6 Creative Activities You Don’t Have to be ‘Good’ at Doing

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Creativity does not require specific talents. Yet, many of us feel we’re “not creative” because we can’t play an instrument, paint beautiful landscapes, shoot stunning photos, or cook gourmet meals. That’s just not true. Artistic abilities are a form of creative expressions, but they are not creativity itself.

There are a lot of ways to be a creative person. Many experts define creativity as the ability to connect seemingly unconnected ideas to solve a problem or make something new. However, creative activities (the act of making something) allow you to express yourself and keep your mind in shape. So, when the opportunity to use your creativity for the greater good arrives, you’ll be ready.

If you avoid pursuing any type of artistic expression in your daily life, because you think you’re not good enough, or you’re worried what others will think and say, that needs to change.

Here are some creative activities you can start doing right now — no talent required:

1. Drawing

Do you doodle? When you do, you’re being creative.

If you’re like me, you might start scribbling shapes or funny faces in meetings. That’s not necessarily because we’re bored. We may actually be getting our brains moving. According to research cited in a Harvard Medical School article, doodling actually improves memory and focus while reducing stress.

Drawing is an excellent tool for communicating a point. You don’t have to be “good” at drawing to use your drawings effectively. The book Creative Confidence introduce me to tactics suggested by Dan Roam, author of Draw to Win and founder of The Napkin Academy.

Roam shows us how you can draw anything as long as you can sketch a few basic shapes. You can use this knowledge to jump up to the whiteboard at work and explain a new process, sketch an idea you want to pitch on a napkin, or just to be a kick-ass Pictionary player.

Language and drawing are both skills that ancient humans used to communicate. There’s no reason why you should be afraid to draw — for fun or to serve a purpose. As Ralph Ammer explains in the TEDx talk below, you wouldn’t stop speaking just because it doesn’t come out like poetry.

2. Storytelling

There is no one alive who is unable to tell a story. We literally do it every day.

You made up an excuse why you were late, gossiped over lunch, explained a problem to a customer service rep on the phone, made a joke in a text to your friend, and then told a story about your day over dinner.

The creative act of storytelling brings people together. It has the power to persuade, and it’s part of what makes us human. Anyone can tell a story, and we can all get better at telling stories.

While you’ll go through life telling plenty of stories without realizing it, you can also do it intentionally. Think about the stories you want to tell — whether true or made up — purposefully decide how you’ll structure it. Where will you start? How will it end? How will you build tension? Where will people laugh, gasp, or cry?

Put a little extra effort into your storytelling. Now you’re being creative.

3. Gardening

You may argue that it’s technically God or nature that does the creating when we’re talking about growing plants, flowers, or starting a vegetable garden. But gardening can be more than just giving plants adequate light and water — and anyone can garden.

Whether you’re taking care of houseplants, pruning flowers, or growing stuff to make salsa, you’ll need to make creative decisions along the way. Creative gardening could include landscape design, making bouquets, or troubleshooting ways to keep Japanese beetles off your veggies.

Fran Sorin is author of the book Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening. In an interview with The Chicago Tribune, Sorin said great artists like DaVinci used nature to inspire them. She thinks we can use our own nature experiences to come up with creative gardening ideas.

Q: It seems gardening is an easy way to express creativity. Then you take the lessons learned and apply them to other facets of your life. What has your garden taught you?

A: Patience, humility, connection, playfulness. There’s that theory, you take one thing and learn everything from it. I think you take nature and you can learn everything from it.

2015 Chicago Tribune interview with Fran Sorin

Photos from our backyard garden

4. Photography

As you can probably guess, all the photos of our family garden from above were taken on smartphones. These days we’re all carrying around powerful digital cameras in our pockets and we have the opportunity to get creative with our devices rather than just consuming.

I’m not talking about more selfies, feet at the beach, or pictures of your latte. I’m talking about noticing things and capturing authentic moments. Consider taking one unique photo per day of something interesting that you notice.

Just like with storytelling — we should strive to be more purposeful with digital photography. It was different when photographers had to shoot on film, which was a scarce and costly resource. Shots and settings were chosen carefully. Now, we don’t care what we shoot or how much we shoot – there’s always more storage space in the cloud, we can crop it and throw a filter on it, or we can delete the crappy ones later.

Try taking a minute or two to be mindful about some of the photographs you take with your smartphone. What’s the story behind your shot? Is there any meaning behind it? How do you want people to feel when you share it with them.

Now, you’re being creative.

Brandon Stanton created the portrait photography blog Humans of New York by taking a similar approach to his work. Watch his story below!

5. Cooking

Whenever I’ve watched Master Chef Junior, the abilities of those kids absolutely blows me away — especially because I burn half of the grilled cheese sandwiches I make. These kids aren’t even teenagers yet and they’re making amazing food.

But the truth is … you don’t have to be a culinary genius to get creative in the kitchen.

For example, sometimes limits and restrictions can bring out your imaginative side. When there’s nothing much to eat in the house, but you find a way to combine some unexpected items to make a snack — that’s creativity. When you’re missing a key ingredient for a recipe and you find a clever alternative — that’s creativity. When you combine ideas from different cuisines to create your own dish — that’s definitely creative.

My middle son Miles, has a reputation for mixing foods together in strange ways. His most-famous, and perhaps most-delicious idea is the “Milo Morning Sandwich.” That’s a peanut butter and jelly (bread must be un-toasted) with scrambled eggs on the inside (bacon is optional).

Miles devours a Milo Morning Sandwich on a family camping trip

When you’re cooking for yourself or your family, don’t be afraid to take some risks, experiment, and even mess up. You’ll be forgiven for mistakes, and you might just stumble on something new and delicious.

6. Singing

Not all of us can sing as well as other, that’s true. But nearly everyone has a voice they can use to make a joyful noise.

If someone ever told you you can’t carry a tune, you need to forget them and keep singing. If you watched Simon Cowell berate and belittle one-too-many American Idol hopefuls, you need to stop watching so much reality TV.

Start by singing in the shower or on your commute. Maybe even turn the radio off and just sing solo. Like storytelling and drawing, singing is an essential creative activity that makes us feel more human.

There are even health benefits connected to singing, which is why The Creative Mission would love to start a community choir.

Sesame Street has been trying to tell us this for decades! “Don’t worry if it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear. Just sing. Sing a song!”

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