On Flexing Creative Muscles

The Gist

How expressing ourselves across different artistic mediums can help us build stronger creative muscles over time

Flexing my photography muscles on a recent overnight in the desert
04. 05. 2020.
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EXPERIMENT

This is a post about diversifying your skills and becoming a more flexible creative! And you know that means guaranteed fun. The more work you put into diversifying your creative skillset, no matter what level you achieve, the more adaptable you'll be in the long run. It's all about creating new neural connections in that beautiful brain of yours.

First I'll take a minute to appreciate the wonder that is diversity. Diversity is one of the key principles of life. It's essential to unlocking new and fresh perspectives, to innovation and progress. Few breakthroughs in science or technology or art were ever made through homogeneity, through staying the course and not changing anything. Progress comes through the diverse mixing of ideas; through experimentation; through trial and error.

The more we allow ourselves to experience the new and unknown, the more we can translate new skills into new environments.

Again, the importance of diversity is easily observable in nature. Unless forms of life test their features against different environments and adapt to them, they'll fail or die. Giving ourselves the opportunity to observe how skills translate (or don't) is a huge advantage over time. It's all about experimentation: testing, trying, failing, learning.

For example, let's say you're a digital designer, and you design mobile apps for a living. It's your bread and butter. But you've never tried designing anything in 3D, so when you start to design a wooden table you get a bit frazzled at first. You struggle just to imagine how to design in the physical world. Struggling through that process to the finished product (however tough, or however amateur it might look, however much you hate it) will create new connections in your brain that over time will become more flexible as you continue to add more tools to your mental modeling toolbox.

The more you exercise your creative muscles by diversifying the ways in which you use them, the stronger and more adaptable they'll become over time.

The more you exercise your creative muscles by diversifying the ways in which you use them, the stronger and more adaptable they'll become over time.

Think about applying this in your own daily practice. What types of activities could you engage in to flex your creativity when you're offline? What kinds of things have you looked at, thinking "I wish I could make that"? Well you can if you try, because really: why not? Everyone, even the most talented designers, artists and makers that you admire, has been a beginner in their craft. Everyone has sucked at some point, so give yourself a break.

Everyone has sucked at some point.

So what are you waiting for? Try something new. In case you need some inspiration, here's a list of starter, creative-muscle-flexing ideas:

  • Take on a small DIY project at home. If you could redesign your living room to better suit your day-to-day activities, how would you do it?
  • Write a short story about something funny or weird or scary that happened to you or someone else.
  • Design a photo book for fun. Take your favorite pictures and pretend like you're creating a book for someone else, to experience your day to day life or a favorite trip you took. Write short captions, capturing your unique voice and tone.
  • Next time you make a meal, plate it creatively. How would you serve your dish if you were a master chef?
  • Grab a pencil and paper and imagine what your spirit animal would be, taking different features from different animals and combining them into one mythical creature. Just because.
  • Google "storyboard template" and create a short film about something that just happened to you by sketching out frame by frame scenes. What would the soundtrack be? Create a 12 track playlist.
  • Design a small application that makes you smile. Have you ever thought of a mobile app idea? Create a quick set of wireframes with a pencil and paper. What would the first screen look like when you opened it? Jump off from there. Let your ideas flow!

These are just a handful of things that you can do to challenge yourself outside of your 9 to 5. They're fun, productive, and most of all, will make you smile. If you're not having fun while you're designing something new, think about why you're doing it.

Creative energy is never wasted, it just goes out into the universe and inspires someone else to create.

And if any of these things feels like a waste of time, don't worry about that. Creative energy is never wasted, it just goes out into the universe and inspires someone else to create.

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