This week the prestigious Bridport Prize announced the winners of its annual prose and poetry competition. It was an honour to have two of my poems shortlisted again this year. I was very surprised that they liked the sleep-deprived pieces out of those submitted, which also happened to be the first two poems I wrote after having my little girl. I was suffering from chronic sleep deprivation and PND. It was a time when I thought my creativity had plummeted. When in fact, it was those challenging times that brought a wellspring of ideas and inspiration. I was just too shattered to do very much about it at the time.
You don’t need to be a poet or artist to tap into your creativity. Let’s face it, everyone can be creative, although some people might not think they’re naturally creative. People can be creative in different ways, from crafting at home to applying creative thinking to solve a problem. Being creative can have an effect on your life in many ways and help you to improve your wellbeing. It certainly has helped me.
Whether you already try to be creative, with words, art or in another field or perhaps you want to try and tap into a hidden creative side, you could make some simple improvements to your approach. Here are my top ways you can use creative thinking to make your life better.
1. Use Creative Problem-solving
Being creative can really help with solving problems of all kinds. If you can come up with some creative solutions to issues, it can help you in all walks of life. You might be trying to get your kids to behave, and instead of spending the day nagging them, you can distract them with something instead. Maybe at work, you could be the person to suggest a risky but creative way to solve a problem that pays off. Creative problem-solving can help you to think beyond the most obvious answers.
Top tip: Don’t be afraid to say the first thing that comes into your head during a brainstorm or if you’re working alone on something challenging, write down everything that comes into your head without stopping for five minutes to edit or reread your list, ideas or piece work. This allows you to tap into your subconscious more. If you ‘edit’ yourself too much, you will often stem the flow of creative ideas.
2. Use Creativity in Career and Business
A lot of people feel like there’s a contrast between work and being creative. Working is often something we do to support ourselves, and for others, being creative is something we do in our spare time. But there’s no reason that you can’t do both! You don’t necessarily have to be in a creative career, although I can personal contest to the fact you’ll have more creative freedom as a freelance writer or a graphic designer. Even in jobs that aren’t traditionally creative, you can still find ways to tap into your creativity.
Top tip: Use creative thinking to help think beyond the obvious. Research any online trend reports for your sector, see what the broadsheets are saying about your industry, what are your competitors up to? Tap into these emerging trends or observe the patterns in these trends and with your knowledge of your sector, try to pre-empt the seed of a new trend!
3. Make Being Creative a Form of Therapy
Doing anything creative can be a great way to improve your wellbeing. Whether you like to write, draw or do crafts, creative activities give you something to focus on and a creative outlet to express yourself. It can be a method of being more mindful and concentrating on the present. It’s also a good way to express your emotions so that you don’t bottle them up. If you want a form of therapy that you can do on your own (or with others), doing something creative could be really helpful. When I was extremely sleep deprived for the 18 months after the birth of my daughter, writing poems about what was happening felt like a lifeline for me.
Top tip: As soon as you wake up, try writing down some creative ideas for poems, paintings, fiction, some lyrics, a blog post or perhaps another kind of creative project. You’ll find that you’re more in tune with your subconscious mind, and your creativity, when you first wake for the day.
4. Improve Your Patience and Persistence
Creative activities can help you improve a range of skills and qualities. It can help you to learn better patience, appreciate delayed gratification, and be persistent to achieve your goals. Most creative projects will require you to be calm and patient and to be willing to improve your skills. If you decide to take up a new craft, you can’t expect to be brilliant at it straight away.
Top tip: I often find that I can’t force a new poem or short story. If I’m not in that space, it just won’t happen. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel inspired. Instead, do something you feel like you need to do in that moment but do return to it and try again the next day, and the day after, until you’re in that place.
I’ve personally found that allowing creativity into different areas of my life has improved it in many areas. As well as doing creative activities, use your creativity in your everyday life. Once you start thinking that way, you’ll find creativity cropping up in different guises!
When I wrote the first draft of those two poems, I remember having the luxury of one hour and fifteen minutes until I needed to head home to my little girl. Milk Moss & Baker in Norwich, plied me with cake and the hot black stuff, as I furiously wrote the skeletons of these two poems – one about sleep, the other about the hypnogogic state. They were only seeds at this stage and I revisited them weeks later with a fresh set of eyes.
I dedicate this small triumph to my little sleep thief, and all the Mums out there who don’t have “a sleeper”