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Creativity begets creativity: How to build your creative muscles

In my 20s I was busy working and raising a family. I had no time for anything else, much less any creative endeavors. But one day I realized that part of me was missing—my creative self. I knew I needed to do something to fulfill that emptiness within but I didn’t know how to start.

Literally, the next day I was browsing in a book store and a book fell off the shelf and landed on my foot! Make Your Creative Dreams Real by SARK became my inspiration for designing my creative life. I don’t think I even finished the book, but I read enough to make a list of creative projects I wanted to pursue. I chose one—writing—and thus began my creative journey.

What I’ve learned over the years is that creativity begets creativity. Practicing creativity in any form exercises and strengths our creative muscles. Think of your imagination as a muscle for a moment.

When I had ankle surgery and couldn’t walk on my right leg for three months, I was amazed at how quickly I lost muscle tone. When I measured my calf muscles in both legs, my right leg was one inch smaller! Your imagination is like this—if you don’t use it, you lose it. And when you do exercise it, you gain momentum over time.

How do you develop your creative muscles? Below are three ideas I’ve incorporated into my life.

Make a list of creative projects. Remember that creativity begets creativity. If you’re creative in one area of your life, over time it will overflow naturally into all areas.

When I first started my creative journey I used to think of my life in terms of my “work” life and my “creative” life. Now, I view every area of my life through the same lens. Doing something new exposes us to new ideas, new energies, and new ways of being.

Here are a few ideas to get you going:

• Color – there are some great adult coloring books out there with the added benefit of stress relief. I recently had a coloring session with my grandson that was super fun!
• Shoot some photos, think about composition, and try some artsy shots
• Record a video
• Build something
• Invent something
• Play a musical instrument
• Go for a hike in nature
• Write song lyrics
• Draw
• Paint rocks
• Create a new recipe
• Garden—create a special area in your garden—use your imagination!
• Construct a collage
• Create a vision board
• Decorate a pair of jeans or some shoes
• Create a journal by decorating it and using stickers on the inside pages
• Get a cool frame and create a photo collage. One of my favorite things to do!

To illustrate the power of how one creative project can inspire another, I was gardening recently and had an experience with a rosebush that inspired a new poem:

Longing

Lying on my porch swing,
I watch a breeze ruffle leaves
of my new rosebush—
still in its pot while I decide
where to plant it.

Bubble gum pink petals open
to reveal double heads—
blossoms within blossoms.
Two stalks jut skyward,
reach for warmth, reach for light.

I remember the time your hand
accidentally brushed my arm—
soft and lingering like a kiss.
I look at your fingers—
imagine you playing the piano,
imagine you playing me.
You smile, and
something blossoms.

I decide to plant the blushing rose
near the swing, near me.
As I lift plant from pot,
a tiny thorn penetrates
my hand.

I pinch it out—
skin still burning.

Ask Questions. I started asking questions in order to problem-solve in my business. I quickly realized questions were a great way to get clarity in every area of my life.  Questions open up our minds and imaginations to new possibilities. Whether you’re writing a poem or novel, or creating a collage, ask questions to see things in a new light. I often ask myself, “What if…” questions. It may seem awkward at first if you don’t know what question to ask. The key is to just start. The more you practice, the easier it becomes.

The other day I was working on a poem, and I asked the question, “what if I found another verb for this word? Can I find a verb that has the right sounds and makes the line more musical?” Just asking the question prompted me to find the exact right word.

Play. Whether I’m working in my office, writing a poem, going for a walk to think about a writing project, cleaning my airbnb space, or doing dishes, I ask myself how I can make my time more playful. I don’t love housework so I crank up my dance playlist and pretend I’m auditioning for American Idol meets Dance Off—of course, making sure I stay away from the windows so the neighbors don’t see me.

Think about small children when they’re playing—they’re creative, open, and enjoying the little things in life. Now, isn’t that something to aspire to?

Exercise: pick one creative project and set a deadline for completion. Then do it! Celebrate your creativity by sharing it with others—whether in person or via social media.

If you enjoy poetry, you might like my poetry book, The Dragon & The Dragonfly.

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