Edited by: Tanmaya Ramprasad
In the midst of such a busy time in the semester, it may seem hard to make the time for anything other than sleep and schoolwork. After all, the thought of sacrificing an hour of valuable essay-writing, note-taking or studying time for something as inconsequential as reading a book is not a worthy trade-off — at least, not in the eyes of our mark-driven, pushed-to-our-academic-limits society.
Yet there must be some sort of balance to be found. After all, we aren’t machines: we can’t just study all night long, or we’ll quickly burn out.
Instead, we need to make time for creativity: artistry, music, creative talent. We must step away from our laptops, close our textbooks… and allow our brains to perform tasks that stimulate its growth.
According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary, creativity is defined as “the ability to create: to bring into existence.” It’s one’s ability to harness their imagination to create something new, something beautiful, something wholly unique.
As many of you may have experienced, creativity is meditative. Often, when we embark upon a creative pursuit, we choose to tackle a task that we enjoy: running your fingers across ivory keys, feeling the wind in your hair as you jeté across the basement. After all, unlike schoolwork — in which we must read from a single textbook, learn only the content required for the class, and complete structured, pre-planned assignments — there is no one way to be creative; you can choose to perform whichever task appeals most to you. In this way, creativity improves one’s mental state: not only is it a break from the monotony and stress of classes, but the sheer task of pursuing something that you like is bound to make you feel joy.
In fact, studies have proven that individuals who practice regular creativity not only live a happier and more fulfilling life but a longer one, too. Painting a picture, drafting a script… to pursue a creative task, one must activate a variety of networks in the brain, correlating activity from visuospatial and auditory recognition areas, semantic (fact-based) and episodic (personal history-related) memory stores, and myriad other locations in the mind. And when all these neural regions work together, the connections between them are strengthened: they become more resilient, faster to complete neurological tasks. This, in turn, provides a substantial boost to several mental capabilities, including problem-solving and stress-management abilities.
So, how do we find — scratch that, how do we make — the time for creativity in the midst of all the daily stress? How can we rationalize reading a book, or take hours away from our (lengthy) to-do lists to learn some new chords on guitar?
The answer, of course, is to perform creativity, like all other tasks, in moderation. Taking 10, 20, 30 minutes — even just one or two times a day — to step away from your desk and contribute to a creative task will do wonders for your neurological health.
Of course, the possibilities are endless — creativity is, quite literally, defined as doing something novel, original, unique. It can become anything you dream it to be.
Below are some suggestions to set you on your path…
1). Create a Masterpiece Using Paint-By-Numbers
My cousin introduced me to these adult Paint-By-Number kits back in September, and they’ve turned into my favourite pastime over the past couple of months.
Their true allure lies in that they’re pre-created: the painting is mapped out for you, you just have to fill in the pieces. There’s no need to spend hours debating what you should design; there’s no stress over the perfection of your image. Instead, the outline is provided; you simply need to fill in the swoops and swirls to create your masterpiece. Not to mention, these kits contain pre-packaged brushes and paint pots, so all required tools are right at your disposal!
2). Learn A Broadway (or Movie Musical) Dance Sequence
Jazz hands. Leg flicks. Elaborately designed costumes, and a touch of the magic of ~showbiz~.
Okay, okay, so maybe you won’t have Washington’s billowing blue-and-yellow coat or Jack Kelly’s pageboy hat. But with a Broadway dance tutorial, not only will you be getting a bit of exercise (always a plus!), but you’ll have the opportunity to expend your creativity while enjoying some upbeat theatre tunes!
TodayTix — a verified on- and off-Broadway resource — posted a compilation of legitimate Broadway dances, taught by official show choreographers and Broadway talent. Whether you want to throw it back to the ‘60s with the UK Tour cast of Hairspray, rocking out to the (official choreography) of “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” or you’d rather channel your inner Hugh Jackman with The Greatest Showman's “This Is Me," each and every individual can discover their inner star!
These videos range from 5-40 minutes apiece, so they’re the perfect bite-sized creative escapades to slot in between your studies.
3). Select a Writing Prompt & Write a Piece of Flash Fiction
There’s nothing better than the feeling of escapism you get while delving into a fictional world: be that between the pages of your favourite novel, or upon the silver screen. But, I get it — it’s not easy to lose yourself in a 700-page story when there’s a midterm around the corner, and during exam season, setting aside time for a 2-hour movie isn’t quite feasible.
However, if you can’t get lost in someone else’s fiction, how about creating your own?
Instagram pages such as @writing.prompt.re post daily prompts to spark your creativity.
Since the prompts are provided for you, there’s no need to spend any mental energy to come up with an idea: just select a prompt that sounds interesting to you, and draft up the first words that come to mind!
Final Thoughts on Creativity
There’s no doubt that creativity is vital — and in this time of turmoil and stress, the time we take to practice it just seems to slip away.
That’s not ok: not for our stress levels, not for our neurological connections, and not for the sheer joy that’s brought about through creativity.
So, make the time for creativity. Carve out a few moments — even just 10 minutes a day. Order yourself a paint-by-numbers kit, or teach yourself a dance. Draft up a new story. Pick up that guitar.
Ultimately, when selecting a creative pursuit, make sure to choose one that speaks to you. Remember, there’s no right way to be creative: simply select what you enjoy, and watch your worries dissipate.