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Learning how to cultivate your creativity and harness your imagination

We all possess creative power: we are all creative beings. The topic covered today sinks us deep into the well of creation, where we uncover how to cultivate the creativity that lies within us and work with it.


Shot of The Hive at Kew Gardens; a stunning permanent installation that represents the life of bees and how they communicate.

I know I have brought up the importance of creativity in wellness in this earlier post; 'Creative Wellness' and a fair amount of what I talk about here will echo what was said there, however, it is important to understand how to cultivate your creativity and imagination and how best to use them.

 

And yes, before we really get started, I know what you’re thinking: “Well I can’t be a creative person because I’m not an artist or even a musician, so this article is not for me”. First of all, like I said in the introduction: we are all creative beings. Second, buckle up, because I am going to prove you wrong. Third, read on to find out just how I will prove you wrong.

 

Fiction: Only a small, select amount of people are creative beings.

 

Fact: Every single one of us holds the ability to create, therefore we are all creative beings. 

 

All of us.

 

Nobody is left out.


A sign in a tube station in London with important customer information that says: Your Checklist For Today: 1) Wake Up, 2) Be Amazing and 3) Go To Bed. Numbers 1 and 2 have check marks beside them.

And isn’t that just incredible? Now it is true that for some, it appears to manifest more naturally, and in others not so much. But - big but - this does not at all mean that some people are not creative. Absolutely not! In reality, it manifests pretty easily in all of us, it simply shows itself in a wildly vast number of forms. For some, it may just be that they struggle to express it, or perhaps shut themselves off to it. Which of course, there are always reasons for both. And I shall explain those in time so don’t fret.

 

Most likely scenario is that people simply don’t realize they are highly creative souls because society has developed such a distorted perception of what creativity is. So, I am now going to define ‘creativity’ but properly this time. I won’t be relying on or using dictionary definitions here either, but you are more than welcome to use them if you please. Instead, I am going to create (pun very much intended) a definition based upon my perception of creativity.

 

I define ‘creativity’ as the expression of energy channelled through and within us.

 

Which makes us conduits for creation. A pretty cool way of seeing it eh? 

 

You see, creativity is a powerful force; it is one that breathes life into everything. Think about it, without creation, we would not be here: we would not have been born, nor would ever exist. In fact, existence would not be a thing.

 

Unfortunately, as time has gone by, society, us humans, have skewed the idea as to what creativity is and even means.

 

If I ask you now, “What is creativity?” You would more than likely reply with “It is art.” Which I am sorry to tell you is wrong...well alright, partial credit truthfully. Because, yes, whilst art is creativity, art is only one single, teeny way that we can be creative. Therefore, creativity does not stop at just art. It goes well beyond it. 

 

Art = Creativity

Creativity ≠ Art

 

What this means is that all art is creative, but not all creation is art (although side note: any philosophically-minded person would indeed pose the question that art can be found in anything and therefore all creation is art but that is a hypothesis to ponder for another time. If I have just given you an existential crisis, apologies – you’re not alone though). To clear things up slightly, this all depends on how you define art: a great many things are indeed works of art and can be considered as such. However, in this comparative, I am defining ‘art’ as ‘visual art’, like painting, drawing, making sculptures etc. From now on, I will simply the matter and refer to it as ‘visual art’ so as to avoid confusion.

 



Creativity is ingenuity. It is innovation. It is thinking outside the box. It is expanding the box. It is re-designing the box. It is a fresh way of looking at a problem and solving it. It is the expression of our mind, our body, our soul: it is expression of our Self. Just as much as it is the expansion of our Self. 

 

If you have ever come up with a new or different idea for anything, you have been creative. If you have participated in DIY, you have been creative. If you have come up with a new method of calculating a scientific problem, you have been creative. If you have developed a new law, you have been creative. If you have figured out a way to be more ethical, you have been creative. If you worked out a way to revise for an exam in a more organized way, you have been creative. If you have done anything that brought about a fresh perspective to something, then guess what? You have been creative. I know I droned on a bit there but I am just trying to get the understanding across.

 

So, I will say it now: Congratulations! You. Are. Creative! How does it feel?

 

Creation rules over everything. If we did not have creativity, we would not have had any medical or technological advancements, there would be no way to fly to different countries, we would not have different cultures or different celebrations, there would be no babies being born (yep, procreation is creation - it has the very word in it!), there would be no new recipes, no new plants growing, no incredible architecture or infrastructure…I could go on and on. 

 

In short, there would be nothing. Pure nothingness.

 

And isn’t that just a little bit scary? I mean who would truly want that? Creativity governs everything from the macro right down to the most utterly minutiae of the micro. Without it, nothing new would ever bear fruit. We would stagnate and starve, both literally and figuratively. I could go on, but by now, I am pretty sure you have gotten the point. So now, I shall shift to talking about how we can begin to cultivate our creativity. 

 

Creativity is made up of two things: ‘being’ and ‘doing’. This means that we need to spend about half our time in an inactive state and the other half in an active state. We perform our best when we are well-rested and in order to rest we have to be active. Part of our creations lies within inactivity, or at the very least, not focusing on it or trying to be creative. This pause allows us to make space for our imagination to shine through and to have the freedom to express itself. Imagination does not do well if it is forced – you may create something, but it will never be your best work (a lesson I myself learned the harder way). This space is organic, and it helps us find out flow. It also helps us find – and nurture – our vision (the insight kind not the eyeball kind).

 


A cobbled driveway has cobblestones coloured in with coloured chalk to form "bricks".

