Do you consider yourself a creative person? Or like many of us, do you exclude yourself from that description? This week we’ll talk about creativity and where it fits into our lives as women who care about productivity and making lives that matter.
Creativity and creative expression are vital components of a productive life
I’ve been thinking lately about creativity and the urge for creative expression. My work is very cerebral, very left brain (left brain handles reading, writing, and calculations; it’s the logical side; the right brain is more visual, deals in images more than words; intuitive side – see Left Brain vs. Right Brain: What Does This Mean for Me?). [Left: thinking in words, sequencing, linear thinking, math, facts, logic; Right: feelings visualization, imagination, intuition, rhythm, holistic thinking, arts]
I’ve been feeling the need, I guess, to use more of my right brain–something creative. For me, it comes out in decorating my home, learning to do crafts using my Cricut machine. But I don’t always make time for this, and want to do more. I started researching it and found a ton of resources out there, including a book I’ll mention several times that I just found in my research for this episode and have only just started reading.
What is creativity
From Oxford Languages: “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.”
From Merriam-Webster online dictionary: “the ability to create” or “the quality of being creative” (synonyms: cleverness, imaginativeness, innovativeness, originality, ingeniousness, invention, imagination, ingenuity, inventiveness)
- “Creative”: “marked by the ability or power to create: given to creating”
From Wikipedia: “Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea, a scientific theory, a musical composition, or a joke) or a physical object (such as an invention, a printed literary work, or a painting).”
From Britannica: “ the ability to make or otherwise bring into existence something new, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form.”
From Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World by Eve Rodsky:
“The active and open pursuit of self-expression in any form, and which requires value-based curiosity and purposeful sharing of this pursuit with the world. Like the mythical equine that inspired the name, it doesn’t exist until you give yourself permission to reclaim, discover, and nurture the natural gifts and interests that make you you.”
What are the components of creativity?
Some components of creativity are curiosity, risk-taking, and independence of thought.
From Britannica: Personality characteristics shown to be associated with creative productivity include autonomy; mastery of a particular domain; self-assurance; for some, “an exceptionally deep, broad, and flexible awareness of themselves”; unconventionality of thought; introversion; curiosity and problem-seeking; high intelligence.
“In fact, independence is critical to the creative process, in that creative people must often be able to work alone and must also be willing to express ideas or develop products that others might perceive as radical. It should be pointed out, however, that a nonconformist lifestyle is not essential to creativity; indeed, many creative individuals lead quite ordinary lives, expressing their autonomy mainly in their unconventional ideas and work.”
“Creative individuals seem to have a need to seek novelty and an ability to pose unique questions.”
Edwin Land (American scientist and inventor of the Polaroid “Land” camera): “An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.”
“The basic set of personality characteristics that characterize highly creative individuals regardless of sex or professional field includes self-confidence, need for autonomy, openness to experience, originality, flexibility, tolerance for ambiguity, stubbornness, persistence, independence, willingness to take risks and lack of self-control.” [From Creative Women: Their Potential, Personality, and Productivity (Marilyn Partridge Rieger and Maija S. Blaubergs, scholarly paper that surveys, analyzes, and discusses scholarly research on creativity and women; published on Canadian Woman Studies journal/website)]
How is creativity expressed?
Many of us think we’re not creative because we don’t paint or write poetry or make movies, BUT it’s not just about “art”. Creative thinking is expressed in many ways. (This is something mentioned in a podcast episode I listened to [Creativity vs. Productivity, June 12, 2022, episode of Thriving Women Artists podcast], where although it’s a podcast for and by women artists, they made a point of saying that creativity isn’t limited to art; can also be about how you think.) Creativity can be expressed in:
- Finding a system to organize your pantry or your desk so it functions the way you need to
- Decorating your home
- Sorting out a schedule or routine that works for you and your family
- Finding a way to potty-train your toddler or get your school-aged child to school on time
- Putting meals on the table that your family will eat
- Planning and “producing” holiday or anniversary events that bring people together to celebrate what’s important to you
- Researching and implementing a strategy at the office to facilitate better communication between people or departments
“creativity is often associated with art but that doesn’t mean that creativity is all about being artistic. Nor does it mean that you’re not creative if you don’t draw, paint or design clothing. Everyone is inherently creative, we’ve possessed this power since we were born. [From Don’t Think You Are Creative? Think Again! A Different Look at the Meaning of Creativity, by Katie Trowbridge on Curiosity 2 Create published August 9, 2021]
Figuring out what creative expression you want to pursue calls for you to go deep into your heart and allow yourself to be honest about what you find there. Eve Rodsky, in her thought-provoking book Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World encourages us to ask ourselves some questions:
“What does your heart sing for? What does your body crave? What piques your curiosity? What does your intellect yearn for? What did you give up that you want to get back to? Do you want to return to school? Pick up an instrument? Learn another language? Go to circus camp? Climb a mountain? Perfect your Cantonese cooking? Or maybe just carve out some quiet time to paint?”
