Why I Create and Why You Should, Too: How a Creative Activity Can Open Your World

The dictionary states that creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas, especially as it pertains to artistic work. Synonyms include ingenuity, inventiveness, and vision.

Creative acts can be healing, revealing, and yes, even fun.

Creativity as a Teacher

We may associate creativity with artists, poets, and designers, as if it belongs to an exclusive few, or as an ability you either have or don’t have. I say, anyone can do creative things, can think in creative ways and be a creative person in their day-to-day life. It stands to reason that if creativity is the unearthing of original ideas and the act of creating is the process of finding a vision, then creativity can support us in finding our north star, or innovative ways to think about our own lives. Yes, creativity can teach you about yourself!

Creativity can be Uncomfortable

What we uncover initially may be uncomfortable and if you non-artists out there have ever dabbled in a creative venture, then you know what I am speaking of. I know working artists who would agree with this, as well. All sorts of judgements can crop up when we try to create something out of nothing because we most likely have an unrealistic expectation about the outcome of our efforts. Are you rigid about the steps of the process? Can you let the experience flow, or do you force it? Do you expect perfection even though you have no training? Is the whole thing a struggle, or does your curiosity keep you coming back for more? If you do let go and let the creativity take you away then you may find that it brings you to a place where you glean insights about yourself, your thoughts, what you resist, and what you embrace.

As a health coach, I can attest to the importance of measurable results. We help clients define what they want and help them set goals that align with their vision. Yet, as someone who practices mindfulness meditation and yoga, I have learned (and am still learning) the benefit of not trying to get anywhere. Before I came across these traditions, I intuitively knew that I needed to find outlets where I could get out of my head and into my heart. For the past 25 years, I have regularly pursued creative endeavors to do just that. Oh, and as an at-home parent to three children, it was also for my own sanity.

Searching for Sanity, Creativity Emerged

At some point early on in my parenting years, I began taking classes and exploring ways to be creative. The first was an interior design class at the local community college. Then, it was a master’s program for transpersonal psychology. After that, there were classes on nutrition, mindfulness, yoga, and graphic design. I even took a class on how to learn coding in order to make your own website, which is quite funny considering my aversion to technology. I wrote poems, joined a dance troupe of 30-something former dancers, re-landscaped my yard, and then re-landscaped the local florist’s yard. I explored design concepts, taught myself the genus and families of flowers, and as a by-product of these creative explorations, tapped into my senses and integrated all sorts of information.

I didn’t know it during those early years but upon reflection, I used creativity as a vehicle to explore me. I tuned into my likes and dislikes, sorted through thoughts and sorted out life. I turned to creativity to play, to get a serotonin jolt, and in some ways, to escape. I used it to find meaning, to find my way in the world and to understand my place in it.

In true Walter Mitty fashion, I even daydreamed myself to fame as a potter, a poet and an interior designer, among other things. I learned to knit, paint and sew in non-spectacular fashion. I wasn’t particularly good at some of these endeavors, but I continued to love the idea of creating, in its many forms, and kept pursuing opportunities to do so. Some were formal, but many were informal. The more I let go of rigid ideas and opened to the process, the more I learned about myself. So, what started out as a pursuit of creativity for sanity’s sake, over time became a respite and refuge. When we do not attach an expectation or outcome to an activity, we are free to explore, we become open to ideas, and can make connections to our lives at a deeper level. Years later, I see that is what happened for me.

Create to Get Unstuck

One day in 2013, I felt stuck. My kids were getting older and I wanted to lay the groundwork for a new career. After years of dabbling in creative endeavors (but nothing tangible to show for it), I typed “Creativity Workshop” into my computer’s search engine. I didn’t know what I was really looking for; I just knew that I didn’t know where I was going. It felt like a turning point with no traffic signs to show the way and with no health coach of my own, I kept going back to creativity over and over. My research returned just one result, which still surprises me, because today if you type those same words in, numerous sites will appear. I did come across an e-course called “Do What You Love: Design Your Life.” They had me at the word design. Yes…I want to design my life! I took that class, which led to the next discovery and kept going from there. I have found that getting un-stuck can take time but if you are purposeful in moving forward and open to finding ways (creative and otherwise) to do so, things shift and emerge, and you begin to see things in new ways. The answers come.

