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31 Aug 2023

A Daily Creative Habit

Dr. Jeremy Mayall - A Daily Creative Habit

Get Sleep. Eat Healthy. Do Exercise. Drink Water. These are all things we know to be significant contributors to our health, wellbeing, productivity and sense of self. It is important to add another thing to that list of daily habits that make for thriving humans – Be Creative.

Creativity is a core part of what it is to be human. We are by our very nature creative beings. We make memories. We shape stories. We invent things. We craft food. We create. But, we also know that people will say things like “I’m not very creative” even though that’s not true. Ultimately, what this really means is not that they don’t have the trait of creativity – it’s that they have fallen out of the habit of being creative.

Creativity is a powerful thing where the more you utilise your creativity, the more you have. The creative process inspires new ways of thinking, new perspectives and new experiences. When we were kids creativity flowed through us like a natural spring – its water provided excitement and nourishment and care and adventure. But as we grow up, sometimes we forget the joy and wonder of the creative process and creative play. We forget to exercise the muscle that is creativity, and that unique ability sits in a corner left to fade away.

Artists and creatives in our communities are often the folk who held on to that impulse. They maintained that daily habit, and honed that ability to be able to express different ideas in a way that resonates with their audiences. This is a pretty magical ability.

And while we celebrate the prowess of those people who do the important work of being an artist in our modern society, we also can and should acknowledge the value and importance of daily creative habits in the lives of all people in our communities. Like we know we should sleep and exercise and eat well to live well – we also should be engaging in creative activity in some form each day.
Perhaps we could think about the aim for 30 mins of physical activity per day as a target for our health, and also explore 30 mins of creative activity a day as well. These activities would have shared benefits and be a contributor to people flourishing and living well.

Art, culture and creativity are pathways to encourage moments of wonder and mindfulness, but also help us to explore new perspectives, learn new things and understand novel ideas. They are the joy, the curiosity and the imaginative thought that encourages us to truly live – contributing to our sense of self, our productivity, our social connection and our wellbeing/hauora.

In an article by Arthur C Brooks, he talks about reframing our understanding of art, culture and creativity as being human habit. Which is an interesting idea. One that feels much more connected with indigenous practice – where these things are an interwoven part of life – not a pretty thing on the shelf.

He said:

Too often, we let the humdrum reality of life get in the way of the arts, which can feel frivolous by comparison. But this is a mistake. The arts are the opposite of a diversion from reality; they might just be the most realistic glimpse we ever get into the nature and meaning of life. And if you make time for consuming and producing art—the same way you make time for work and exercise and family commitments—you’ll find your life getting fuller and happier.

So, if we are habitually engaging in creative activities; we can see creative activity as being more like sleep or active recreation – just one of those things we do to stay fully functioning and healthy human beings. A way to expand our perception from the narrow focus of everyday routine; to help us solve problems; to engage with the world, to widen our vision. And the bonus is that all these things are shown to lower stress.

We also know that when people are enabled to be creative in the workplace, their satisfaction, productivity and wellbeing increases. This presents an exciting opportunity for organisations who want to care for their people, and also explore the additional benefits. As we see rapid increase in globalisation and automation, we see that one of the key skills that people are looking for is creativity. As Ken Robinson said, “Creativity is as important as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

So. You’ve read this far. You might be thinking – well if this creativity thing is all that, how can I build my own creative habits? Really the first step towards making any meaningful change is showing up. This is true for all things, and it is true for creativity as well. Your new creative habit should be explored consistently to see the benefits. Just a few minutes a day can make a big difference over time. As you embed this new habit, you’ll start to feel and see the results in meaningful ways.

For those who want some more practical advice. Here are some useful steps to explore:

  • Allocate time for it.
    You need to be creative every day. Do a little thing each day, and allocate a specific time for it. Put it in the calendar. The daily practice will move it from being a thing on a to-do list, to being a habit. Repetition legitimises and consistency will result in more creativity. Short moments each day will accumulate quickly.
  • Commit to the journey.
    Stick with it. Engaging with something new can be hard. But the more you do it, the easier it will get. Try something and embrace the process of being an amateur. Learn new things. Try things without pressure. Explore new techniques or unusual materials. But do it consistently.
  • Share your process.
    This doesn’t mean you need to share the results of your creative habit, or the different experiments and works in progress. Those things can be just for you. But do share the process of engaging with a creative habit with others. This sharing can do a couple of things. It can hold you accountable to following through with the new habit. And, it could inspire someone else to take up a creative activity as well.
  • Inspire yourself.
    The creative process thrives on inspiration. So this means that experiencing the world around you is an important part of the process. This can include being more observant on your walk to work, listening to new music, watching new shows, seeing new art in a gallery, and engaging in curious conversations with friends and family. You might never know when inspiration will strike and how that might flow into your creative habit.

A good creative habit can really change the journey of your life. It connects with how we live, work and play. Finding that daily practice that resonates with you will have an ongoing positive impact. But the first step is to commit to being creative every day. Just 5 minutes a day. Could you start today?

Creative Waikato is here to support people in the Waikato region to find their connection to creativity. If you start a creative habit, why not share a photo of the process and tag us on Instagram. If you want to know more about arts, culture and creativity in the Waikato get in touch.