I believe that living a creative life can be one of the most rewarding things we can experience as human beings and yet so often it seems that we find reasons not to do it. It’s too hard or too tiring. Inspiration won’t present itself, ideas are too foggy. I don’t have time, I don’t have money, I don’t have space, I don’t have the skills.
When we feel limited by our circumstances, our creativity tends to suffer.
Let’s face it, living with limitations can be one of the most defeating and heartbreaking things you can experience. I have so many days where I wish away the hours, wanting to move my body without pain, to have the energy to get outside, experience the world and really feel alive. Other days it’s the financial pinch that holds me back or the perception that there’s just not enough time to fit everything in. Some days it’s just my own mind telling me I can’t with no logic or reason behind it.
Creativity is one of the strongest gifts I have. It gives me a sense of purpose, a means of expression, It’s an exit point for all the feelings that build up inside when my mind moves faster than my life will allow and quite honestly it’s been my saving grace more times than I can count.
Throughout this journey of mine, I have found some strategies to help bring my creative side back into productivity when it all starts to feel too much.
Living creatively is always in reach
Creativity does not mean you have to be a painter or a writer or a musician or any kind of “artist” for that matter. It’s something that we all possess and we all express in our own way. Creativity can be the way you decorate your house. It can be cooking or writing a letter or telling a story to your children or choosing your outfit or practicing yoga. Inspiration is like a muscle, sometimes it needs to be warmed up before it can reach its full potential so don’t stress if your ideas are too big for right now. Create something – anything and build your way up.
Don’t force it
I know I’ve just said the opposite to this and told you to get started but this works too. I’ve spent far too much time thinking that if I could just find inspiration I could create and everything would be better. It can be exhausting. Sometimes the best ideas take your brain time to find all the little pieces, to pull them together and develop the links and then they present themselves when you least expect it. Give it time, let it breathe. It’s amazing how many ideas will surface in the spaces between.
Find inspiration in the little things
Really notice what’s around you. Find the things that make you feel good and make an effort to appreciate them – your tea or coffee ritual, flowers, warm socks, family and pets, weather and seasons. The more you notice and acknowledge them the more they give back.
Seek inspiration from others (but be honest about how it makes you feel).
There are some amazing communities and ways to connect that you can do in your PJs with a cup of tea. I have found a beautiful collection of people on Instagram who inspire me daily to be better, but are also incredibly generous and supportive when I have a bad day. I’ve set up Pinterest boards to collect images that speak to me and over time I develop themes and ideas in what I’m pinning – lately, it’s been beautiful spaces, indoor plants and cosy comforts which I’ve been able to incorporate into real life.
The disclaimer here is that sometimes this hurts more than it helps. I love looking at images and blogs of travel and exploring nature but some days they make me feel terrible because they remind me of what I can’t do. On these days I know I need to put them away and focus my attention somewhere else.
Express your limitations
Image from my series Invisible, created to visually express the experience of living with a chronic or “invisible” illness
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”Mary Oliver
Some of the greatest artists of all time have created simply because they needed to in order to not drive themselves mad. Write, draw, paint, sing loudly and out of tune. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, it just has to be honest.
Explore new opportunities
Years ago when bedridden, with little physical energy I bought a laptop – my only way to connect to the outside world. It came loaded with a version of Photoshop Elements, a program I had never used in my life, but with a head full of ideas and no way to act on them what did I have to lose?
I started playing around with stock images, blending and merging, changing colours, creating worlds that didn’t exist. I watched videos and read tutorials, practiced, experimented and grew. As my health improved I started shooting my own images to edit. I have since studied and exhibited at a dedicated photography college, edited photos professionally, collaborated with other artists and completed several bodies of work. At the time I was picking up the only tools that were accessible to me, now I can’t imagine my life without it.
“speak quietly to yourself & promise there will be better days. whisper gently to yourself and provide assurance that you really are extending your best effort. console your bruised and tender spirit with reminders of many other successes. offer comfort in practical and tangible ways – as if you were encouraging your dearest friend. recognize that on certain days the greatest grace is that the day is over and you get to close your eyes. tomorrow comes more brightly…”Mary Anne Radmacher
Even with all these things in place, bad days will happen. Let them. No one is good all the time. Let yourself feel the grief or the frustration or whatever it is that needs to be felt but remember that it will pass. Your limitations are part of who you are but they are not all of who you are.
The honest truth is that each of these things has worked for me at times and equally each of them hasn’t worked for me at others. Nothing I have found works every time and that’s ok. I’m learning to listen to my mind and body, to know when to push through and when to let go. I’m hoping some of these ideas will speak to you in times when you feel stuck.