Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mindfulness and Creativity

Happy Sunday, y'all. I'm eating leftover diner omelette from last night's adventures and cleaning all the things. And blogging. Holy crap, there's nothing like being freed temporarily from the worries and stress of work and school to remind you of long-forgotten creative plans. I took a class last quarter where we had to use different mediums to produce our reading responses each week, things like taking a picture, drawing with oil pastels (maybe that was just me and my love for oil pastels), writing poetry, cooking, singing, doing yoga. It was a touchy-feely class, and I gave the assignments a fair share of eye-rolling, but one comment by a classmate on the last day stuck out. She said that it was game-changing to think of creativity as part of normal work and life, not the "reward" we leave for ourselves when nothing else is really going on. For those of us who aren't artists and don't work in a creative field, how can we make the pursuit of creativity and beauty a part of our busy lives, not just something to add on?

I think a lot of us (bloggers, women, friends of mine, people who appreciate aesthetics, I dunno how I'm defining "us" here) seek to add beauty and creativity in to our everyday life in little ways, but those often strike me as something to add on when we've got money and time. I'm thinking of things like buying flowers, sewing and drawing and knitting during our free time. These things are valuable, but sometimes I literally don't have time or money for them (soon, hopefully, my life won't be so damn intense but you can't just wait around living in a future time). I've been thinking of ways to do the shit I have to do in a more mindful, creative way. I read (in Martha Stewart, referencing an unnamed "recent Harvard study") that people spend 50% of their time thinking about something other than what they're doing, and that this makes them unhappy. Let's totally ignore my nagging need to read the whole study and criticize it, and assume that mindful presence in as much of daily life as possible is a positive goal. There's a lot of boring shit I have to do that I don't want to be mindfully present for, though, I just want to get through, like commuting and paperwork and eating old food because I hate for food to go to waste and school assignments I can't get into. Sometimes, though, if I try or just pay attention, these can become enjoyable too. I kind of love commuting sometimes, watching the buildings flash past and the birds and the light sparkle through falling snow and the faces of my fellow metropolis-dwellers. I write little observations on receipts and shove them in my purse and find them later, a little slice of mid-January. My coworker play music while she does paperwork.

I think sometimes what it takes to introduce creativity to ordinary tasks, paradoxically, is ritual and routine. You know, you decide, ok, it's tax time, motherf*ers, time to dress up like my weirdly romanticized version of an attorney, get absurdly into knowing the workings of the IRS website, and pump myself up with a fancy coffee. I know those are kindof add-ons, but if you're going to dress and have a coffee anyway, why not specialize them for taxes? This is an odd example. Maybe like my coworker, when you have an unpleasant task at work, set it up so you're happy and comfortable and then get into it as much as possible. I kind of relish the stress of exam week because I'm so single-mindedly focused on one thing.

I'm going to think about this some more. After I do my taxes.
Took this crazy double-exposure picture in New Orleans on the hotel balcony in the morning, and of my friend's dog in the back of the truck, with my old-school Sabre 620 camera, which I finally got it together to use.


mosey said...

great post with a great reminder.

Anonymous said...

Found this using a Google alert for mindfulness and creativity - as that is an intersection of topics I find interesting. Especially enjoyed your playful way of going about taxes (wish I had thought of it while procrastinating on mine), and your emphasis on little things you can do intentionally to integrate creativity into your life. Think I'll follow along for awhile, and find out if we have any more interests in common. Thank you.