Iesha Small

writer, speaker, charity strategist

Exploring society, education, leadership and how to live a meaningful life.

Finding creativity when your world has shrunk

 

Creativity requires input, stimulus and space to make connections. 2020 has seen a reduction of these in many of our lives so what is the knock on effect for creativity and problem solving?

This week I have left my home to do the following things

  • take the dog for her 20 minute morning walk
  • do a 5 minute car drive to drop the kids off and pick them up from school*
  • meet a friend for a walk in the woods

I think that’s it.

The environment in my car is the same day to day, as is the place where my laptop is for work. Most of my colleagues on their zoom calls have the same background when we have meetings, so I recognise the plant to the left, the pile of books in the background to the right.

There is a sameness to life that makes me, a person who is likes to keep sharp and fresh by learning and noticing new things, feel a bit stale.

Pre Covid I’d get inspiration from so many places

  • travelling for work
  • noticing interesting textures or backgrounds in new restaurants of coffee shops
  • meeting people
  • overheard conversations on the train or a queue
  • daydreaming while waiting for somebody
  • visiting a random gallery in a lunch break or after a meeting
  • impromptu visits to friends and family who also work at home

Now it seems like life has shrunk and with it the small sparks of creativity. Just before writing this blog, I was listening to the Masters of Scale podcast with Colleen DeCourcy, CEO of the advertising agency responsible for Nike’s advertising. Their business is based on creative people having ideas for clients.  Many of the team are finding 2020 difficult because many of their usual ways of finding inspiration were less available (either because they were physically closed or changes in life circumstances and patterns due to Covid meant there was less time to access them).

I believe that creativity is not just for people with obviously creative jobs or hobbies. Creativity is about solving problems, asking important questions and finding better ways of doing things. It’s about adapting to the world around us and creating the world we want to see. It’s important for all of us to find ways to hone our creativity, especially now when a pandemic is forcing many of us to work, live and love in different ways.

So, how do we stay creatively fresh is a world where are new inputs have shrunk, life feels smaller and stress and uncertainty can make space and time needed for creative thought seem like a luxury?

It's important for all of us to find ways to hone our creativity, especially now when a pandemic is forcing many of us to work, live and love in different ways. Click To Tweet

The writer and artist Austin Kleon, encourages us to “Steal like an Artist,” in his book he quotes an artist who encourages us to take inspiration from everywhere

Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal that speak to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic). – Jim Jarmusch

As I copied out the quote above, I realised that many of the things mentioned are available at any time, whether or not there is a lockdown or global pandemic. Perhaps the main difference is the time that feels available (or that we allow ourselves) to notice.

Life has shrunk so maybe now inspiration for creativity comes from noticing smaller things. I can choose different routes to walk the dog. I’ve started choosing random playlists on Spotify so I can discover new music that I wouldn’t ordinarily listen to and this blog post was inspired by a podcast I heard. Novelty is still available.

Life has shrunk so maybe now inspiration for creativity comes from noticing smaller things. Click To Tweet

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*Normally we’d walk but now that the school doesn’t offer wrap around care because of Covid it means it would take too much time out of the working day

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If you are interested in the human side of leadership buy my book, The Unexpected Leader

Finding creativity when your world has shrunk