How to Get Your Hands on Some Creativity
Sometimes it feels as if creativity is a rare commodity. It comes and goes as it pleases, giving little notice to the rules of supply and demand. If only there was a way you could just reach out and grab it, maybe hang onto it for even a single moment. Well, it turns out there is and all it takes is rolling up your sleeves.
If I may be so bold, as self-proclaimed warriors of the digital revolution (taking liberties, yes...) we feel strongly about the importance of technology in creating interactive experiences. That being said, as people who are relied upon to burst forth with glorious and unparalleled creativity first thing in the morning within seconds of downing our first round of coffee, there is a lot to be said for cracking your knuckles, unplugging the interwebs and getting your hands dirty.
I discovered the impact this had on my writing just a few weeks ago. Since I first picked up a keyboard in the early 90’s, I’ve had the ability to type at about 10 times the speed I could hand write (speaking is another matter altogether, of which a large portion can be blamed on my caffeine consumption.) The method I default to at work is always my computer. Whether I’m using a laptop, desktop or jotting thumbing notes into my smartphone, I always turn to digital to get my thoughts down quickly before they evaporate.
But something changed recently as I found myself waiting for the ferry boat in downtown Seattle at a little bar without a laptop charger. I dug around in my backpack franticly because my brain was telling me to panic. No electronics! No internet! Red Alert, Red Alert! Oddly enough, I did happen to have a spiral notebook in my bag and a bic pen in my hair (I do ALWAYS inexplicably have a pen in my hair…) so I took an unladylike swig of my porter and started to write.
I didn’t have a plan, and still don’t know what compelled me to do it. I didn’t set out to write anything, but somehow felt a craving to feel the smooth application of ink by ballpoint onto an earnestly blank page. In about 20 minutes I had six pages of complete and utter garbage consisting of random thoughts, confusing anecdotes and some really horrible spelling errors.
I only began noticing the difference in the following days when it became a little bit easier to eke out some creative thoughts at work. I even started chipping away at a few side projects I had put on the back-burner after a serious bout of the dreaded and seriously cliché “writer’s block”. What was happening here? Well according to an increasing number of neurologists and other people with fancy letters after their name, in working with my hands I was stimulating portions of my brain that impact creativity and imagination¹. Who knew?
Here at the studio, we have a great mixed bag of artists, musicians and otherwise intriguingly talented people that find ways to stimulate our creativity outside of work. But that’s not to say creativity is only important to those of us in marketing or advertising. Creative thinking is necessary for a wide range of industries and roles, such as accounting, hospitality and sandwich engineering. Pretty much anytime you have to pull from your range of problem-solving tools, creativity is there to help you come up with a solution.
In case you find yourself in a rut, whether you're creating new digital spaces or coming here are some tips for stimulating your creative side away from work so you can tap into it right when you need it.
6 Tips for Getting Hands on With Your Creative Self
- Forget About Output: Expectations can often be limiting, and while they have their place, when you’re trying to let the unbridled artistic juices flow they really become a bummer.
- Find a Space You Can Let Go: If you’re worried about what people will think of your work or that crazy “concentration” face you make you may want to consider finding a more private space to cut yourself loose. On the other hand, if being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of daily life is what gets you going, by all means. Just try hitting up the SLU during lunch hour.
- Stick with It: If you get frustrated that you just churned out the most ridiculous and embarrassing product that even a 1st grader would turn their nose up at, don’t get discouraged. Remember the tip about output, and when all else fails set a schedule for yourself. While freedom from restrictions is great, sometimes your brain needs a ritual to get onboard.
- Inspire Yourself: Make sure to surround yourself with the people and things that inspire you most. This goes for just about anything in life and can be a genre of fiction, your favorite artist or just a particularly stimulating outdoor location. Just don’t follow people around against their will; a restraining order won’t help you be more creative.
- Step Out of the Comfort Zone: Are you a writer that’s never picked up a paintbrush? Maybe you’re a web designer that’s always wanted to learn how to build a car. Whatever you choose, don’t get stuck in the mentality that you have to use the same medium you’ve always known. Do something you always wish you had. Heck, since you’re not worried about output just get out and play in the mud.
- Equip Your Work Space: If you really can't get away from your desk try to keep a few items around that you can mess around with and keep your hands busy like silly putty, a squishy ball or a soft and fluffy puppy.
Ultimately, engaging your hands in creative work isn’t about making something; it’s about doing something. Take a step back from the screen, absorb the world around you and reconnect with yourself at a more fundamental and primary level and the impact on your digital work will show. Now let’s see if this article is enough to convince our HR manager we need a clay-throwing pot in the studio…¹ For more information on this check out Frank R. Wilson’s book The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture. And yes, I realize this is not a “correctly formatted citation.” Give me a break, I’m just being creative.