On being creative (and why it's good for you) | Life | Kylie Purtell - Capturing Life

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

On being creative (and why it's good for you) | Life

A little while ago a Facebook friend shared an article from Business Insider titled "7 science-backed reasons you should make art, even if you're bad at it". If you want to read the full article I highly recommend it, but to paraphrase, the 7 reasons were thus...



Making art may reduce stress & anxiety;
Creating visual art improves connections in the brain;
Art-making can help us get over sadness;
Mindless sketching can help us focus;
Turning our problems into narratives can help us work through them;
Playing music is associated with cognitive gains;
Making art can help you achieve "flow."

The article gives links to studies & examples of those 7 reasons, but I think it's safe to say that most of us have probably experienced the positive effect that being creative & artistic can have on our minds & bodies. I've always believed that art & creativity is something that everyone should make time for and now science has backed me up!

Whether you're a writer, a painter, a musician, a photographer, a drawer, a knitter, a colourer-inerer or doodler, doing something creative can be cathartic, and also a lot of fun. It allows us to stop focusing on the problems at hand and focus only on what's in our hands. When I worked in sales & marketing, some of my best ideas came to me while I was idly doodling on a notepad (a clear example of number 4 there!).

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Colouring in is one of my favourite ways to relax. I don't do well sitting on the lounge & just passively watching TV (unless it's Game of Thrones, and then I'm glued to the TV and barely breathe during an episode), so colouring in is a great way to occupy my hands while I catch up on the shows I've recorded. It helps me to focus anxious energy in to my hands and away from my brain. It helps me relieve stress in a way not many other things can.

Photography is the creative outlet that I most enjoy, and while I generally share images of my girls in pretty light, or snippets from our everyday life in images, the images that I share with other people through this blog and social media are a seriously tiny fraction of the actual amount of images I make. More often than not I'm almost always experimenting with new techniques either with the camera or in the editing process.

Photography has always been the thing I've turned to when I've been feeling emotionally vulnerable or sad (point number 3 in action!). I first discovered how much of an emotional outlet photography was for me in high school and more often than not, when times have been bad for me, it's the first thing I've turned to. It helped me through a tough time last year, and I used it to channel all of the negative energy and emotions that I had swirling through my brain.

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Creativity is in almost everything we do as humans. Coming up with solutions to the problems we face in life takes creativity. Whether it's the problem of how to balance our budget, how to respond tactfully to opposing views, how to be healthier, how to discipline our children, how to make more money, how to be better at our jobs, how to tackle climate change or look after those less fortunate than us, it's all about creative thinking. Channeling our brains natural propensity for creativity in to something we do with our hands or words or music can help us better harness that creativity for the other parts of our lives that need it.

You don't need to be good at something to enjoy it. Some people absolutely love singing, and despite the fact that they couldn't tell a minor key from a sharp, they throw themselves in to karaoke with reckless abandon, because it makes them feel good. If you enjoy writing but you wouldn't know your there from your their from your they're, who cares? Just do it. If it helps you to relax or focus your mind for other things, it can only be a good thing. I like to sketch, but even my stick people are not recognisable shapes! Doesn't stop me from doodling shapes and letters and patterns with a pen though, and it does help me harness my creativity so that it can be applied to other areas of my life.

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When you work in a creative industry and your income depends on creativity, it can sometimes feel like the pressure to create and come up with new ideas actually makes the creative process more of a struggle than a joy. When this happens I think it's important to do one of two things... either do something creative that is entirely removed from what you normally do, such as painting instead of sketching, knitting instead of sewing, singing instead of writing; or set yourself a challenge to do the same thing every day for a certain number of days. That second might seem counter-intuitive, but if there is one thing I've learned from blogging & photography, it's that setting yourself a challenge and sticking with it often yields so much more creativity & inspiration that you thought possible.

For instance, for most of this year I've been struggling with what to write for this weekly post. In fact, I've been struggling with blog inspiration for the better part of two years now. One of the biggest reasons why I agreed to take on IBOT is because I knew that having the challenge of coming up with something new to write every week, and struggling with that, would eventually lead to new inspiration. It always has. I've been blogging for over 8 years now, and if you take a look at my archives you can see that there are times when I've blogged heaps, and times when I haven't blogged at all. Every time I've gotten back in to blogging it's started with setting a challenge for myself to write x amount of times per week, even if I didn't feel like it.  And slowly but surely, the inspiration comes back. So taking on IBOT has been a real creative challenge for me this year, sometimes I've "failed", sometimes I've "succeeded", but I'm now starting to have ideas for blog posts jump out at me randomly during my day, something that hasn't happened for about a while now!

Right now I'm working on two photography projects, one is an actual job, the other is a personal challenge set by the admin of a photography group I'm in on Facebook. Both the job & the group challenge require me to be shooting or editing every single day for at least the rest of the month. At first I felt like this might actually drain my creativity, but it's actually made me even more inspired than I was a month ago. I've got more ideas, inspiration and plans swirling around in my brain than I know what to do with, and in turn that makes me feel happy and more positive about other areas of my life as well.

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Art is a wonderful thing, and whether your art is writing, drawing, doodling, painting, knitting or taking photos of your kids, make sure you do it every day. Don't let self-doubt or time or lack of skill stop you from being creative in any way you want to, because science is right, "the benefits go far beyond pure enjoyment or cultural creation".

Do you believe that art & creativity are good for the mind, body & soul? What creative things do you enjoy? Do you find being creative has positive effects on other areas of your life?




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