Like every other adult I know, my life is often about responding: to the toddler demanding a chocolate biscuit, to the 9 year old asking if people are born evil or become evil, to a client who wants something yesterday, to my students when they are struggling to understand something about photography, to the washing machine that has suddenly stopped mid cycle.
But, when I am being creative I am stepping out of all that, and suddenly it feels like all of that thinking and doing is lifted from my shoulders. I am really present and connected to the world around me. It inspires me because for once I am not responding. I am creating - creating something that is completely free from the constraints of my ordinary life. This is what interests and excites me.
Think about the last time you were being creative and how it made you feel. Perhaps it was something small like cooking a delicious meal, or something bigger like going on a trip and photographing a country you'd never visited. I believe having a creative outlet is an essential tool for living a richer, healthier life.
Here's why I think creativity will change your life.
Your day -to-day life is richer
Creativity drags you out of your busy mind, away from your never-ending to-do list, problems at work or worries about money, and plants you smack bang into the middle of the intense, messy and ever-changing beauty of the world around you. You are seeing more of the world because you are paying attention to what is happening. You are releasing yourself from the technological grasp that the world has suddenly succumbed to. The world is rich with interesting things to look at, fascinating things to see, most of which we usually miss in the rush of our daily routine and the way we continuously trap ourselves in the busy, always- thinking minds of ours.
Stop to pay attention to the chatter of the birds in the dark morning as you get ready for work, the intense green of the trees as you walk your child to school, the melancholy beauty of the low dark clouds hanging over the city on your way home. It gives you a more connected and intimate relationship with the world around you. Notice what is happening around you and then use what interests you to create something.
Our lives can feel like we are always on the way somewhere, or always trying to move on from what we are doing. The endless spreadsheets at work or cleaning at home can make you feel like adult life is just a grind, and no fun. I laugh at my son when he says that he can't wait to be a grown up because then he can do what he wants. Darling, I say, if endless washing up and doing your taxes is doing what you want then sure, you'll love it.
"To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it." Osho
Even though I am in a creative industry as a photographer, much of my job is not creative. I have to make a commitment like everyone else to carve out time to do what I love - going out on a beautiful morning to photograph the fog rising up over a field.
Photo © Anthony Epes
Or exploring the East End at dawn.
Photo © Anthony Epes
Seeing quirky and unusual people in interesting locations and having the time to stop and photograph them.
Photo © Anthony Epes
Exploring, seeing the world as it really is and creating a striking photograph with what I find - that makes me truly and deeply happy.
"You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. " Maya Angelou
You'll feel more accomplished
Most of us don't have straightforward jobs these days and the feelings of accomplishment or a good day's work can be few and far between. Perhaps we have long ongoing projects or a monotonous, never changing work environment. Creating something, with your own hands, your ideas, your imagination makes you feel incredibly accomplished. It's an expression of you and your passions. Something that is completely unique to who you are.
Because you were born creative
Having kids is a wonderful reminder that we humans love to learn, to probe at the edges of possibility and to create. It's a trait we tend to lose as we get older, getting more squeezed into that box. But it doesn't have to be this way. Watch a four year old explore a forest with intense wonder and then taking a bunch of crayons and drawing their vision of what they've seen with total joy and abandon. We were once all connected to that creative spirit (in different ways, naturally) and we can still be.
As Picasso said:
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."
It makes you a better worker
It's been documented in several medical studies that being creative reduces stress as well as helping to heal chronic illness. And by reducing stress you become a better worker:
"Studies show, however, that stress is a poor motivator. In his bestselling book, Thinking Fast and Slow, Princeton's Daniel Kahneman explains why. Of the brain's two basic neural pathways, the first - from anxiety to calm - does not inspire outside-the-box thinking. Workers are so insecure and stressed that they creep along in terror until they find safety. The goal, then, is to get workers engaging the second pathway - from complacency to excitement -- which is much more likely to trigger innovation."
So whether you are looking to develop an artistic practice or you just trying to get to the end of a work day feeling more relaxed, the act of creation will help you dampen down the crazy noise and let some of those juicy, great ideas flow in.