Creativity Opens us up to Possibility

By making time for creativity in your life, you are in effect opening to the unknown, which allows for the art of possibility. If you aren’t married to an outcome, then you can be with what comes up as you go. Sometimes what comes up is useful, and sometimes you throw it away. I used to religiously use recipes to cook. If I didn’t have all the ingredients, then I couldn’t make the meal. Now, I love finding ways to create something out of nothing and the experimentation that comes with being willing to take a risk in the kitchen is so satisfying. Even if what I create is inedible (that happens), I learn something for the next time. Over time, these activities helped me become less judgmental with myself. Eventually, my rational brain realized it didn’t make sense to be hypercritical of myself or what I created when that wasn’t the reason for my doing it. I am not Padma Lakshmi or Frida Kahlo. I am Katy Goodell, and that is OKAY!

Everything Becomes a Creative Opportunity

When my mindset shifted around the purpose of creativity and I stopped searching for the perfect artistic medium to pursue, I began to realize that everything can be a creative opportunity. The more you view things as puzzles to be put together or experiences to shape and mold, activities that were once a chore, like cooking, can become opportunities for discovery. In fact, even actual puzzle-making can be a creative way to put the brain in a meditative and relaxed state. A fellow health coach, Jeralyn, recently discussed how she uses puzzles for this very reason. If we expand our idea of what creativity is, then everything can become a creative act.

The more I created, the more I replaced judgements with more forgiving thoughts like, “Let it unfold”; “Go with the flow”; and “That’s an interesting outcome.” Creativity as a habit can lead us to beautiful places in terms of personal growth and awareness. I have always loved colors, textures, and design principles in architecture, yet didn’t have a way to experience them until I took interior design classes, taught myself to sew, and re-designed my garden. So much was trial and error but that is where I learned to become more patient with myself. I may have had dreams of becoming a designer, but the reality is, that isn’t what I am meant to do (this was one of my creativity induced epiphanies), and yet I can still develop my appreciation for meticulously arranged flowers, perfectly placed furniture, and cool crocheted plant hangers. You do not need an invitation to create. You don’t need to have talent, or sell your art, or even show anyone what you make. In fact, if you don’t do any of those things, it will probably give you freedom to create for the sake of having a creative experience and that’s an opportunity you don’t want to pass up!

Create Alone, Create Together

Many of my friends and family members have a creative outlet in their lives; Two of them do ceramic arts, one writes poetry, another loves mixed media, there is a photographer and guitar player, and all use creativity to explore, play, and discover. So much can be learned when we create quietly and in solitude. Maybe we fall into that meditative state, or maybe our neurons fire with excitement as we fall into the flow. Sometimes we unexpectedly get answers to the questions that have alluded us. We reflect when we create, and because many of us get so little time alone, taking time for a solitary creative activity can replenish and restore us, important elements for our health and well-being.

If you already have a creative practice or hobby, then you may want to consider ways to create together with family, friends or even strangers in a class. My mother-in-law put together a family vision boarding event over the holiday and we all appreciated the opportunity to do the activity together in a big group. We shared our boards and talked through our visions. This was a group from 17-79 years of age, and even the young adults got into the spirit!

Creativity for Health and Wellness: Bonus Points

If you do something creative, it is an opportunity to be mindful, and even if mindfulness is not your intention, it is often a by-product of a creative pursuit. Present-moment awareness is at the heart of mindfulness and when you are endeavoring to create, you are most definitely in the present moment. More research is emerging on the benefits of creativity and one study I read outlines a link between creativity and flourishing. They found that “spending time on creative goals during a day is associated with higher activated positive affect (PA) that day.” Another study looked at conservation scientists who used poetry as a creative medium and found that the scientists could better “communicate their work in compelling ways” when integrating poems with science. Their engagement and learning in their work environments were enhanced by this interaction and they found, more broadly, that creating works beyond their discipline was beneficial.

Creativity is Calling

The act of creative discovery can allow us to innovate and increase productivity in our work and personal lives. We can connect to big ideas, gain insights, and problem-solve, all as a by-product of the creative act. In the process of creating, we discover, reveal and grow. We paint visions and weave pieces of our life together. Without trying to get anywhere, we can go everywhere. You can mull that gnawing problem over and over until an answer crystalizes in your mind or get lost in the experience, it is up to you. If you are open to the creative process, I believe you will the better for it. I believe you will find things you were not even looking for. So, what are you waiting for? Go create.