Editor’s Note: Nurturing Creativity

As someone who often expresses vulnerability on social media, I recently made an Instagram post about my current woe: the challenge of nurturing my own creativity.

Like any skill — playing a sport, driving a car, learning an instrument — practice makes perfect. I can just hear my mother’s voice now, as my 10-year-old self struggled in front of our Yamaha keyboard an hour before piano lessons. I hadn’t practiced all week and my teacher would know, my mother warned.

I find myself now in the same position. Since finishing my English degree years ago, I struggle to really connect with books when I used to live for fiction. I used to play guitar as a way to destress, but now they sit in their cases, collecting dust. In my teen years, and even in university, I would spend hours writing personal essays or short fiction, and now, the thought of writing for fun seems more like a waste than a valuable use of time.

Just like I struggled to master pentatonic scales on the piano at 10-years-old, I’m struggling to connect with a piece of myself I used to be so in tune with.

I’m a highly emotional person. Parents often brag about their kids in tangible skills: “Oh my Johnny is so good at math for his age, you wouldn’t even believe it,” or “Lucy’s hockey team won their championship this year; we’re so proud!”

But for me, it was that I could “feel” more than other kids. I don’t know whether it was a brag or a search for pity, but I was often described as “highly compassionate, emotional, the kind of kid who carries the weight of the world rather than completing her math homework.”

I was so bad at math homework.

A healthy way I began to express these emotions was through writing, and now that I feel my writing has become more “robotic,” I’m afraid that I might lose the outlet that kind of kept me at bay.

I asked anyone who saw my post what they do to nurture their creativity, and I found a lot of the responses quite helpful. I wanted to share them in case you might be feeling the same way.

Caitlyn of My Tech Wardrobe told me that when she has a couple of free hours, she thinks about how she would have used that time before full-time jobs and adult life. This usually sets her back on a creative path.

Katie, an old high school friend, told me that she thinks we assume friends and other important people in our lives should take priority over the things that bring us serenity. She said she plans time in her week to paint and read.

Diana, a photographer, said that routine is what can sometimes cause us to lose passion. She encouraged me to read other writing to inspire me to start my own projects.

Jen of Oh Hello Bug suggested I try something new — a new craft or recipe — to keep things fresh. I liked this suggestion because I do get an intense satisfaction from trying something new and getting it right.

The most valuable piece of advice, however, came from my friend and visual artist, Kate. She told me that she stopped feeling creative because she started filtering her process through how she imagined other people would see her work. She said: “I was trying to create from a foundation that wasn’t even mine.” Kate said after reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, she’s finally able to make things again without a plan, and just for the sheer enjoyment of it.

I should get myself a copy of that book.

I think a lot of creative people lose a sense of their own foundation. I know I have. The idea to create for yourself, I think, is when our most authentic work will come out.

My goal for the end of the year is to start rebuilding that foundation, and then once I feel like I own that creative foundation again, following the other pieces of advice will prove to be easy.