How does creativity relate to productivity?
Many resources support the idea that creativity enhances productivity, or put another way, a lack of creative expression impairs productivity.
“research shows that when women ignore, suppress, or deny themselves time and space for personal expression, they are less productive and invested in their work.” [From Creativity Leads to Productivity; by Eve Rodsky, author of Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World]
But some of the resources I looked at seem to see creativity and productivity as being opposites or in conflict. An episode of the Thriving Women Artists podcast (Creativity vs. Productivity, June 12, 2022) talked about this and although they agreed we all need both, the gist of their discussion seemed to assume they’re separate and opposite; some of their ideas I made note of as I listened:
- Creativity is play and experimentation, with no objective or specific outcome in mind; productivity is outcome-oriented
- Creativity can be personal (just for you); doesn’t have to be shared with anyone; productivity, by contrast, is about a product to be shared?
- “Productivity is measurable; creativity is not.”
- “Creativity doesn’t have a goal; it’s full of surprises.”
- Productivity: high level of concentration and focus; creativity is unstructured
- But one of them said, “to be creative you need to be productive, and vice versa”
From The conflict between productivity and creativity, by Jane Benston (blog post):
Distinguishing between productivity and creativity at work and explaining why they can be in conflict, she says:
“Productivity quite simply is about getting more done and is measured based on how quickly we can do what needs to be done to achieve personal and company goals. It’s structured and is all about moving forward, fast. Creativity on the other hand requires large stretches of unstructured time to allow the ideas to flow and the solutions to come forward. It requires us to stop; to create space. We are often our most creative at times of nothingness.”
“Creativity can also be a messy, chaotic process where you take one step forward and two steps back. It’s within the mess and chaos that the moments of brilliance emerge.”
She says: “The simple truth is, it’s nigh on impossible to be creative and productive at the same time. Productivity and creativity do not sit well together. Our brain needs a completely different set of circumstances to be creative than it does to be productive.” I’m not sure whether I agree with her that it’s impossible to be both at the same time, but it is true different circumstances facilitate each.
Benston’s top 3 tips for managing the conflict between productivity and creativity:
- “Slow down to power up” – take breaks
- “Schedule in quiet time to plan at the beginning of each week. Block out time in your diary reserved for uninterrupted creative time. Switch off your connection with the office once you get home and make sure you are taking time regularly throughout the year to completely disconnect, relax and recharge.”
- “Do it in batches” – set aside chunks of time for (1) “productive” get-it-done work and (2) tasks that require creativity.
- “Give up the guilt” – we’re so conditioned to think we should be grinding it out, “producing” all the time, that setting aside quiet, unstructured time for creativity feels wrong. She suggests letting go of that guilt, giving yourself permission to do it, and noticing the quality and quantity of ideas and solutions that come out of it.
Why does creative expression matter to us as women?
It matters professionally
- From The Creativity Bias Against Women (Daisy Grewal on Scientific American site, December 8, 2015):
- Creativity (i.e., creative thinking and problem-solving) is highly prized in many businesses (e.g., Silicon Valley).
- BUT: “A recent paper by Devon Proudfoot, Aaron Kay, and Christy Koval at the Fuqua School of Business suggests that in certain contexts, people are more likely to associate creativity with men than with women. If this is true, then women may see their professional opportunities limited in workplaces where creativity is highly prized. . . .”
It matters to our mental health and personal growth
In Don’t Think You Are Creative? Think Again! A Different Look at the Meaning of Creativity, writer Katie Trowbridge notes the “immense benefits” to be gained from engaging in the creative process; it:
- boosts mental health
- increases the ability to problem solve
- improves comfortability with change and failure
- embraces our curiosity”
In an article called Creativity Leads to Productivity, Eve Rodsky (author of Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World) says that “setting realistic boundaries, clearly communicating my needs, and prioritizing my time—again and again and again—is the antidote to burnout, resentment, and a lost sense of self. Said the other way around, exercising time choice is how we find ourselves again and infuse our lives with more connection, fulfillment, and meaning.”
