7 Easy Creative Outlets

When you're constantly busy with homework and studying — in addition to jobs, internship searches, and extracurriculars — it's easy to feel bogged down. Even if you find your classes mostly interesting and the student orgs you belong to are fun and fulfilling, at a certain point a lot of us feel like we're just trying to check off everything on our schedule. Reading a good book is never quite as enjoyable when you have to read the book, and if you're fulfilling a requirement with a boring class or just ended up liking a course less than you'd hoped (it happens), things can feel pretty dull. It's tempting to spend all your free time (or procrastination) by watching Netflix or commiserating with a friend, but finding a creative outlet to indulge in once in a while is important. You'll clear your mind, still get a break, and maybe end up feeling more inspired when you eventually turn to your responsibilities. Here are a few ideas that are friendly to a college student's budget and schedule:

1. Coloring 

By now, you're probably aware of the new adult coloring book trend that's been going on for a few years or so. Maybe you've rolled your eyes at the idea of coloring being for grownups, or maybe you've gotten on board. For all you naysayers, it's actually pretty great. They come in all sorts of themes, including ones based on popular franchises like Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. It can be very calming to just sit and fill a page with pretty colors for a while, and you can exercise creativity by deciding which colors to use where. There are some pretty affordable options, especially online, and you don't need any fancy art supplies — some cheap crayola crayons or colored pencils will do just fine. You can spend any amount of time you want; no need to commit to finishing a full page in one sitting. You could try spending a few minutes each day and finish one in a week. However, you can also always get a traditional "kids" coloring book if you want! The cheerful little animals and happy scenes are so cute, and sometimes it is satisfying to just color a picture in a few minutes rather than spending a long time and coming back to it. 

2. Drawing 

Take coloring a step up and draw! It doesn't matter what your skill level is, or what you think it is, because this is just for you. Of course, if you like how something turns out you should totally display it in your room, give it to a friend, or post it online, but there's no pressure. I personally don't have any interest in being an art major or setting up an Etsy shop or anything like that, but I do love drawing. It can be super relaxing and definitely challenges me to be creative. There are so many different types of drawing, from simple doodles and patterns when your brain is zapped, to more complex portraits or landscapes if you feel like something detailed. Have fun by experimenting with different art styles. Search Pinterest or another site for inspiration, or just draw what you see or what you like. You can find cheap sketch pads and pencils and pens made specially for drawing, but you don't really need anything special. Regular notebook or printer paper and whatever you use to take notes will totally work. 

3. Writing 

You've probably had enough of writing essays and labs, but give non-academic writing a chance. All you need is a computer or a notebook and pen. You can try journaling to vent your feelings or work through a problem, which isn't for everyone but helps a ton for a lot of people. Or, if you feel like you have something to say, write up your opinions in an article or blog post. Create your own blog online, or submit it to a school publication. You can even publish it as a guest writer for HC Hamilton! Finally, even if it doesn't seem like your thing, try creative writing too. You don't need to know everything there is to know in order to create a story or poem. It's fun and challenging to try to come up with a plot for a story, or decide the best form and structure to get a particular idea across in a poem. Turn an idle daydream or a silly idea you had as a kid into actual words on paper, or even give fanfiction a go if you have some ideas about a piece of media. If you find you like writing, take a workshop next semester and/or start reading about writing in order to hone your craft, if you want! 

4. Reading

Okay, you've probably been doing a lot of this too, and it's not necessarily creative as it doesn't involve producing content. But, it's always fun to read for pleasure. There's no deadline or test, so you can take as long as you want. More importantly, you can explore any topic you want. If you've always wanted to know more about a subject but not in the way where you want to spend a semester going in depth and taking tests on it, pick up something non-fiction. They can be a lot more interesting than you might think. For fiction, there are so many genres and sub-genres, you can never be bored. Another advantage is that you can choose any length. If a big volume seems intimidating, there are lots of shorter books that will intrigue you. The great thing about reading that is actually creative is that it lets you explore new things and approach them without any guidelines or structure. A good book that isn't for school might simply give you reprieve from "serious" reading and academic work, which is great on its own, but it might also inspire you in your life or other creative endeavors. 

5. Making music 

Maybe you don't have any musical experience, but if you enjoy listening to music, why not explore making it? If you play an instrument casually, start practicing a little more! Look for sheet music online and pick a song you like so you're actually motivated, or even just play around and see what you produce. If you play in orchestra or in some other more advanced capacity, find some music unlike anything you'd be asked to play, just for fun. Another way to get creative music is to write a song. Again, these outlets are just for your own enjoyment, so it's totally fine if you don't know the first thing about music theory. Write some lyrics down and just sing them with whatever tune comes to mind. If you love it or want to refine it, start learning about music so you can put notes on paper and pick appropriate chord progressions and all that. 

6. Picking up a new hobby 

No need to go all in depth and spend a ton of money buying all the proper equipment for something. Check out the sale section of a bookstore or craft store and choose a kit that looks interesting to you and gives you the basics. Maybe it's simple jewelry making, or working with clay. Origami is beautiful and very therapeutic. Calligraphy can come in handy when writing cards to people or embellishing anything you need to write on. Stuff like this is often seen as being for kids, but there's no harm in casually trying out a new craft just for fun and to switch up the monotony that college life often becomes at this point in the semester. Maybe you'll find a new passion and get much more involved! 

7. Cooking or baking 

These are creative too, in their own way. They're also a very important life skills! This one is more expensive because you need to buy ingredients, and supplies if you don't already have them. However, you can look for sales on the food you need and find good prices online for basic pots and pans. If you get a group of friends together, you can all pitch in. You could also practice at home if you get a chance to return home over Thanksgiving or winter break. Either way, you can search for lots of fun recipes online, and even find YouTube videos if you need a more visual representation on how to do stuff.