You yearn to create and play and experiment. But, between work and errands, between commitments and chores, there doesn’t seem to be much “free time.” There doesn’t seem to be much time to simply mess around, to follow ideas, to dance with them, to swirl them around your tongue like a piece of candy. Because maybe you work long hours. Maybe you’re a parent (to one, two, three kids). Maybe you’re an entrepreneur who wears many hats.
Maybe you’re all of it. And you love it (or maybe sometimes you don’t). And you also long to have a few moments to create (instead of consume), to try silly things, to genuinely connect to yourself (and to others).
So what can you do?
Create in the nooks and crannies of your days. Create in the margins.
Play with imaginative prompts for 5 minutes. Involve your family and friends. Start seeing the world using curiosity and wonder as your lens. Start seeing silly for what it is: life-giving. Make it a priority to let your mind wander and daydream. The below tips might help…
- Draw with your mouth. As artist Jon Burgerman writes in his brilliant book It’s Great to Create: 101 Fun, Creative Exercises for Everyone, “The basics of drawing are all present: holding a pen and moving it across the page, but doing it this way feels completely alien and new.” You can do this with someone else, too—like your spouse or kids or best friend. You can even try to draw each other.
- Illustrate your favorite sounds. “Can you visually describe your favorite sounds without using any letter forms?” writes Burgerman. “Just use shapes, colors and lines and see if you can make a cacophony on the page.” What does the sound of your favorite bird look like? What does the sound of a violin look like? What about the sound of your child’s laughter? Or the sounds of Christmas morning?
- Make a pocket-sized zine. This is another fun tip from Burgerman’s book. Make a small pocket booklet. Use it to document your day by drawing diary entries. You can doodle everything from what you ate for breakfast to strangers you noticed at the park or on the train. If you have kids, suggest they create their own zines for a day, too.
- Carry a tiny notebook with you everywhere to jot down random observations, thoughts and feelings (because when you’re busy, and your brain is full, bite-sized insights and doodles are perfect). Wouldn’t it be great if we carried such notebooks and used them as often as we do our smartphones? It’s also a much needed reminder that creativity is not at odds with our lives. It resides within them. We just need to be ready to document it.
- Describe in great detail an object on your desk, which just might be the start of your novel. As author and novelist Katharine Grubb writes in that piece, “In your story, your characters have things around them that they carry, move, acquire, protect, cherish, or investigate. You will need to describe them. The richer your description, the more value you put to the item, the more the reader will pick up on its importance.” Grubb, who home-schools her five kids, penned her novel in just 10-minute increments.
- Communicate using only images. Burgerman suggests having a conversation with someone using only drawings. (Also a fantastic activity to do with kids.)
When our days are so full, it can easily feel like there’s no space for play or for silliness. It can easily feel like there’s no time to create. And there are certainly different seasons in life when that’s absolutely true. Seasons filled with new transitions—moving, taking on a new position, becoming a parent—when we get just a few minutes to ourselves. Seasons when our schedules are jam-packed.
But there are also many days when we can experiment with a prompt—or two. Days when we can live inside our imagination, and daydream for a while. Even if a while is 10 minutes. Notice the nooks and crannies in your days. Notice where you can add a silly activity. Notice where a shift in perspective helps you to marvel at something you previously dismissed. Think of all the different ways you can be creative in your day. Because there really are so many.