5 Gentle Steps to Make a Creative Life
“You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
― Maya Angelou
Creativity is essential to life. The urge to create is the urge to make, and making is what we are here to do. We make art, we make friends, we make time, we make meaning.
Creativity is not a magic perspective that you lose once you are no longer a child. Nor is it something that only certain types of people have or can harness. Pay no attention to what side of your brain that Facebook quiz said you favor. You have creativity in you.
Creativity can happen in each and every aspect of our lives, from the garden to the frying pan; from talking to a child to walking through the park. It is possible to make something of all of our experiences.
And it is go time.
1. Make a pledge to go easy on yourself
Be gentle with yourself. Don’t think about your day, or your week, or your life. Don't think about what you’ve made, what you’re making, or what you’re going to make. Let yourself be. Let yourself play. Maybe what you make will some day find a home in a book or on a wall, maybe it won't. That's not what this time is for. This time is for making.
Before getting started making, give yourself permission to sit and enjoy something that inspires you. A movie, a park, a great cup of coffee. Feel the experience fuel you as you get ready to make. Who's got the time for such things, you ask..?
2. Make time
Make some time for yourself. See that? You're already making. Take a look at how much time you spend browsing online. Unless what you decided you wanted to make is more time for social media (which is a-ok if that's where your heart leads you), then cut into it. We all tell ourselves we're too busy, and it's true, we have many responsibilities. But if you can find twenty minutes to stare at the television or go grab a drink, you can find twenty minutes to write a song or make a new recipe. The time is there, give yourself permission to use it, feel your mind slowly explode (in a good way).
Don't give yourself the opportunity to procrastinate. If you think you're about to backslide, count to ten (and only ten) and just turn off the computer and MAKE SOMETHING. Pick up a piece of paper and fill it with lines or words for five minutes straight. Or fold it up and turn it into a paper airplane. If you managed to give yourself twenty minutes today, try twenty-one tomorrow. Make it a habit. Wait, what where do we make this stuff? Time to get real:
3. Make space
If you’re going to get creative, you need a space to do it. This space is both physical and mental, and like hammocks and napping, the two are inextricably bound. In a perfect world, you'll create a perfect space, but for now, you will work with what you've got. If you are a sculptor of two-story representations of movie monsters, you’ll need more physical space than if you are writing sonnets on wine corks. More often than not we just need to carve out our own little corner. Maybe it's a rogue yacht or a lofty loft or maybe it’s an under-used end-table or a lesser-known shelf in the spice cabinet. Just make sure to make it yours. Now sit in that space and take a breath.
Don't forget to make space in your mind, too. It can get busy up there. Put aside larger concerns and focus on the present. This moment. Clear away the physical clutter, and then clear away the mental clutter, too.
Add some flair to your space, a little symbol of your creative freedom that reminds you that you were born to make. A pin or poster or rock or photo that you love to see. These things that you love have a way of showing us certain truths...
4. Make what you want
Create what you want to experience. This sounds simple enough, but life is full of adult responsibilities, and it is easy to get distracted from the things that truly inspire us. Ask yourself: what do you care about? What do you love doing, seeing, learning about, being a part of? Make it. Or make something about it or for it. It could be a painting, a poem, a dinner, or a day out. Make it. Learn to silence any voice that tells you what you SHOULD be creating, that's a surefire sign that it isn't where your heart is leading you.
Pay particular attention to the things that you love to do when you have just a little bit of spare time for them. These are often the things that you care the most about. But how to organize all of these Great Big Ideas..?
5. Make lists
It's easy to get overwhelmed, particularly when it means taking a frank look at creating something you care about. Make some short lists in order to break down bigger goals.
The idea here is to take things one small step at a time. Keep your goals reasonable and within your reach, and watch progress unfold. If your goal is to make an album, but you've never written a song before, maybe start by making the time to listen to some music. Everything can get broken down into smaller parts. Be careful not to overwhelm yourself here, remember to be gentle and keep the list reasonable and achievable. As you move forward, larger goals will formulate and shift around the things you love, and then manifest as newer and bigger ideas and goals.
Decisive small actions create momentum, and momentum is its own fuel for making.
My name is Marty. Who the heck am I to tell you to about creativity? My credentials are like this: I’ve made lots of things, and I keep making things. Every day. I don't know if any of it is any good, but I know that there is a lot of it. I’ve got the chops, as they say. Who is this “they”? I’m not sure about that, either, but I trust at the least that they know what “chops” are, and that they have clipboards. I've written four books, made a bunch of albums, made some cartoons, created several successful bodies of artwork, and lots more.
Special thanks to my amazing friends Daria Tessler, Jocelyn Mackenzie, and Bryan Close for granting permission to show their inspiring creations! I'm in awe of the minds and hearts of so many of the wonderful people I am privileged to know.
Thanks for reading what I wrote!