Living a creative life can be rewarding. Whether you are following purely artistic pursuits, or include elements as part of a more commercially-driven career, creativity helps to make the world a more interesting place. However, that’s not to say that your imaginative instincts are always going to be available when you need them.
There are varying opinions as to how to get through a block. Some people feel if you just consistently apply yourself to the practicalities of the task you can power through it. Others favor getting out into nature and recharging your positive energy. However, you can find that taking on a new hobby that sparks your curiosity can have a more holistic impact on your life, your work, and your overall creativity.
Let’s take a look at why this is, and how to maximize the benefits.
Gain Some Distance
You know what it’s like; sometimes you can just get stuck in a rut when trying to be creative in your chosen medium. While you can keep pushing at it, this can tend to leave you exhausted and disheartened over time. One of the ways to help yourself return to a creative mindset is to step away from your primary medium for a little while and try something else.
Starting a new hobby that is almost entirely different from your usual manner of working can be useful here. It gives you the ability to gain a little distance from the work that you may be putting pressure on yourself to achieve results in. In many ways, it’s giving yourself permission to engage in some playtime. You don’t have any expectations to excel in it, and you get to explore your emotional connection to the medium rather than what you are intending to achieve with it. This frees up your mind and your creative instincts.
In fact, creating that distance with a new hobby should mean stepping away from creative pursuits entirely. Exercise, for example, particularly in the outdoors, can invigorate your body and expose you to inspiring aspects of the world that you may be missing. There is also a physiologically beneficial effect that taking up a new aerobic hobby — such as running, cycling, or swimming — has on your brain. These activities are known to stimulate the growth of cells in the hippocampus; an area that is believed to help you to imagine new scenarios and think more creatively. At the very least, dedicated time away from the creative tasks at hand, purely focused on physical activity, can help you to return to them happier, healthier, and with more energy and enthusiasm.
Utilize New Skills
Taking on a new hobby is not just a chance to play, it’s also about discovering new ways of functioning. One of the best aspects of engaging in hobbies that are vastly different from your usual creative pursuits is that they’ll require alternative skillsets and often introduce you to new tools — physical, mental, and even emotional in nature. Often you’ll be able to apply these to your primary creative pursuits.
The type of tools that you gain will of course depend on the hobby you pursue. Those which require problem-solving — game design, animation, carpentry among them — will give you more than technical prowess. These activities tend to benefit from also utilizing techniques like visual planning, using mind-mapping software to break large concepts down into smaller ideas for specific focus. This approach then allows you to uncover new ways of thinking about the problem and creating actionable steps to solve it. One positive result being it gives you practical skills that you can bring back to your primary creative pursuits.
Even those skills that don’t appear to be directly transferable to your main craft can still make a difference. One of the elements that can cause creative blocks is becoming too reliant upon our familiar tools and techniques. The skills you gain from facing new challenges and having to adapt to them without the confidence of your expertise can make you a more holistically agile creator. You might not be able to bring your bakery skills to your graphic design work, but you still benefit from the experience of having to navigate new challenges.
Explore New Perspectives
A common contributor to creative block is the cultivation of a singular mindset. You can become so comfortable in your processes that you can fall into the trap of being unable to think outside of the box. Taking on a new hobby can introduce some valuable diversity into your personal and creative life, helping you to see the world — and your creativity — from new perspectives that you can take back to your work.
Part of the key to this is giving yourself permission to be a beginner. Accept that you don’t understand everything about your new hobby and be willing to start from the ground up. Photography can be a great creative hobby here, as in order to do it well there are a lot of techniques and processes to learn. While this might be intimidating at first, taking it slowly helps you to build not just skills, but an appreciation for them and how they’re used. Apply time to understanding the fine points of exposure, learn what each piece of equipment is used for, look into how light affects your results. This not only takes your photographs to the next level, it also teaches you to approach creativity from a new way of thinking.
Then you need to take time to explore the possibilities of your new hobby. One of the great things about being fresh to something is that you don’t know all of the rules — this naïveté can actually help your creativity because you are jumping in feet first without understanding your limitations. Take the plunge, go deep and discover what the world has to offer through this hobby. Experiencing the world through the lens of your time learning and exploring can send you back to your main creative work with a renewed sense of possibilities and an enthusiasm to engage.
Creativity might be a key part of your life, but it isn’t always going to be at your beck and call. Taking on a new hobby can help you to give yourself much-needed distance from reliable but stagnating processes and refresh your mindset. Alongside discovering new skills you also have the opportunity to see the world through a fresh and inspiring perspective that boosts your creativity and helps you to engage with a deeper enthusiasm.
Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer in Boise, ID. Ever since graduating the University of Montana with a degree in English, she spends her spare time gardening and cuddling with her cat, Casper.
Image courtesy of Porapak Apichodilok.