Is creativity only for vocational “creatives”? I used to think so.

I used to love the word creative, while also regarding it as a lifestyle for people far different from me. Be creativeI hardly have time to work out and sleep enough, much less finish that long to-do list.

But what if creativity is not limited to crafting, painting, composing, photographing, or other traditional art forms? What if it’s so much bigger– and so much more necessary to living lives of purpose and meaning than we ever thought?

Creativity is precious (and sometimes fleeting)

I do believe there are people who are naturally better at generating new content quickly; they’re constantly pushing the boundaries of what we understand to be conventional, expanding definitions as they go. But I also believe we all have creative abilities, and those abilities need to be protected. Exhaustion and overwhelm can quickly squash creativity, leaving us to spring for whatever is fast and easy. 

The solution? Practice creativity in your everyday life. I work with a handful of vocational creatives who inspire me regularly to think outside the confines that I’m familiar with. They take verbal risks. They re-conceptualize old structures. They make everything beautiful and more compelling. 

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How to be creative every single day

1) Ask new (better) questions.

How many conversations do you have everyday that repeat themselves?

How was your day? What was that meeting about? Do you want dessert?

In an effort to become a more attentive listener, I’m trying to ask deeper, more complex questions that spur better conversation. It’s a good exercise for my mind, and will also hopefully convey thoughtfulness and care.

2) Experiment with your routines.

As much as I am a believer in habits and routines, there’s no harm in playing with order. If you regularly work out in the morning, try afternoons, or vise versa. While these little adjustments seem inconsequential, you may land on a routine you like more.

3) Develop fresh outfits with pop and flair.

One of my favorite things about having a fun accessory collection to go with my capsule wardrobe is the number of combinations I can play with. What I’ve learned is that I don’t need a lot of stuff to create new looks. Developing fresh outfits with what I already have is a fun (perhaps better) approach.

4) Elevate your speech.

I often find myself reaching for lower-shelf vocabulary unless I push myself to speak more accurately. We regularly turn our favorite phrases into habits, and soon our speech is hardly interesting at all.

Finding new ways to express your ideas often leads to discovering new ideas. And that’s always a good thing.

5) Eliminate unhelpful stimuli.

While everyone finds inspiration in different ways, there are certain things that are likely not to help us get creative. Comparing ourselves to others in an envious manner; browsing websites or social media feeds that leave us feeling empty; and reading articles filled with negativity (note, different from critique)– are all choices better left unmade if we’re to protect our creative energy.

6) Write (or draw) a quick encouragement note.

My room mate in college would leave hilarious, encouraging, and thoughtful little notes on my desk, especially if we happened to miss seeing each other for a whole day. It didn’t hurt that she was an amazing artist! Leaving a few thoughtfully crafted words for those you live with can be a great exercise in creativity– and in friendship.

The bottom line: Creativity is a choice.

As Steven Pressfield has famously made clear, creative living is not something we fall into. We choose to be there, we fight to be there. And while most of us will not become vocational creatives, all of us need creativity. It solves problems, it empathizes, it seeks to understand from a different point of view.

What practices do you have for cultivating creativity?