Saturday, January 20, 2007

Curious about creativity

What are some things that damper your creativity and energy? And what do you do to recover your creative impulse? Over the past several years I've felt a marked decrease in my creative energies. I'm trying to figure out where to lay the blame, and what actions I can take to remedy that loss. So far the suspects are:

- lack of exercise
- lack of solitary time
- antidepressants
- academic discourse
- becoming a mother
- aging, and the increasing distance from childhood and play
- extended periods with an increased workload (dissertation + teaching + newborn, anyone? Glad I won't have to relive that.)
- diet without enough "brain food" (whatever that means)
- too much computer time (e.g. blogging), too little time spent, I don't know, meditating
- too many leisure-time interests that divide my attention (writing, crafting, blogging, reading fiction, etc.)

Any ideas?

Many thanks.


Susanne said...

I vote for "extended periods with an increased workload" with lack of exercise and solitary time coming some way after that. I remember how hollow I felt even after finishing my master's degree. And it's not as if you had been sitting around twiddling your thumbs after you finished your dissertation.

I recommend a little more relaxation and leisure time, spending time alone, and then, in a little while, doing silly things for fun. You'll see, it will come back.

(And aging and the increasing distance from childhood shouldn't have anything to do with it. Distance from play on the other hand...)

DrOtter said...

I agree with susanne - extended periods of increased work levels are a real creativity killer. But so is not having enough solitude. There is something about peacefully just sitting in a room doing some task quickly and well that seems to boost the creative processes. And the sense of accomplishment...

Rebecca Clayton said...

You've written a dissertation, you teach, you write, you craft, you read, and you think you don't have a creative impulse? Give your head a shake! Those are all HIGHLY creative endeavors. Perhaps you've been so focused on deadlines, output, and efficiency that the play part is in eclipse right now, but you are creating left and right.

I am so impressed with your accomplishments--finishing my dissertation was so traumatic that I never even applied for a job in my "chosen field." I got a well-paid molecular genetics job, and then I started taking concertina lessons. That's what eventually made me feel better.

I think we are often too narrow in our definitions of creativity. It means making something new--that could be dinner, or a dissertation, or a sock, or a poem.

I say your creative energy is just fine--you need to figure out why you're not having enough fun. It could just be a habit left over from grad school, or you could be over-tired. For me, waking up every morning and not being a grad student anymore was am energizing thrill (for several years). Good luck!

Anonymous said...

My biggies are:
lack of time,
lack of time,
lack of time,
listening to news on NPR whenever I have some time.

Grad school is not designed to allow creativity. (We're shocked, I know.)

My remedy? Shabbat. Try it--it's ideal for families, designed for both rest and play, and as long as you're not committed to praying over candles in Hebrew, you don't really need to be Jewish to get some of the benefits.

Pick your weekend evening-into-the-next-day and go 25 hours with no work and no tech (computer, tv, radio). It's hard at first but force yourself--you'll love it within 4 weeks. Promise.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

- Too little exercise
- Eating too much crap
- Too many distractions
- Too little time having actual conversations
- Too little time to reflect
- Too much distance from play (I like that, susanne)
- Stress
- Repetitive routine and too much of the same scenery all the time
- Many menial tasks without any sense of a goal

Hm. This sounds familiar. Take the inverse of this list, and you'll find what inspires creativity in me.

Actually, sometimes the right kind of stress or pressure inspires creativity in me. Sometimes I'm my most creative in tight situations. My high school teachers used to place me in debate situations where I'd have to fight my way out of a corner, because that was when I was at my best.

Alice said...

I agree with other commenters -- too much work stiffles creativity.

SciMom said...

D, all of the above. For me it's the motherhood thing. I know if I sit down at night to do something for me (read a magazine, watch a show, write some thank you notes, etc.) I am at risk for losing all motivation to do the things that need to be done (laundry, food preparation, etc.).

My creativity has been zapped by my two children. However, my husband and I are working together to get back to supporting each other's "me time". I know that this will help to re-energize me. Oh yeah, and I have to stop dong all that late night snacking. It's not helping either.......

Anonymous said...

I think most of the above. But at least some of those things are fixable or work-around-able. Your recent job shift, for example, is freeing you from grading (yay!) and giving you a new kind of work week, one in which you'll have time that you can clearly claim as your own. That make take some getting used to -- and you've been doing it full-time less than a month -- but eventually I can imagine that weekends or evenings will become a time in which you can carve out some space for yourself.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Rebecca that you're probably creating a lot more than you give yourself credit for.

To SciMom, I found that when I was able to participate in my children's creative endeavors, I found my own creative side as well. Our house is ridiculously full of art supplies--basics: paper, crayons, markers, clay, watercolors, beads, etc. Watching them take such joy in making something reminded me how much fun it is. So I'm knitting again and crafting with them nearly every day.

I never thought I was "creative" or "artistic",but now that I've made time for it, my life feels so much more balanced.