Abigail K, in a video and blog post on LinkedIn.com, warns us that “ if you don’t start prioritising your self care, personal wellness and your own needs, desires and care-free joys, you’ll become more disconnected from yourself, your vision and your purpose, and you’ll begin to resent the work and the very people you love to impact.” [From Working From Home Tips for Entrepreneurs: Self Care & Productivity for women over 40]
It adds meaning and joy to our life
As Eve Rodsky tells us, “Finding joy and meaning. Sharing with others. Deepening connections between generations and cosmos. These are just some of the benefits we start to receive when we invest in our creative lives—even (or especially) when the rest of our world feels out of control.” [from Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World )
It helps us be more resilient
Life is full of challenges. As Vivian Greene has said, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.’” Eve Rodsky believes that engaging in creative endeavors “won’t serve to replace or stop the storms from coming. What it will do is help you weather them. The truth is, if we want to avoid burning out, we each have to find time to step back; cultivate our curiosities, interests, and passions; and remember who we are apart from our jobs and our family roles.” [from Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World]
It strengthens our relationships
Plenty of research shows that “creativity is also essential to the health of your partnerships and your ability to model what a full and meaningful life looks like to your children, your friends and colleagues, and your communities.” [from Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World by Eve Rodsky]
It makes our life better and more meaningful in numerous ways
I found lots of documentation of this. For example:
- Creativity “helps us solve complex problems; prepares us for the unseen future; helps us change; improves our sense of well-being; gives our curiosity somewhere to go” [from The Benefits of Creativity: Need Confidence? Be Creative! by Katie Trowbridge on Curiosity 2 Create blog]
- As Eve Rodsky notes, based on years of personal observations and hundreds of interviews: “those people who make and take time for activities and pursuits outside of their work, their family, and other obligations are not only happier, but they articulated an increase in productivity, performance, workplace loyalty, and job fulfillment.” [From Creativity Leads to Productivity; by Eve Rodsky, author of Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World]
How can we boost our creativity?
Foster a “perpetual student” mindset – be curious and always looking to learn new things, whether about areas you already have knowledge of or entirely new topics, skills, etc.
From Left Brain vs. Right Brain: What Does This Mean for Me?:
- Read about and listen to other people’s creative ideas
- Try something new (a creative hobby, like playing an instrument, drawing, or storytelling. “A relaxing hobby can help your mind wander to new places.”)
- Look within (be curious about yourself and why you do what you do)
- Get outside your usual routines and comfort zone. Go somewhere new; immerse yourself in a different culture; take a class in a subject you know nothing about.)
- Create spaces (personal and professional) that nurture creativity
Their recommended “Tips and Tricks”:
- When you get new ideas, write them down and work on developing them further.
- Brainstorm. When you face a problem, try to find several ways to get to a solution.
- When doing simple chores, such as washing the dishes, leave the TV off and let your mind wander to new places.
- Rest, relax, and laugh to let your creative juices flow.
From Having a Creative Space Can Make You More Productive:
- Businesses are finding that “Not only can a creative [work] space lead to innovation, but it can make employees more productive.”
- “72 percent of workers believe their future success in a company relies on their ability to be creative. Many employees feel this way because creativity and the ability to generate new ideas is a metric of success in the modern workplace.”
- This article is speaking to employers, but the same can apply to us individually: “The best thing you can do to foster creativity and productivity in your office is to design a creative space where employees will innovate and generate new ideas.”
- The article suggests: rethink your office furniture, wall art, lighting. Surround employees (self) with things that inspire and motivate to create the best work possible. Incorporate nature (e.g., plants)
From 5 Ways to Boost Your Creativity (YT video, Joel Pelsue, Arts & Entertainment Ministries)
- Change your environment (coffee shop, trade workspaces with another person, park)
- Take time for a side project. (forces blood to flow to different areas of your brain; examples: write a poem, sketch someone, take some artistic photos, plant some flowers or herbs)
- Express gratitude and forgiveness. (When we don’t, our own soul is stunted; failure to forgive clogs our mind. Send a thank-you letter to someone who’s inspired or encouraged you.)
