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  • Suzy Bashford

Using creativity to thrive throughout the continuing Covid crisis

As we battened down the hatches and locked down our homes earlier this year, many of us retreated into creativity, finding comfort from simple pleasures like painting rocks.

With the nights drawing in ever closer and we're faced with imminent further restrictions on our freedoms, creativity is going to be vital tool in my box to avoid winter being one of discontent.

That's why I'll be podcasting regularly (search 'Big Juicy Creative' on leading platforms) about how to boost your creativity. Last Thursday I released my first 'Random Act of Living' podcast in which I outlined 7 ways to get creative to thrive at work and at home. I plan to summarise them in this blog.

The 7 ways to nurture your creativity via 'Random Acts of Living' are:

1) Embrace silly thoughts.

I got this idea from artist Ann Vastano who I interviewed in my launch episodes. She told me a story about how, when ironing, she had this silly idea which she almost dismissed but ended up acting on – the result of which ended up getting her a commission from Soctland’s first minister Nicola Strugeon.

I had a similar moment on the run up to launching my podcast. Some podcast gurus were saying it’s important at launch to ‘position as an expert’ ‘an authority’ in your field. Do something which underlines your expertise. But...banging on about my credentials just didn’t seem right, or particularly creative, to me. I had this silly train of thought and it went something like this:

I want this moment to feel special. Which other moments in my life have I felt most special. My wedding. OK… is there a way I can recapture that special feeling & combine with my podcast launch?

And so I had the ridiculous but ultimately big and juicy idea of donning my wedding dress and going down to the church where I actually got married 14 years ago and committing formally to my podcast in a ceremony. People loved the idea on social media and it felt fun rather than forced for me to talk about.

So – my challenge to you is embrace your silly…. And I bet you’ll find that your life – even work life – will be more enjoyable.

2) Surround yourself by radiators and not drains

This relates to point 1. Creative ideas are like babies looking for parents. Or as Elizabeth Gilbert says in her brilliant book Big Magic – these ideas are swirling around us searching for matches. When you have your baby-idea-match it’s so important then who you talk about your baby, in the first embryonic stages. If you talk to the wrong people, or surround yourself by people who look to criticize rather than cheerlead, then –I’m sorry to say - it could lead to infanticide. And that would be a tragedy.

Take me at my podcast launch. As much as I love my husband to death – I know he can be a baby killer. He has killed babies in the past. So I didn’t tell him about my bonkers idea to marry my podcast. I knew his despairing inenvitable look might knock my confidence at an already precarious moment. So I spoke to my neighbor instead. She basically said "that sounds nuts, let’s do it". And so we did. The first my husband knew of it was when I was ready to live the house in my dress to the church. He muttered a few expletives.

3) Choose what you wear in line with how you want to feel

This again was a creativity nurturing tip I got from interviewing artist Ann Vastano. She revealed that she’s quite a catastrophic thinker – as am I – and one way she combats this is first thing in the morning in what she is wearing. The colours she chooses to wear are bright like her paintings – especially if she’s feeling low or anxious. She picks things that make her feel good, feel good on her skin, likes to wear ear rings and make ups etc. Intention setting for the day through mantras is very trendy at the moment – and this is a kind of extension of that.

Usually from day to day I don’t take much care in what I wear. Generally I shove on my active wear in the hope that’ll make me more active. I’ve basically lived in my leggings since lockdown. However inspired by Ann, recently I went shopping. I won’t bore you with the contents of my wardrobe but basically I bought bright colours including shocking pink jeans and a bright orange top. I don’t think orange is my colour but apparently it stimulates creativity, so I’m giving it a go. (There are photos on social media if you areinterested! @bigjuicycreativeliving on Facebook and Instagram).

It is not only making my life more colourful but it’s also adding more juice and connection it it. For instance I interviewed Kelly Pietrangeli, from ProjectMe, and I spent time picking out the perfect top appropriate to her – the first thing she said? "I love your top, that’s so me". As Marie Kondo says, it’s all about the sparking joy and choosing my clothes more mindfully recently has done that. Having said that, I’m sitting here in my active wear but hey, we are not aiming for perfection in any of this. Perfectionism is toxic to creativity.

