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Big or small, they can boost your creativity.
I’m sitting in a new home office, in a new neighborhood, in a new city, in a new country. It’s a lot, and it is all the things you would expect: exciting, exhausting, exhilarating, frustrating, and just plain weird.
Now that you know I have moved (permanently?!) across an ocean (with a family) and am in the process of trying to set up a new life, I hope you can excuse the lack of posts. They should arrive in your inbox more frequently once again now that things are kind of (but not really) more stable.
It’s a CHANGE. And that’s what I want to write about briefly today, because change is something that is essential for creative people, like us. I could argue it’s essential for the mental health of all humans, actually, but let’s focus on why it matters for people who are driven to imagine, make and build things for a living.
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First, think of specific moments in your life where a big change happened. Examples: moving to a new town or school, starting university, buying a home, having a child, starting a new job, quitting a job, starting a business, beginning a relationship, ending one …
With each of these changes, you may recall a heightened sense of awareness. You came alive and were suddenly more present and conscious; things snapped into focus and you noticed the details in every interaction, every experience. In short, you were firing on all cylinders.
Now contrast those singular experiences with an average week in your life. Let’s call it a ‘routine’ day. I mean the kind of day that blends into the previous one, and the one after it … the kind of day that just seems blurry when you look back. “Was that Monday or Thursday? Wait, did that happen last week or the week before?”
You know the days I mean. They are familiar because they tend to make up the majority of the days of our lives.
Don’t worry! This doesn’t mean you are leading a boring life. A nice, predictable routine can provide comfort, safety, stability, and importantly, some rest for your nervous system.
But creatively speaking, too much routine can lead to stagnation and dead ends.
“But Kyle,” you say, “Aren’t you the same guy who told us to GET BORED and use that to our advantage, creatively speaking (99U at Lincoln Center, 2018)?” Yes, but that is a specific kind of boredom that comes from sitting and doing nothing in the moment, not from living a life devoid of change.
So, does this mean you need to quit a job, fly across an ocean, start a new business, and marry a stranger every few years? Certainly not.
The great thing I have learned about change is that it can give you a creative boost if you experience it in micro-doses.
When things settle down a bit after a really big change in your life, you will likely find yourself brimming with creative thoughts and ideas, as well as the required energy to bring them to life. Many creative people can point to some of their big successes or ‘aha’ moments and link them to a major life change. I’m sure some of you reading this have experienced it, yourselves.
Believe it or not, sometimes the smallest change can kickstart that little creative engine in your mind and give you the boost you need to work through a problem or generate a new idea.
Here are some suggestions. Some might seem silly, but believe me, they are just enough to give your brain a little shake and wake up:
Do you always sit in the same place at the dinner table? Change your seat for a new view. This goes for other snack or mealtime habits in your residence, as well. Drink your morning coffee or tea outside, if you normally do this inside. Or vice versa. Maybe stand on the sidewalk with your cup and just watch the world go by. Switch up your breakfast cereal!
Wake up 30 minutes earlier for one week. How does this change your day?
Rearrange the furniture in your home office or wherever you normally do creative work. Or just work in a different room or part of a room, if you can. Change the lighting, add a plant, swap out a picture, change your background music genre if you have any (or find some audio from an environment completely different from your own, such as a rainforest or jazz café).
If you work at home, dress up a bit more professionally for a few days and see if this makes you feel more productive or focused.
Change what’s under your feet, if you sit at a desk. Take off your socks and shoes and give your feet something different to feel: a small, shaggy rug or a pair of foot rollers (like these).
If you’re a walker (walking is so good for so many reasons), it’s time to pick a brand new walking spot; a neighborhood, park, or even a track. If this is not convenient, then do the same walk you normally do but try and do it at a different time of the day and change the route a bit. Walk *without* listening to a podcast, etc. - just notice what’s around you. Or hum while you walk (quietly, if you’re not looking for attention from passersby!).
Do a daily crossword, if you don’t usually do them. I know this one seems out of left field, but this will activate an often drowsy part of your brain that makes connections and searches for links between concepts/ideas. Creative thinking is enhanced when this part of the brain is awake.
Walk to a different room with pen and paper in hand and do a five minute drawing meditation from my app, Lines of Zen. 🙂
Grab a pen with a new color (green, pink, purple) and jot down some ideas or sketch on a piece of lightly tinted paper. It’s funny how these new colors makes you think differently (try it!).
Call somebody you used to spend a lot of time with (and who you still like!) that you haven’t talked to in a long time. After catching up, notice how the memories you likely relived and the new information you received has your brain buzzing more than before the call.
Bonus idea, if you’re willing to try something very different: Read a few of your emails out loud by singing them or using a different accent or vocal style from your normal speaking voice. If nothing else, this will likely make you smile (even laugh) and smiling is a natural drug that improves mood, releases endorphins, and relaxes your body — these will promote positivity and confidence, which can boost your creative thinking and productivity. Win!
Well, there you go. Try bringing some small changes into your day and see how this effects your creative work. They may have a big impact.
I’d like to know if you recently experienced a boost in creativity from changes (even tiny ones) in your life or daily routine. Comment below.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll be in touch again soon. Resources are below.
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Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other, remember to be kind, and I’ll say, Ciao for now.
— Find me everywhere.
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