It’s pretty easy to fall into one of those ruts where you do the same things every day, for what seems like years, till everything you do becomes just habit and you forget what it was like to explore and try new things. At times like these, not only do we stop enjoying new things, but we start forgetting we have the capacity to create new things. In a world of pre-packaged microwave dinners and fast food, store-bought clothes and rentals where tenants are not allowed to fix things themselves, we can spend years never really exercising our creative abilities. Having everything available pre-made is easy and convenient, but it can lead to an increasingly dull, deadened life.
Here are 7 easy activities to work into your routines to rediscover or flex your creative capacities.
- Go to a thrift store, junk shop or rummage sale. Find a wooden frame, with or without its glass. Next find some sandpaper, woodstain in the color you like best and a paintbrush. Sand the frame until its surface is smooth. Wash off the frame with a damp cloth. For the next step be sure you are in a well-ventilated area, and use newspaper or rags to protect whatever surfaces are under the frame. When the wood is dry, paint on a layer of woodstain. Let it dry, add another coat if you want the color darker. Let the stained frame dry. (For more fun, you can also buy some paint pens to draw designs on the wood before you stain it, for a more personalized look.) The hardest, but most fun part of this exercise is this last bit- now that you have a lovely new frame, find or make something to put in it. Frames also make nice gifts, so if you refurbish a frame and then decide you aren’t going to use it, give it to a friend as a random gift.
- Look in the food section of Pinterest till you find something that looks really tasty. find the recipe and acquire the ingredients. Make the food of your choice. Since it is your food, you get to decide which ingredients you change, so if the recipe calls for walnuts and you hate walnuts, skip them or substitute something else similar that you do like. If you don’t use Pinterest, browse a recipe site online or look at recipe books at a used book store till something pops out at you as what you need to make.
- Pick 5 friends you appreciate/like/love. For one week pay closer attention to what those 5 friends like, what is going on in their lives, etc. At the end of that week, find a nice gift for one of those friends and give it to them, not for any occasion, but just because you want to give them something. For the next 4 weeks do the same, until you have given a gift to all 5 of the friends you chose. One of the things we lose when we fall in a rut creatively is our capacity to connect with other people, and one of the best ways I have found to focus more on my friends or family is to figure out great presents for them. This game gives you an excuse to focus on the personalities and interests of those around you, not just what you know of them from your everyday interactions with them.
- Read a book outside your normal range of reading. Go to a library or a book store and browse the non-fiction sections if you normally read fiction, or browse the sci-fi/fantasy section if you normally read Westerns and romances, etc. Find at least one book, take it home, and read it. (Or, ask a friend who you know reads a lot to lend you a book outside your normal reading range, one your friend thinks you might enjoy.) Keep a reading journal with your book, so you can jot down your comments, grumbles, brilliant ideas and favorite passages.
- Buy a pair of white canvas shoes and some permanent markers. use pencil to draw a design on your new shoes, then use the markers to create your personalized shoes. If you want to get fancier and use fabric paints, go for it. I drew ships and octopuses on mine last time I tried this activity. Or, personalize a pair of thrift store tan slacks or lighter blue jeans, using permanent markers and fabric paint. If you sew or can do embroidery you can also use ribbons, applique, and embroidery to decorate your otherwise boring thriftstore ‘canvas’.
- For one month set a goal to take 5-10 digital photographs each day, focusing on colors, textures, and shapes you find appealing. Don’t take more than 2-3 photos of any one subject, and try to vary the locations and times when you take your photos. Put the photos together in an album on your computer, or if you like the results and want to share them, upload the whole collection as an album on facebook. Seeing your world through a different lens helps you more fully appreciate what you see every day.
- Find out when your town or city has an upcoming outdoor event with live music and either a) go to the event, or b) check out the bands the event has booked, to see if they are ones you might enjoy listening to. And/or, spend 30 minutes each week for a month checking out music recommended for you by Spotify’s Discovery tool. Adding new sounds to your personal universe helps keep your mind more active, and having more variety in your music also boosts your creativity by giving you more to draw from.
If you try out these activities, feel free to leave a comment about how your activities worked out. And don’t forget to have fun and play, whatever you do.
(A shorter version of this article appeared on another of the author’s social media accounts a year ago, one of those sad experimental sites that rarely survives more than a year and has very few members.)