4) Forage for your dinner and be inspired by nature

This tip was inspired by another launch episode interviewee farmer Lynn Cassells. She challenged me to go out into the forest next to me and forage for my dinner – which I did! Accompanied by my mushroom genius friend Shula, otherwise this could have been a very short lived blog. It was great fun.

As I was foraging I was thinking about what Lynn had told me about how nature constantly inspires her. Having been rushing around pre launch and feeling like I had so much to do and so little time to do it, I realised that nature has lots of stuff to do but it doesn’t rush – or force things – it just happens in its own time. And there’s so much abundance - I mean if I knew what I was doing I’d probably not need to go to Tesco again! Which made me think of Lynn’s quote that if we want to be creative we need to take the pressure off ourselves, not force things and instead look inward at our natural abundance – it’s amazing how much we have inside us, in our natural state, if we just look.

Which leads neatly to my next point...

5) Beware of Fomook

Well you know – fomo – fear of missing out. Fomook is an extention on that that I just make up. It’s fear of missing out on knowledge. I’m terrible for this. Creatively it means I procrastinate like mad. I think I have to read every book – listen to every podcast on a subject – before I start creating myself.

So, unlike Lynn looking inward, I’m looking outward.

Now you have to do a bit of outward-looking otherwise that would be a bit arrogant and probably ill advised – I mean I had to do a lot of research to make my podcast. Especially on tech. But there was a point where I was consuming others’ content at the expense of making my own. My husband pointed this out.

FOMOOK can stop you creating.

In a world of so much content of other people’s to consume this can stop you creating. Have you got the balance right between how much of others’ cotent you are consuming and how much are you creating?

6) Write from someone else’s perspective; someone who you’re currently experiencing tension with

Rather than stew about a conversation that didn’t go well recently – which I tend to do and which distracts me, usually, from whatever I’m trying to do at that moment whether it’s write a piece for work or parent - I did what Jennifer Blaine said when I interviewed her: pick up a pen and start writing the situation from their perspective.

Let rip and try and do it without thinking too much, without judgement.

Imagine you are in their head.

Imagine what their day is like. Their life. Really get into the nitty gritty.

So I did.

And suddenly I was in her world. And it was a hard world.

By the end of it I really felt her exhaustion, her pain, why she must find me hard to deal with and came to an acceptance of where our relationship is – rather than being sad or angry about it I felt accepting of the fact this is just how it is at the moment.

Jumping into her mind – or how I perceive her mind to be – made me realise how differnet our priorities are right now. And how that’s ok. I felt calmer, less upset.

So maybe there’s someone in your life that you’re having trouble connecting with right now or understanding you could do the same. Get out your pen and let your imagination rip.

7) Pick people up when they say they’re not creative

This website, blog and podcast are also about nurturing creativity in others, whether that's your kids or your colleagues. It struck me when I interviewed farmer Lynn Cassells that we have a big problem with the word creativity. People define it so narrowly.

They consign it purely to the arts. But creativity is about way more than painting or poetry. It’s a way of thinking, a way of being – an openness, curiousity, willingness to try new things. So, when Lynn said she wasn’t creative I immediately picked her up on this.

So your challenge is to also do this – as I always do with my kids: point out when they’re being creative.

In my case my 9 year old is a whizz with bargaining, always coming up with creative ways around his consequnces. (He really should be a terrorist negotiator when he’s older). And I always try and praise his ingenuinty and lable it as 'creative'. You could do the same.

Our kids in particular need to believe that they are creative and that they can creatively solve problems. Because boy, we’re leaving them a lot of problems to solve. And that depressing but hopefully motivational thought seems a good place to end.

*You can catch the extended version of this blog on episode 5 of the Big Juicy Creative podcast, available on popular podcast platforms

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