Create Without Restraint: How To Be Creative Everyday
I have a confession to make:
Sometimes I feel guilty for being creative.
Despite growing up in an artistic household, and even having a career in the arts, sometimes I feel like I’m wasting time by working on a creative project if there is no financial or responsible aspect attached. Like, unless I’m being creative for money or duty, I’m just selfishly indulging myself.
Does anyone else feel like this?
I’ve struggled with this feeling for years, and I’m not really quite sure where it comes from. Maybe it’s the overwhelming pressure that single moms feel to multitask/manage everything and everyone above a normal person’s capabilities?
Let’s be real, that pressure isn’t just applied to single moms; I’m pretty sure all moms feel it.
It’s hard to sit down and work on my next pattern design when the dishwasher needs to be emptied. I struggle to write lyrics for the musical in my brain (for literally three years), when I should be chauffeuring or helping with homework. I can’t justify journalling when there’s copy to memorize for an upcoming audition, or voice-over to record for an audiobook due soon.
The list of things I need to be doing and should be doing feels so much longer, more important than the things I want to be doing.
There are three things that result from this feeling:
- I get really grouchy from feeling creatively unfulfilled and overly responsible
- My list of things I want to create, but don’t, gets really huge – like, overwhelmingly huge. Like 50 tabs wistfully stuck open in my browser, scattered notes and sketches all over my desk.
- If I do happen to indulge myself in something creative, I feel, well, creatively blocked by the guilt and overwhelm.
Part of the reason I started this blog was to hold myself accountable, responsible, to being creative on the regular.
I built the reminder into my tagline: Create Without Restraint.
Just do it, create, make ad lib, without apology, without guilt, without excuse, without a reason or responsibility or financial compensation attached.
In an effort to keep myself #creativeeveryday, here are some tips and tricks I’ve developed:
Establish Your Morning Routine And Build Your Creative Brain
This is a big one. The way you start you day can change everything, so be sure to start it well! A recent study shows that our brains are biggest in the morning, and continue to shrink during the course of the day (likely because of fluid dehydration – be sure to keep that water bottle handy!), so take advantage of the plumped-up brain power and carve out some ‘me time’ to set your day on the right track:
Studies show intense emotions lead to a surge of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex – the location of our creativity. However, out of control emotions – good or bad, can lead to excess stimulus, which can actually hinder creativity and judgement. So mood management is important, and meditation is the perfect way to keep emotions manageable.
Develop a morning routine that encompasses some meditation which can reduce the amygdala’s – the source of the fight or flight response – brain cell volume, for stress reduction. Added bonus: meditation can keep you young, since it increases blood flow to the brain and may possibly increase levels of the anti-aging enzyme, telomerase!
A former acting coach, also a licensed hypnotist, used to talk about hypnotism and creativity in his classes. He taught that hypnotism is the state of meditation, where the brain is relaxed and open to suggestion. We enter this state naturally throughout the course of our day – while driving, showering, reading – basically any time that you find yourself unaware of time, you’ve been in a state of hypnosis. Recognizing this through a daily practice of mediation allows you to harness this highly suggestible brain state to spark creativity. Whenever I am stuck, I enter into meditation with the problem on my mind. I can’t tell you how many times characters in a scene I’ve been struggling to write have begun talking it out while I’m stuck in L.A. traffic! Become aware of this natural slide into the hypnotic state and you’ll be amazed at how much creativity it ignites!
Studies have shown listening to music can increase verbal fluency and cognitive functions, as well as focus and creativity. Better yet, playing a musical instrument activates the motor cortex, the auditory cortex and the limbic system (the emotional center). Basically, the entire brain! Good morning, brain!
Establishing a daily gratitude practice can help understand and manage emotions, as well as set your day off on the right track and improve your creative brain power. Energy flows where your attention goes, so focus that attention on the good stuff! Try keeping a journal where you visualize, write Morning Pages, or even just sketch your gratitude.
This technique has been a lifesaver for me! I always have way more ideas than time to do them all, on top of my fluctuating actor’s schedule and full-time mom duties. As I mentioned above, I get overwhelmed by too many things, so the technique of time blocking makes everything so much more manageable and less stressful.
After my morning routine, I sit down with my calendar and chunk out my time. Parts of my schedule are fixed, so those appointments are immoveable. The flexible, non-essential: reading email, sketching designs, or emptying that dishwasher – I plug into time slots on my calendar. If the dishwasher unload takes less time than the allotted 15 minutes, great! The subsequent tasks get bumped up in the schedule, or I have an additional 5 minutes to sketch.