- Cross-pollination. (Whatever creative area you’re used to, try a different one. Get out of your comfort zone. My thought: “artist’s breaks” – go to an art or history museum; the women artists talking about nurturing creativity by exposing yourself to beauty)
- Take a sabbath. (We all need breaks. “We are more than our jobs.” We need to sleep, we need to play. Value in taking one day a week away from your work.)
From Creativity, on the Yes Education website:
Some of their strategies to “release and enhance your creativity”:
- Try new things.
- Embrace austerity. “Life can be way too chaotic. Go camping with nothing but a tent, sleeping bag, and bottle of water. Leave the distractions at home!”
- Put your subconscious to work by posing a question to yourself as you fall asleep.
- Change your location
- Schedule time to be creative. (This reminds me of a quote I’ve heard many times — “Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”) Sometimes we need to put ourselves in a place to be ready when inspiration comes. By establishing a routine and perhaps associated rituals, we train our minds to produce creative ideas, etc., in response to the trigger–a habit of creativity
- Exercise–there are those who believe there’s a link between physical exertion and creativity. Gets the blood flowing to the brain, which maybe will get our creative juices flowing.
- Listen to music. “Einstein claimed listening to Mozart enhanced his creativity.”
From Creativity vs. Productivity, June 12, 2022, episode of Thriving Women Artists podcast (my notes while listening to the episode):
- In order to foster creativity, you have to allow chunks of unstructured time.
- Creativity can be fueled (they said “stimulated”) by exposing yourself to beauty: sights, sounds, and smells. Examples they gave: growing plants, making a recipe that fills the house with delicious smells
- Do something with your body to allow your mind to roam – walking, knitting, etc. Allow your mind to wander while you’re doing something “productive” but routine, like washing the dishes or working out.
- When you are doing something creative, let it be playful. (I think of the Edwin Land quote about not being afraid to fail.)
- Even if you don’t feel creative, do something; often creativity will come
How can we make time to nurture creativity?
- Use the productivity skills we talk about all the time to be more efficient and effective, thereby freeing up time for creative pursuits.
- Prioritize creative pursuits–don’t try to fit it in around other stuff, but intentionally block out time for it, even if it means sacrificing something else (TV time? Social media time?) We make time for what’s important to us.
“Your time is finite—like diamonds—and thereby valuable. So preserve some of it for yourself by making the intentional choice to step away from everything that is demanding it from you. Your space is limited, too, so give yourself permission to be “unavailable” so that you may engage in creative pursuits that fulfill you.” [from Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World by Eve Rodsky]
“It is a mistake, and it will be to our detriment, if we reframe creative self-expression as a distraction, a privilege, an indulgence, or a simple additive to our lives during hard times. No, creativity is essential work. Still. Today. Tomorrow. And during the next hard time.” [from Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World by Eve Rodsky]
- Give yourself permission to start small and do it in small bits of time.
From Working From Home Tips for Entrepreneurs: Self Care & Productivity for women over 40; video and post by Abigail K, published November 3, 2021, on LinkedIn.com:
Her 7 tips (things you can implement in a week):
- Pockets of routine – your life needs a solid foundation built on one intentional habit at a time; “your morning routine is the cornerstone of building an intentional self-designed life”
- Pockets of solitude – “undisturbed alone time so you can connect with your thoughts and your emotions” (2-10 minutes at a time; not a time to scroll through social media; put your phone on silent and leave it in another room; sit silently with your own thoughts–my note: we don’t feel comfortable doing this, which maybe explains why we don’t feel creative–no chance for inspiration); helps if you can get out into nature; keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas or inspirations that come up
- Pockets of transition – specific ritual or demonstration for intentionally moving from one task to another–make a cup of coffee; move from one location to another; also an end-of-day ritual where you signal to yourself that your work day is ending
- Pockets of creativity – she’s added this to her morning routine; encourages us to learn some new creative skill and practice it; drawing, writing, etc. Take a class (e.g., on Skillshare)
- Pockets of surprise – she suggests using the phrase “surprising and delightful” as an answer to rote questions like “how was your day?” or “how was your meal?” Answering with this phrase evokes feelings of . . . surprise and delight. My thought: just like developing a gratitude journal practice triggers our mind to look for things to be grateful for, adding this phrase to our repertoire might trigger our subconscious to be on the alert for moments of surprise and delight. She suggests letting yourself be spontaneous.
