Modern life is exhausting. After a long day sitting at a desk under crap lighting, the only thought on your mind is marathoning American Horror Story on Netflix and deepening your crush on Jessica Lange. You chow down on dinner and hit the sack after a couple of episodes. Lather, rinse, repeat.
At some point 1-10 years into this routine, you’re gonna hit a wall. To fix or prevent that wall, you’ll need to stimulate your creative side a little bit. Think of it as the G-Spot (or prostate) of the brain (just go with it).
Actively creating helps your mind and spirit. It can help with stress, illness and all stripes of mood disorders and conditions. Without getting all “hippie aunt with many scarves” on you, art can heal. If that’s too out there, just consider that your brain needs more stimulation than 23.5 hours per day staring at various types of screens. A few tips on getting your imagination station in operation (see, I just made a poem):
Stop holding on to the reasons you can’t do it. Too busy? I see you playing four hours of Bejewelled a night (please don’t let games post to your Facebook anymore, thank you). I see you tweeting about how your toddler slept long enough to get in six episodes of Walking Dead. Too old? Just because your parents aren’t dropping tuition cheques for a BFA in Pottery doesn’t mean you can’t foster your creative side. Get crackin’.
Put away the Visa. Our consumerist society might fool you into thinking that purchasing a Martha Stewart-branded paint set and then letting it rot in your closet is the same thing as fostering your creativity. Remember that these things are just tools, and if you’re not using them, the shopping alone isn’t going to make you feel better.
Check out the Artist’s Way. Remember, this book is just a guide. It can get very “woo woo”, but you will find some really solid lessons about nurturing your inner artist and getting stuff done. Being creatively blocked often comes from a very emotional place — the book gives lots of examples, as well as tips and tricks to unblock yourself. Besides, if it’s praised by the likes of Maria Bamford, it’s worth checking out.
You’re not too cool for this shit. Oh, what, you feel like a sad old divorcee buying stamps at the craft supply store? Guess what, ding dong, people who don’t try are the real losers. People who sit on their high horse and judge everything and don’t do work, they are the sad ones. Now hitch up your high-waisted, stone washed jeans, fluff up your perm, and be the best crafter you can be!
Let yourself suck. You gave up writing short stories in Grade 8 after your friend read one and said it was boring. Let it go. She probably couldn’t grasp the deep inner meaning of your piece about two blonde girls who went shopping at a mall. It probably sucked, which is actually good. You gotta be bad to get good. Be bad, a lot, all the time. Think of a sculptor who takes a year to carve a piece. For 364 days, it’s just an ugly-ass, imperfect blob of stone. But on the last day, it’s a sculpture. Apply this to everything you do, whether it’s a script, a novel, a painting or a blog entry. Don’t be discouraged by how shit you are at first. You can do it.
Let go of perfect. Related to letting yourself suck, you can’t be so fussy that you never finish anything. I have a thousand essays, stories and scripts that I’ve started and tossed aside, sometimes with only minimal work needed to complete it, because they weren’t “perfect”. This is stupid and I’m an idiot. If you do this, so are you. Perfection is a lie that keeps you from appreciating your work. Never finishing means never having to be judged. Let it go. Show that story to a friend. Hear feedback. Don’t bristle at the first suggestion of changes.
Stop caring about money and fame. Little children want to grow up to be a “famous writer” or a “rich movie star.” You aren’t gonna be that. Try aiming for “competent writer” or “painting enthusiast” or hell, “person who finished a project.” Money drives most of your other life decisions, don’t let it dictate your self-expression. Unless you’re a rapper—then by all means, please, get that paper, my dear.
Don’t judge your inner voice. So you sat down to sculpt and all you made was make ten tiny clay dicks. So your serious, existential novel somehow turned into Hunger Games fan fiction around page 3. So you mostly just glue tiny pieces of paper to other tiny pieces of paper. Go with it. You’re judged enough in this world, let your creative spirit do this one (ok, pretty weird) thing.
Be brave. You are dying to sing, but too scared to audition for the community choral ensemble. You think you might be funny, but the thought of signing up for improv class gives you diarrhea. DO IT ANYWAY. In five years time (trust) you will wish you’d started five years earlier than you did. Life is short and being scared is part of being alive.