Have 10 minutes? Here are ways to make time for creativity in your daily life.
We often assume that creativity requires structured activities, specific (and pricey) supplies and time that we definitely don't have. Because if you’re already running around and still can’t complete your to-do list, you might feel guilty for engaging in creative activities—or not even think it’s an option.
Thankfully, you can easily incorporate creativity into your days. Which is great because creativity is just as vital as your to-do list. Creativity energizes, inspires and uplifts us. It engages our imagination, and invites us to play, which is something many of us don’t do enough of—or at all. Creativity reduces our stress, providing our minds with a positive distraction to focus on. It helps us to discover ourselves, as we experiment and try new things.
Below are 10 teeny tiny practices you can do every day, which take 10 minutes at most.
Mix up your morning. “Finding our creativity often means stepping outside of our normal habits,” said Meera Lee Patel, a self-taught artist and author of the bestselling journal Start Where You Are and the book My Friend Fear. For instance, if you normally drink coffee, switch to herbal tea. If you normally eat an omelet, switch to oatmeal with berries. Change the sound of your alarm to your favorite song. Buy a book you normally wouldn’t pick up, and read it for just 5 minutes. “[W]hen you shake up your routine in little ways, it becomes a lot easier to begin taking bigger creative chances.”
Snap a photo. Pay attention to the world around you, looking for anything that is beautiful or interesting to you, said Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT-S, ATR-BC, a marriage and family therapist supervisor and board-certified art therapist who has a private practice treating clients with depression, anxiety, and trauma. Take a quick photo with your smartphone—and for added creativity, play around with filters or an app, she said.
Snap a series. Turn your daily photo-taking into a photo series with a theme. For instance, pick a word that resonates with you, such as: beauty, love, play. Each day snap one photo of something that encapsulates that word. Or capture the same tree outside your house for a month—or three. Take a photo at the same time each day of something different—or the same, like the morning sky. Take a self-portrait every evening.
Transcribe your meal. Pick one meal in your day, and describe it in great detail. Describe it as though you’re a cookbook author or food critic composing a very important piece for a very important newspaper. Write your description, or record it.
Doodle. Doodle patterns, shapes or small images of your surroundings on your notes, planner or calendar, Mehlomakulu said. Remember “drawing doesn’t need to be ‘good’ art to be enjoyable.”
Arrange a terse tale. Open your dictionary, and using several example sentences, create a surprising, strange or silly mini story. Here’s a fun example from Jez Burrows, who started this inventive project, and penned the book Dictionary Stories: Short Fictions and Other Findings: “Scientists have made an unexpected discovery. After two hours’ discussion, they finally reached an agreement: I have a terrible singing voice.”
Focus on the unfamiliar. Patel suggested leaving your phone at home and taking a 10-minute walk around your neighborhood. Look at your surroundings “through the eyes of a stranger.” Use your senses to identify something unfamiliar—a scent, sound, color. Simply observe, and breathe in the moment.
Fill a journal with collages. Dedicate a separate notebook for your collages. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Collect, arrange and attach words, images and anything else that piques your interest, Mehlomakulu said.
Explore “Why?” When you’re experiencing an emotion, ask yourself “why?” and keep asking until you get to the root of the feeling, Patel said. “Each time you question yourself why, you are uncovering another story—and another opportunity to tell that story.” For instance, you tell the story of your fear—which underlies your anger—with a quick, colorful drawing.
Create while waiting. Even though life zooms nowadays, we still do a lot of waiting: in line, at the doctor’s office, during commercials. Use these moments to draw the first thing you see (or hear or smell). Or write the first thought that pops into mind (even if it’s “I hate waiting!”). Or jot down a description of the person in front of you, as though they were a new character in your must-read book.
When we integrate creativity into our days, we discover that there’s lots of magic—magic that’s always been there, but we simply didn’t see before.