For a lot of us, creative output is essential if we don’t want to lose the plot. One of the most effective stress relievers, the act of making something and the sense of accomplishment that comes with it is unmatchable. Sometimes just coming back after a long day at the office and sitting in front of the TV can be pretty soul destroying, and it’s crucial to have that extra release. I’m lucky enough to have a creative job, but I still need at least one or two of the other things in this post a week to stay sane.
I’ve summarised a whole breadth of creative processes into a mere four sections below, and have focused on small exercises to make it as manageable as possible, so this is by no means an exhaustive list. Personally I enjoy finishing projects, so the smaller the task the better it makes me feel. But if you simply can’t paint on anything less than a canvas as big as you, then go right ahead!
One of the most important things to remember is that you really have to dance like nobody’s watching. Perfection is the enemy of progress. Just make a mark, scribble a couple of words, make a mess. If that mess makes you the next Damien Hirst then great! Please remember me when you’re famous. And if not, it’s the act of doing. Just get something down, worry about what it really looks like later.
If you didn’t watch The Great Pottery Throwdown (Great British Bakeoff’s hippie aunt), I would really recommend catching up on iPlayer. They talk a lot about the clay being quite a sensual experience, and while I have yet to understand this aspect of plate-making it is so satisfying to sculpt something with your hands. Plus if you’re anywhere near as clumsy as me, having a constant influx of mugs and plates is no bad thing. There are hundreds of beginners classes you can take in London – check out a list here.
Keeping a diary is meant to be very therapeutic, but I’ve always found it a bit clichéd. Noughties tweenagers scribbling away with gel pens in reckless abandon. However, a sucker for a plan/ to do list formats, a while ago I was given a 5 Year Memory Book. Essentially a diary, it has five entries each day, which you fill in year on year. The idea is that you write a few lines on what happened that day, which is surprisingly easy, and can look back on the same day for the next five years and beyond. While initially sceptical, it’s surprisingly soothing. I think having the space cap helps – much like a tweet, it keeps things succinct and to the point. Plus self reflection is meant to help ward off stress and helps you sleep better. Double win! You can grab one here.
They also say (whoever ‘they’ are) that everyone has a novel in them. It’s a way off but if you need some structure to get you going, National Novel Writing Month – rather clumsily abbreviated as NaNoWriMo – happens every November, and has loads of encouragement from other people struggling just as much as you. If you just can’t wait until then, Nathan Bransford’s blog is a treasure trove of tips for the would-be author.
Following the same “do a little, just do something” mantra this post seems to be supporting, for the beginner painter (and as one myself), to start off with try and do one sketch every day. It can be the size of a postage stamp, but just get something down on paper. I love to use watercolours because they are nice and fluid – even a splodge can look pretty in the right light – but acrylics and oil paints also have super awesome qualities that you should check out. Have a go with each of them, try and stick to it for a week, and if you hate it, move on. This is meant to be fun after all, there’s no point if it’s adding to your stress! Again there are so many courses available, but if you’re really stuck try Lydia Makepeace’s Beginners Guide to Watercolour Supplies for some great tips.
Much like painting, the observational sport of drawing can take inspiration from anything and be conducted anywhere. I’d again recommend trying a sketch a day. Set yourself a time limit if you want, but (yet again) get something on the page. It’s the thought that counts kiddo, no one’s expecting you to become a master overnight. Have a stab at drawing that lamp in your boss’s office you stared at while being chewed out, or the fly on the wall you wish you were in the biannual health and safety lecture. If you still need more inspiration, this excellent book 642 Tiny Things To Draw has, you guessed it, 642 teeny weeny prompts that are sure to break through your mental block.