How to Stay Creative, Even When You’re Really Busy

  • Posted on: March 20, 2016
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For me, doing creative activities is more than a hobby. It’s an important self-care practice, and a source of fulfillment which other types of accomplishment cannot satisfy. Unfortunately, I often don’t realize how important having this creative outlet is until I find myself in a rut. I’m sure many others are in a similar situation – life’s obstacles get in the way of us creating. Whether it’s well-being, health, work, school, caring for others, or a combination of all these factors, it’s easy to let your imagination (and the wellness that comes attached with it) slide.

This advice that I’m writing is both for others and myself. I’m still grappling with how to incorporate creativity into my lifestyle, and accept that this is an ongoing conflict. Here’s a few tips on carving out time for innovation and imagination in the midst of a hectic lifestyle.

Art by Hailey

Art by Hailey

First, get to know yourself and your habits. Are you the type of person who needs scheduled creative time in order to sit down and do things? If so, try making a small, regular commitment that you’ll be able to follow through on. Something that really worked for me a couple years ago was keeping a journal by my bedside and writing anything that came to mind before going to bed, whether it be a sentence or a whole page. Now, as a writer for The Pulp Zine, I document my life with less frequency and more flexibility. However, it’s still a commitment that forces me to reflect on and develop my ideas in tangible ways.

However, sometimes life gets so busy that any sort of scheduled commitment to creativity seems like a lot. Often, I’m too drained or restless to formally sit down and start writing or art projects. Case in point: my multitude of half-completed cross stitches, unfinished sketchbooks, and books I can never commit to for more than the first few chapters.

What works for me right now is setting realistic, accessible boundaries. Instead of sacrificing other parts of your life to squeeze in some creative time, try approaching tasks you already do with a new perspective. Engage and stimulate your brain to break out of its usual hectic pattern. Even taking in creative work, rather than making it, is stimulating to me because it gets me seeing a topic in new ways.

One of the ways I like to approach chore-like tasks from a new perspective is through cooking. I usually make meals for the whole day in the morning and take them with me on the go—it saves tremendous amounts of money, and is a ritual which forces me to be creative. Because of my lack of skill, budgetary restraints, and lack of time, I usually eat variations on the same few meals. However, I like to experiment with different varieties on the foods I’m comfortable making.

I love making salads with bright colours (with bell peppers, tangerines, avocado, or dried cranberries) and a variation of textures (through throwing in some hummus or mixed nuts). Stir-fries are also a cheap and easy way to play with different flavours, be resourceful, and make enough food to last for a few days. I’m no risk-taker in the kitchen, but what gets me feeling enthusiastic about preparing food is Leanne Brown’s Good and Cheap, which gives you infinite ways to eat well on a budget and is available for free online.

Lately I don’t have the time to sit down and read books. A remedy for this is listening to podcasts. Listening to other people tell stories and learning about different pockets of the world always puts me into a new mindset. Plus, it gets my mind thinking about things beyond my own busy schedule. I find that my prime podcast time occurs during long bus rides, or dong light cleaning—even while listening, I can still be aware of my surroundings. They’re also great to listen to while on long drives, getting ready, or preparing food.

I love the podcast Call Your Girlfriend for a regular dose of feminist pop-culture dishing, and Stuff Mom Never Told You for extended histories on female-centric topics. 99% Invisible provides a fascinating look at phenomena related to architecture and design. And The Canon is a cool series where the makers debate about whether a particular film deserves to be in the ‘best movies of all time’ category.

Another way of learning which I’m a huge fan of is using the apps Pocket and Flipboard to create a custom feed of online articles. I use these apps to save articles for later when I’m short on time. Then, when I have a couple minutes to spare while waiting for something, I’ll read an interesting piece which I’ve been anticipating.

My main takeaway is that creativity doesn’t have to be as monumental as sitting down with paints and a blank canvas. More important than a finished end product is going through a mentally stimulating process which provides a new perspective from which to view the everyday. This creative process, which can be found in so many unexpected ways, is what gives me energy and gets me through everything else going on.