- Pockets of connection – instead of using social media as a social crutch, find ways to connect in real time; deeper conversations; meaningful connections
- Pockets of change – get out of your physical space and routines regularly; while it might feel disruptive in the moment, the change in scenery and routine will spark creative ideas, etc.
Eve Rodsky urges us to make this a priority:
“While allowing time for creative expression may sound counter-productive, and while not easy to do in our busy world, it is not an optional add-on to your life, but essential for all people, regardless of your circumstances or financial privilege. . . .” [From Creativity Leads to Productivity; by Eve Rodsky, author of Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World
“a creative life is not a nice-to-have but a must-have. It is essential to our sense of self, our physical and mental well-being, the health of our partnerships, and our ability to model what a full and meaningful life looks like to our children, our friends and colleagues, and our communities.” [from Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World by Eve Rodsky]
Elizabeth Gilbert agrees. In her inspiring book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, she says this:
“I firmly believe that we all need to find something to do in our lives that stops us from eating the couch. Whether we make a profession out of it or not, we all need an activity that is beyond the mundane and takes us out of our established and limiting roles in socient (mother, employee, neighbor, brother, boss, etc.). We all need something that helps us forget ourselves for a whie–to momentarily forget our age, our gender, our socioeconomic background, our duties, our failures, and all that we have lost and screwed up. We need something that takes us so far out of ourselves that we forget to eat, forget to pee, forget to mow the lawn, forget to resent our enemies, forget to brood over our insecurities. Prayer can do that for us, community service can do it, sex can do it, exercise can do it, and substance abuse can most certainly do it (albeit with god-awful consequences)–but creative living can do it, too. Perhaps creativity’s greatest mercy is this: By completely absorbing our attention for a short and magical spell, it can relieve us temporarily from the dreadful burden of being ourselves.”
And I think that Eve Rodsky would say that in losing ourselves for a moment in some creative endeavor, ultimately we find ourselves.
What do you think?
Do you have a creative outlet that you spend time on regularly? Would you like to share? Post your suggestions in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me.
Resources and Lin
- Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World, by Eve Rodsky
- Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Podcasts and YT Videos
- TPW302: Reclaiming Your Creativity, with Majo Molfino (author of Break the Good Girl Myth: How to Dismantle Outdated Rules, Unleash Your Power, and Design a More Purposeful Life)
- Creativity vs Productivity, on Thriving Women Artists podcast, June 12, 2022
- Hacking Your Own Flow State to Increase Your Productivity, Creativity, and Performance with Hollywood Screenwriter Jessica Bendinger, episode 39 on The Bossbabe Podcast
- Working From Home Tips for Entrepreneurs: Self-Care Routine for Productivity, Abigail K.
- Creativity vs Productivity – Thriving Women Artists
- Creativity vs Productivity – Thriving Women Artists – Omny.fm
- 5 Ways to Boost Your Creativity, from Arts & Entertainment Ministries
- Creative Productive Giftedness in Women: Their Paths to Eminence | SpringerLink
- Creativity Leads to Productivity – WELCOA
- The Creativity Bias against Women – Scientific American
- 5 Ways to Boost Your Creativity – Arts & Entertainment Ministries
- View of Creative Women: Their Potential, Personality, and Productivity
- (22) WORKING FROM HOME TIPS FOR ENTREPRENEURS: Self Care & Productivity for women over 40 | LinkedIn
- Canadian Woman Studies
- Don’t Think You Are Creative? Think Again! A Different Look At The Meaning Of Creativity
- The Benefits of Creativity: Need Confidence? Be Creative!
- Hacking Your Own Flow State To Increase Your Productivity, Creativity, and Performance with Hollywood screenwriter Jessica Bendinger | BossBabe
- 15 Things Famous Women Can Teach Us About Productivity | by Kenzie Kuo | Medium
- Reclaiming Your Creativity, with Majo Molfino – TPW302 – The Productive Woman
- The conflict between productivity and creativity – Jane Benston
- Having a Creative Space Can Make You More Productive
- Creativity – Y.E.S. Education
- Creativity – Wikipedia
- creativity | Definition, Types, Skills, & Facts | Britannica
- Left Brain vs. Right Brain: What Does This Mean for Me?
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