I strongly believe that every job is a creative job and that even a spreadsheet can be a thing of beauty, if executed with the right mindset. As it happens, I’m exceptionally lucky, in that I get to work on challenging, fresh creative advertising every working day. It’s hard not to be inspired, but taking that feeling outside of work has been a challenge.
And that’s a real shame. You might think that this is the point in the blog where I refer to a study which links creativity to work productivity. But I’m not going to do that – not because it doesn’t – but because seeing creativity as another data point on the path to full self-optimisation is exactly the kind of thinking that kills the fun. Yes, having a creative outlet has been proven to improve performance at work, but it has value in and of itself that far outweighs even this benefit.
Firstly, it’s active meditation, a point of focus that can help to soothe a fidgety brain. The feeling of complete immersion when you’re playing an instrument, letting thoughts solidify into new and misshapen words, capturing a fleeting moment with your camera, is so rare and so precious. When in happens, it feels essential.
It’s also an opportunity to broaden your sense of self, and to cast your mental net a little wider. On a regular day we are confronted by curated social media timelines, a set schedule, and a defined scope of projects to work on. Grabbing the excuse to read more widely, to meet people we wouldn’t otherwise meet or to explore our own thoughts and feelings in more depth can open up whole new worlds. It might not necessarily make you smarter, but it will definitely make you a more interesting person.
My old karate teacher would sometimes arrive to class wearing the white belt of a beginner. On those days, he would say that he was focussing on reviving his ‘beginner mindset’. Once you reach a certain age or stage in your career, it can hurt to feel like an amateur. But there is so much freedom in starting something from a place of simple curiosity, and having a space where you can overcome your fear of experimentation and failure.
Finally, if it goes well, then having a success outside of work builds our interior resilience too; not every day at work can be the best day. Projects come to an abrupt end, priorities shift and clients change their minds. Having a personal project where you control the pace, crafting something only as you have the time and the inclination, is a wonderful antidote.
In our office we have writers, directors, VR enthusiasts, crafters, musicians and Greek dancers (three guesses on who that one is). So who am I trying to convince? I suppose, myself. I’m a former musician, ex radio presenter, sometime scribbler, and thanks to some dodgy work by the former owners of my flat, part-time amateur interior designer. I have a Polaroid that I’m too afraid to use, and my Dad’s old cameras waiting on a shelf. I’ve started and abandoned at least three blogs – including the one whose title literally came to me in a dream (a Scottish healthy cooking blog called… Eschewin’ the Fat. I thank you.)
So I’m going to start small and carve out some time to experiment, blow the dust off the piano, try a little more cooking, a little bit of writing. Because the little things are important, and those little things can become big things too.