideas, but instead, looking for patterns. “You might find some new directions to take yourself, and you will certainly gain insight to your psyche.” Elizabeth K. Kracht, author of The Author’s Checklist: An Agent’s Guide to Developing and Editing Your Manuscript, keeps book ideas in the Notes app on her phone. “I keep adding to them when someone says something that triggers a thought or when something comes to me on a hike.”
- Go beyond good and bad. Judgment kills creativity. Discernment, however, invites creativity and curiosity, Rowan said. You can practice discernment with anything. When something is going really well, she said, ask yourself: Why is this working? When something isn’t going well, instead of saying “This feels terrible. I guess I’ll just quit,” she said, explore: Why isn’t this working?
- Shake up your routine. According to Kracht, this can be as simple as going to a different café or taking the scenic route on your commute. The goal is to “break the mind’s resistance to new experiences,” which promotes creativity.
- Tackle email efficiently. This might be a less exciting tip, Payne said, but it’s an “equally valuable way” to nurture our creativity. Because this helps in prioritizing our creative work, versus “always responding to others’ needs reactively.” Payne suggested confining email to two or three half-hour or hour-long chunks—and then closing your inbox.
- Have surprising conversations. Ask someone you’re close with “a series of questions you’ve never asked before,” said Feldman. For example, researchers Arthur and Elaine Aron created 36 questions to cultivate closeness. You and your loved one might explore questions and prompts like: If you could pick from anyone in the world, who would you want as a dinner guest? Discuss your life story in as much detail as possible. What is a perfect day for you? Feldman noted that “Conceptual investigations and emotional risk-taking can generate all kinds of creativity.”
- Jot down your dreams. “Many creative processes and problems have been invented and solved in dreams,” said Kracht. She suggested recording your dreams, even if you only remember fragments, and bits and pieces. “[L]ike creativity, your dreams will become more active the more attention you give to them.”
- Ask more questions. “I believe that true creativity is the ability to transcend existing beliefs and conceptions, and that is rooted in curiosity,” Feldman said. “It is the curious mind that wonders about a new way of doing, or arranging, or problem-solving.” So, as you’re going about your day, you can simply pause and ask yourself: How does that work? Who made that? Why is that so?
“Creativity is humanity’s DNA,” Kracht said. “From the broadest perspective, creativity is not only the origin of the universe but also life itself…If the universe didn’t have the capacity for creative potential, we wouldn’t be here. Therefore, our very lives are both the result of that creative manifest potential and creative potential waiting to manifest.”
We can channel our creativity into anything and everything we do, whatever our professions or pursuits.
As Kracht said, a proofreader can delight “over every letter in the alphabet and piece of punctuation,” someone can create a home that reflects who he is, and even a plumber can view her precision and kindness toward her customers as art.