Creativity makes problem-solving and accomplishing projects that much easier. (Plus, it’s just really fun!)
Carla Sonheim, an illustrator, workshop instructor and author of the new book The Art of Silliness, compared neglecting your creativity to driving with a flat tire. “You might get where you’re going, but — oh! — how much smoother, faster, and painless it would be with all four tires inflated.”
We also seem to operate more smoothly when we use both our serious (i.e., logical) and creative sides, she said. Many of Sonheim’s students who are more “analytically inclined” have told her connecting to their creativity has made them feel “whole.”
Part of being creative is being open. That’s because, according to Sonheim, “you need to be able to consider seriously any number of options or solutions, and also be able to accept the — fairly high — risk of a disastrous outcome.”
Sonheim finds that she’s most creative when she lets down her guard and relinquishes some control. And it’s in this space that silliness comes into play.
Take the example of a game of charades. “I stand in front of a group of people, waving my arms around, exaggerating my expressions, and looking slightly ridiculous. And yet in that awkwardness — that place where I kind of ‘give up,’ laugh at myself, and just go with the silliness — I’m more likely to be open to creative ways of communicating the word or phrase,” Sonheim said.
She added: “when we allow ourselves to look silly and play, we can’t help but live in the present moment — a nice state to be in when cultivating the openness needed for creative solutions.”
Below, Sonheim suggested four silly exercises that help you sketch your way to creativity. Remember that it doesn’t matter whether you can draw or not. The key is to open your mind, play and have fun.
1. Hunt for blobs.
Sonheim has used this exercise for several years to create scores of playful imaginary creatures. (The above illustration is just one example). “I’m very aware that I look silly staring at my feet in the middle of downtown Seattle drawing a sidewalk crack, but I’m willing to suffer the odd looks: Blob hunting is fun!”
- Grab a pen and paper, and go outside.
- Look down at the ground. You might see everything from dried leaves to cracks in the sidewalk to oil stains, she said.
- Pick a shape – a.k.a a blob – that you’d like to draw. And sketch it.
- Go back inside and turn the paper in all different directions. Then wherever you like on your blob, add eyes, fur and a tail.
2. Draw objects with your index finger.
Pick any object, whether it’s a tree, car, lamp or couch, Sonheim said. Then close one eye. Use your index finger to “draw” along the edges of the object. And repeat.
3. Close your eyes while creating.
Grab a pen and piece of paper. Close your eyes, and draw an elephant. “Think trunk, ears, tail, etc.,” she said. Next, still keeping your eyes closed, draw a bird on the elephant’s trunk. Finally, draw a circus stand – and then open your eyes.
4. Build a bicycle.
Again, grab a pen and piece of paper. Start drawing a bicycle – but use only one line. Don’t lift your pen until you’ve sketched the entire bike. “Think loops; it should LOOK like it was done with one curvy line,” Sonheim said. As you sketch swiftly, let your subconscious steer you, she said. Then when you’re done with your first drawing, do it three more times.
What are your favorite silly ways to spark your creativity?
Illustration by Carla Sonheim.