Assigning manageable time slots to all creative pursuits, as well as responsibilities, makes me feel like I have time to be creative. Once overwhelming ideas get daily little doses of love and attention, instead of being neglected and forgotten in the chaos. Boredom can be a creativity killer, and I’ve found that time blocking can be a great way to banish it. Carve out time to break up your routine. Dedicating yourself to spend a free half hour journalling, instead of scrolling through your Facebook feed, can change everything!
Be Kind To Your Body
Not only does exercise boost creative brain power, but little doses of exercise, like walking, can improve creativity by allowing the mind to enter that relaxed state of suggestibility. Getting out into nature and/or digging in the dirt can also inspire your creative brain.
Fasting seems the antithesis of everything in our American food culture of bigger, faster and more convenient. But there is evidence that our human bodies are not only biologically built for fasting, but that intermittent fasting can be quite beneficial in terms of health and brain function. Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce the inflammation that is the source of many diseases, as well as reset the metabolism, increase energy and boost brain power. In addition to increasing positive, brainpower enhancing hormones, intermittent fasting can also clear away mental clutter, making room for creative ideas!
Not everyone is a candidate for intermittent fasting, so do your research and/or talk to your doctor before starting any fasting regimen.
We all know a healthy diet makes everything better. A diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables can increase energy and moods, lower stress levels and improve overall well-being. But there is increasing evidence that what you eat can also affect your brain function and creativity as well. Unprocessed, fresh, seasonal produce is the best. A good rule of thumb is to eat foods that are as close to their original state as possible. For instance, applesauce is one process away from a fresh apple. Flavored or sweetened applesauce is two steps away from the apple’s original state, etc.. Fill up on fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, crisp leafy greens, seaweeds and fresh herbs. Minimize all the other stuff. Notice how much clearer your mind and body feels!
Make this easy and inspiring, while supporting farmers by signing up for seasonal produce-rescue boxes, like Farm Fresh To You, Hungry Harvest, or my favorite: Imperfect Produce (<–click my referral link to get $10 off your first order).
Researchers estimate that 75% of the American population functions in a chronic state of dehydration. 75 percent! That’s a crazy number, especially when you consider the effects dehydration has on brain function and structure, as well as overall bodily functions.
The general recommendation is to aim for eight 8 oz glasses per day, or about 2 liters. I personally like keeping a 32 oz Water Bottle with me and aiming for 2 refills per day. But you can also increase your hydration and creativity by drinking tea and infusing your diet with water-rich foods.
Acknowledge The Sabotage Voice – And Send It Away
Oh the sabotage voice! We’ve all got one and it will have a million reasons you can’t, won’t or shouldn’t follow that creative dream. But how do we get rid of that sabotage voice? Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity, so the first step is to give yourself permission to play and be messy and imperfect. But sometimes it helps to simply acknowledge that inner voice of doubt. Make a list of bad feelings, thoughts and reasons-not-to, then list the opposite feelings, thoughts and reasons-to-do. Another great technique is to journal a conversation between you and that mean little inner voice, like this:
MEAN LIBBY This blog post is getting way too long and man, sooo many words. No one reads anymore. What are you doing? LIBBY Shut up! I'm gonna add some pictures to break it up, and people totally still read! I read! MEAN LIBBY Yeah, but you're a nerd. You're wasting your time and everyone else's! LIBBY FYI, Nerds are trending. And I actually use these techniques. They really work. If they work for me, why shouldn't I share so others can benefit? Helping others is never a waste of time! MEAN LIBBY screams in defeat.
When in doubt, hang this great quote from Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles somewhere where you can see it every single day:
Create A Community
Surrounding yourself with like-minded creative people is inspiring. And developing a community of other creatives can also help to keep you accountable to your creative visions. Maybe you already have creative friends with whom you can start a regularly scheduled art or writing group? Or search online for in-person or virtual groups to join. Even if you check in with just one person regularly, you’ll still get the benefits of having a creative community.
In order to live creatively everyday, it sometimes helps to stop for a moment and recognize yourself as a creator. Look at your past achievements, be proud, and visualize that amazing feeling of being in the zone of creative accomplishment! Revel in how good it feels! You are a creator, a maker and you have every right to be one!
The world needs your vision and art and beauty! So do it!
Make Ad Lib!!
If you try these tips and tricks to Create Without Restraint: How To Be Creative Everyday, I’d love to hear what you think!! Please leave a comment below or instagram with the hashtag #makeadlib . Don’t forget to tag @makeadlib so I can see your feedback!