Maybe you’d like to create for yourself. After all, connecting to our creativity helps us connect to ourselves. It helps us to connect to our dreams and our emotions. It helps us to connect to our playful sides—maybe even after many years. It helps us to discover what we’d like to say—and to say it.
Maybe you’d like to cultivate your creativity for work, to keep innovating and coming up with strong ideas. Maybe you’d like to do a bit of both.
You also might feel like your imagination is currently non-existent. You feel blocked or drained. Or maybe the frenetic pace of your days seems to stifle your creativity. In all that going and doing, your mind remains rigid and hyper-focused on your to-do list.
But we don’t need to spend hours walking in the woods to receive sparks of inspiration. We also don’t need to spend hours creating to ignite that spark—even if we’re incredibly out of practice.
Creativity doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.
As Deborah Anne Quibell, Ph.D, writes in the book Deep Creativity: Seven Ways to Spark Your Creative Spirit, “Creativity comes alive when our senses of hearing, taste, sight, smell, and touch are awakened and revered.”
And we can awaken and revere our senses at any time—whether we have a few minutes or much more.
In other words, creativity is always available to us. It’s available to us when we are open and curious, when we shift our attention, when we slow down for just several moments, when we take a deep breath, and let our senses do their jobs.
Below, you’ll find five mindful exercises from three different beautiful, inspiring books to help you ignite and deepen your creativity.
Give yourself natural assignments. According to co-author Jennifer Leigh Selig, Ph.D, in Deep Creativity, these could be weekly or monthly assignments, “where you concentrate your attention on one element of nature, whether it be animal or flower, tree or grass, sky or water, color or sound.” Aim to know and understand this element fully.
Selig shares this example: One month you focus on the color yellow. You visit the museum looking for yellow, or browse art books. Or you go to the grocery store to look for yellow foods. Or you search your immediate environment for hints of yellow. Maybe you visit a botanical garden or the zoo to see where yellow shows up. Or you plant sunflower seeds, or make a collage of van Gogh’s yellow elements.
Look closer with your camera. In Be, Awake, Create: Mindful Practices to Spark Creativity, Rebekah Younger, MFA, suggests readers “use a smartphone or camera to record moments when the ordinary magic of the world touches your heart and wakes you up,” when it’s “quietly calling out to say, ‘look at me?’” Do this exercise for five days.
Specifically, she suggests placing the camera beside your bed the night before you’re starting the activity. On the first day, take a photo of something that catches your eye right when you wake up—and are still in bed. Next, take another photo while sitting on the edge of your bed. Then take a photo in the bathroom, as you’re getting dressed, and as you’re eating breakfast. On the second day, take five photos at the end of the day.
On the third day, take five photos throughout your workday. On the fourth day, take five photos when you find yourself reaching for your phone. And finally, on day five, compile your photos into a collage on your computer or a large piece of paper.
When you’re done, reflect on your responses to these questions: What did you discover? What did you see for the first time (which was probably there all along)? How did each day and time differ? How were they the same? What experiences were most vivid? How did this activity affect your experience of the day? Were you bored at any moment? How did your boredom affect what you photographed? How do these images portray your daily life?
Make a temporary creation. Younger encourages us to enjoy this exercise from “start to finish as you would a fine meal or a story told for the first time.” That is, make a temporary creation out of materials that either have a limited lifespan or will be consumed in some way. For instance, you might create a mandala outside out of flowers, pinecones, leaves, and acorns.
“Don’t record the creation in any way. Just appreciate it as it changes over time,” she writes. After you discard whatever remains, reflect on your experience.
Describe your moon. In Set the Page on Fire: Secrets of Successful Writers, Steve O’Keefe suggests writing a 50-word description of the moon. How does the moon look like to you?
As he notes, “When you try to tell me something about how the moon looks to you, and you keep at it for a while, you cannot help but tell me something about you, about how you see the world, possibly about how you see yourself in the world. That is the power of language—the power of expression.”
You also can draw the moon or paint it. You can pen a poem about the moon. Or you can take photos of the moon from different angles for a month or two.
Focus on multiple senses. Our senses tend to overlap and support each other, Younger writes. She suggests using the below prompts to play with the idea of synesthesia. According to one dictionary, it’s defined as “the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.”
- Draw the sounds you hear.
- Make sounds for the textures you feel.
- Take a bite of something and move your body in response to the taste.
- Jot down the smell of a color.
- Image the flavor of a sound.
- Come up with your own combinations.
There are so many different ways to ignite and deepen our creativity. Try the above practices, and maybe those practices will spark other practices that become part of your creative routine.
The key is to be open and not to judge yourself. Let your creativity flow, in whatever shape or form it pours out.