How to get in touch with your creative side

Good’s headcase columnist, Dr Alice Boyes shares her advice on getting in touch with your creative side 

Words Dr Alice Boyes. Illustration Janelle Barone from Makers MGMT

Being creative can mean different things to different people. The fact that you can barely draw a stick figure does not necessarily mean that you are not a creative person. Here, we explore the various ways we can tap into our creativity – some of them may surprise you.

Understand your creative strengths The stereotype of creativity is of artistic creativity (e.g. painting, crafting). If these are not your creative strengths then it’s easy to label yourself as not a creative person. However, there are many, diverse types of creative strengths.

I am not creative at all in the artistic sense but I have a love of learning and I’m always picking up random knowledge that I then apply creatively to my life/work. An example is that I’ve been watching YouTube videos about algorithms lately, and applying some of those principles in various domains of my life. I also listen to podcasts about media and technology, and often get ideas from those.

For someone else, their creative strength might be a willingness to get stuff wrong. For example, a willingness to deviate from a recipe and see how it works out, rather than sticking to the exact instructions and ingredient list. What are your creative strengths?

Having a “side hustle” can enhance your creativity A “side hustle” is a money-making endeavour that’s outside your main career. Side hustles often arise out of hobbies. For example, you like going to garage sales and, to begin with, your purchases are for personal use. But after a while, you realise you are finding more fantastic items than you need for yourself. You start buying for friends and family, then eventually begin purchasing for resale.

Having a side hustle can enhance your creativity: You’ll solve different types of problems, utilise different skills, be exposed to new ways of thinking, and form relationships with a wider variety of people. All of this has the potential to cross pollinate into your professional and personal life. Side hustles also allow you to express and strengthen other sides of yourself. For example, your profession might require you to be cautious but your side hustle allows you to indulge in risk-taking.

Organisation One surprising way to enhance your creativity is with better organisation. If you can take repetitive tasks off your mind, you’ll have more room for creativity. When you’re better organised, it’s easier to see where there are flaws in the systems and processes you use for getting things done. Better organisation also means it’s easier to remember what resources you have available to you (e.g. remember that you own a tool that would be useful for a current project).

Learn skills that are multipurpose Let’s say you learn basic photo editing for work. Since you have this skill, you end up using it for your family photos. You start working on more photo projects and consequently end up with a house full of great pics of your children and extended family. What skills have you learnt in one domain that have applications in others?

You can outsource parts of creative projects that don’t reflect your strengths

When I was a teenager my mother had someone paint a giant cartoon of our family on our fence (the side facing into the backyard). Mum doesn’t have drawing or painting skills but she came up with the concept and the ideas for how to best represent each family member’s style and personality. Identify creative projects you want to do, where you don’t have all of the required skills.

Alice Boyes, PhD, is author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit and The Anxiety Toolkit.

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