February 19, 2014
Career advice: How can I be more creative?
Q: My mind feels kind of stale. This seems to happen to me in the winter. Do you have suggestions for ways I could liven up and stay more creative?
A: Get off the mental couch and get your brain some exercise.
The inner game
How do you feel when you're mentally engaged? Close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and let yourself re-experience the physical and emotional sensations that you have when you're feeling creative and energetic.
Think about the activities that bring about the feeling of engagement. They could be mental or physical: writing, cooking, drawing, playing games. If you're in the moment with your activity, it'll be having this positive effect.
Now, focus on the reasons you may not be doing energizing activities now. You mention that the winter slows you down. Many people tend to hibernate when there is less light and it's cold outside. However, this can also trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD), so consider whether there is some level of depression going on. Identify any other barriers so that you can take action to overcome them.
Note that even if you're feeling creative, this may look different in the winter than in the summer. Rather than resisting the inward change that you're experiencing, explore the dynamic and embrace the difference.
The outer game
There are a million things to do to get yourself thinking fresh thoughts. Check out Daniel Pink's book "A Whole New Mind" for some great suggestions and insights, and try these other ideas.
Make lists. The five people you'd most like to talk to, the five books you wish you were in, the five musicians you'd most like to hear perform.
Play word games. Crosswords, Qatanga, Words with Friends.
Go somewhere new. Near home or far from home, but really pay attention to what you're experiencing.
Go to the library. Spend time with books and magazines that you're sure do not interest you -- and surprise yourself.
People can help get your brain jumping. If you've been spending more time alone, reach out. Find friends who are interested in some new adventures and make a point of finding the time.
Back to the SAD topic. If you have noticed a seasonal pattern, this may be part of the dynamic. In that case, getting a light-therapy box can make all the difference (I swear by mine). Be sure to look into the options and get one that is powerful enough to help.
Exercise and get fresh air. Even if you're not a snow bunny, being in nature triggers an energy that keeps your mind fresh. And eat foods that feed the brain -- whole, fresh foods are good.
Again, consider what being creative means from a seasonal perspective. If it makes sense that you'd have a more dormant time, don't equate it with being wasted time. And consider whether binge watching a TV series is truly the way you want to spend time. Or at least balance it with some extra quiet time and reflection.
The last word
Shake off a winter slump by trying new experiences and keeping yourself moving.
Submit questions to Liz Reyer at email@example.com.
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