Creative writing is a calling, but it can also feel like a painful, self-defeating exercise if you’re feeling run down, exhausted, or uninspired. One way to kick-start your creative brain is to try something else that complements your writing practice. There are many worthwhile creative pursuits out there, and combining two or more can help provide some much-needed respite and inspiration on your down days.
Part of picking up a secondary creative pursuit is giving yourself permission to do something badly. I love writing (and I also do it for my job) so the stakes are higher when I write, both emotionally and professionally. But the great thing about a different form of art is that I can do it without pressure – I don’t have to do it well. It does not pay my rent or feed my family. The stakes are low, and I want to keep them that way.
We also benefit physically and neurologically from lighthearted artistic pursuits: the National Institute of Health says that “Engagement with creative activities has the potential to contribute toward reducing stress and depression and can serve as a vehicle for alleviating the burden of chronic disease.” A study in Germany found that making art could delay or negate age-related decline of particular brain functions. Even looking at art can help reduce stress.
Creative and artistic pursuits can also eventually serve as fodder for your writing: how many times have you read a novel where the protagonist has a particular hobby that ends up tying deeply into the story? The more you end up knowing about a subject like playing the violin or painting, the easier it is for you to integrate into your next novel as additional depth to your characters.
When you start a new hobby, make sure that you keep it light: intentionally maintain low stakes. In this case, you’re not picking up something new in order to master it – remember, it doesn’t have to pay your bills and you aren’t competing for the Olympics. Instead, try something just to test it out and to see how it affects your brain and body.
Make sure you use the internet! As many awful things as there are online, there is also a treasure trove of self-learning knowledge that anyone can access. Many things can be learned by reading, listening to audio, or watching video. Explore and see what suits your fancy!
Here are a couple ideas for creative pursuits that can help trigger the creativity in your writing:
Take a visual art class (or just try it on your own)
I’m taking a sculpting class at the moment, and I find it incredibly relaxing. I’m not good at sculpting (at all) and sometimes, part of the entertainment is laughing at my attempts to replicate my face in clay (sigh). You could also try painting or drawing – check out artists studios and art museums for classes near you.
Take a dance, yoga, or martial arts class
There are many benefits to exercise, and getting your blood flowing is just one. With dance, yoga, and martial arts, there is space to get into your body and feel the movement of your muscles and bones, and letting go of anything but the movement can be incredibly freeing for your mind. The focus on the breath in yoga and many martial arts is also extremely beneficial for your brain.
Learn an instrument
This is probably the most expensive way to start a new hobby because taking up an instrument means likely buying that instrument. But if learning an instrument is something you’ve wanted to try in the past, why not start now? You could find the instrument itself second-hand on Craigslist or Kijiji, which can cut your starting costs significantly.
Learn to knit or crochet
It can seem daunting, but the beautiful thing about knitting and crocheting is that there are only a few basic stitches to learn. Once you have those down, you can pretty much do anything! Your local yarn store should have introductory workshops for cheap, and then away you go. Once you get comfortable, these are also great skills to have to make gifts for friends and family – but don’t worry about making that the goal.
Learn a crafting skill
Pinterest is a boundless fountain of DIY ideas. Want to get out of your head for a while? Find a step-by-step DIY project and do it. Use dollar stores and yard sales for supplies so that you don’t feel like your finished product has to be a masterpiece – the point is not to be productive, but simply to work with your hands and do something you enjoy for the sake of doing it. Under this category, you could also try gardening – in your yard, in a community garden, or in planters on your balcony.
There are many ways to boost your creativity in everyday life. How do you do it? Let me know in the comments!