The pause space allows you to clear your mind. Not in a ‘empty all thoughts from your head’ kind of way, but in a way where you let those thoughts run amok for a bit until they get tired and go to sleep. I would hazard a guess that it is sort of like letting kids run around to tucker themselves out so you can put them down for a nap and then get on with your long to-do list. I’m guessing.

 

Beyond the pause, we push play. Creativity does well in a playful environment by the way, so make sure you are in a good mood and feeling safe enough to express yourself in unique, maybe even goofy ways. Once in a play space, we can take action and begin to harness our creativity – whatever we may be using it for. Make sure that when you are in your creative bubble that this is your ‘zone’. No distractions (as little as possible). Explore different ways of doing things and allow yourself the grace to mess up: creativity is often messy, you can clean up when you’re done.

 

Let’s look at some other ways in which we can cultivate our creativity.

 

Meditation and Visualization

 

This may seem surprising however they are both great ways at improving creativity and imagination because they both encourage the pause space I was talking about earlier. If done in more traditional ways (i.e. sitting cross-legged on a floor, palms on knees and eyes closed), it really helps with encouraging stillness. Being stationary can help people feel more paused as there is no movement (just like when we pause a movie). It helps encourage us to feel rested and refreshed as well.

 

Journal Prompts and Inspiration Mood Boards

 

This one is especially good for the arts, however it can also work beyond them as well. The idea is that you find or make up your own prompt and then set about answering it as a way to focus on opening up your creative flow. They are good at helping you select certain elements with which to build upon. Prompts help funnel and channel your creativity and can be great if you need to work through a creative block as well as developing your creativity.

 

Let’s think about cooking for a minute; when you are making a recipe, give yourself a “prompt” by thinking about what substitutions you could develop for the ingredients – it doesn’t have to be all of them – this way if you are ever out of an ingredient and you have a substitute you can still make the recipe…and perhaps an ever tastier meal! Mood boards and inspiration images act in similar ways; sourcing images can help create an image of how you wish for your creation (whatever it may be) to look. For instance: designing a new keyboard? Alright, well what colour/s should it be? How will you represent each key – symbol or icon? Find images that respond to these questions can help you narrow down your solution/outcome. This works best for reworkings of existing products/experiences.

 

 

Rest

 

Always make sure you get the proper amount of rest and to be as well rested as you can be prior to working with your creativity – especially if you are currently feeling blocked, stagnant or underdeveloped. It is also important to take breaks from utilising your creativity so be sure to take regular respite from being creative as well, to avoid burning out and feeling depleted. Rest as long as you feel necessary. Overall, take care of yourself, mind, body and soul, as this will greatly help your creativity flow.

 


A photo of a stage where comedian Sarah Milican performed. The backdrop is a dark blue with her name and the show's name on the backdrop. A full audience sits waiting.

Change up the scene/routine

 

Sometimes the best thing to do to help you light up that imagination and get into a creative flow is to change your scenery. By this I mean, shake up your routine every so often.


Take a little wander through a different part of town or try out a new coffee shop, read a book by the seafront instead of your bedroom. You could even take a trip to another country! Try to see and experience things that you have not yet done or do not do often – the newness will feel inspiring and imbue us with wonder and awe, like a child seeing a toy store for the first time.

 

Do dull tasks

 

This one may seem a bit odd, but it is a two-for-one special. Firstly, you will get a lot of boring household tasks done and secondly you will help your brain reboot itself and make it work at optimized levels of functionality again. So, mop those floors, organize your wardrobe, do that accounting and admin, say yes to sealing 100 CVs into envelopes for your friend (and yes that was a Friend’s reference, IYKYK). Sometimes we need a little bit of dull monotony in our life for us to feel alive and thriving again.

 

Allocate time for creativity

 

I would aim to spend at least one hour every week dedicated towards being creative. Even if it is doing simple little arts and crafts. Or doodling. It will help you become more connected to it and help you feel more naturally creative. You will feel more confident at being creative and will find that your creative expression becomes much more organic and easily available. And the best thing is that you can break one hour down into little chunks, so it does not ever feel too overwhelming.



A series of inspiration images from a Pinterest boards. There are many bright colours of pink, green, yellow, orange, blue and purple. Most photos are architectural.

Partake in hobbies that use strategy

 

Strategy is a mental game and one that truly helps us think differently because they are so many possible permutations to consider. Games like Risk or Dungeons and Dragons, activities like bouldering or chess, dancing (choreography feels a lot like strategy!), do puzzles of all kinds – sudokus, jigsaws, crosswords, wordsearches and so on. It helps with developing a wider perspective.

 

Huddle up

 

Not quite but what I mean is hang out with friends and family. Even colleagues. Don’t diss those group projects right off the bat. Sure, perhaps Lina from HR is super irritating, but she may just have points worth considering. Hear her out. Vent about her later. After all, two head are better than one! Being around different people means you get to see various ways of looking at one thing. No one ever sees a flower in the exact same way. It is okay to rely on other people sometimes.

 

As you can see, there are a lot of ways to grow your creativity.

 

Before I sign off, I want to make note of something really important: burnout is all too real. It can happen to all of us. I have suffered from it for many years. I have seen others suffer from it too. And know that it is perfectly alright if you struggle with your creativity, many of us do. Be easy on yourself and never try to force it. It is called a ‘creative flow’ for a reason.

 

And always remember: Creativity is in everything. We are all creative.

 

With that I will sign off, but I hope you are able to find your creative key and unlock your superpowers. Just go for it. Let your soul express itself. 



 

Until next time,

Jamila

 

Please share your thoughts and takeaways with us below – we’d love to hear from you! If you enjoyed this read, then click here for more blog posts or share it on social media!

 

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