Five Tips to Cultivating Creativity {Day 4}

Welcome to Day 4 of the On Being Creative series! You’ll find links to all the posts as they’re added on the series’ homepage here.


Let’s talk about cultivating and maintaining our creative gifts. I imagine it to be like tending a garden (of which I have little knowledge and even less skill; don’t entrust your plants to me). Because it takes time, patience, and continued investment of resources. But also like a garden, the stuff of our creativity lives within boundaries. We can only do so much as creatives just as we can only do so much as humans. (How many times can I say “creative” in this series? Place your bets now…)

So how do we bear the fruit of our creative work well? (There it is again…) Today, I’m sharing a brief list on some tips to cultivating creativity. Five tips to be exact.

Day 4


Give Yourself Margin

Maybe you didn’t know this, but creating is work, not rest.

I’ve discovered that when I try to just keep creating- unless it’s one of those rare river-of-creative-juices-rushing type of things- I end up creating crap. And/or I don’t like what I’ve created. And I’m grouchy and thoroughly useless to my family. Hmmm this is what happens when I’m overworked or burned out too. Interesting…

Processed with VSCOcam with n1 presetSo I’ve had to discover what fills me up when the creative tank runs dry. Mostly, it’s the following:

  • An uninterrupted hour (or two) walking around Target + Starbucks in hand
  • Shopping with my mom.
  • Taking Lucy to story time at a local coffee shop.
  • Writing letters to Ella.
  • Planning Girls’ Weekend.
  • Or fun projects like how to make my rental laundry room more exciting or at least less chaotic…

Basically, I give myself permission to stop creating for awhile.

It’s kind of like music. Have you ever heard someone point out that music is both sound AND silence? It sounds obvious, but when you think about it, those silent moments are just as important as the sounding notes. If there’s no silence or pause at all in an entire song, no change in dynamic, then it can sometimes not only sound monotone, but can also grate on the senses. And- for those unfamiliar with reading music- did you know the silent moments are actually called rests? 

So find your margin. Figure out a few things that replenish you, even if it’s just a very slow walk through the Target Dollar Spot.


Say No

I don’t know why this is such a hard thing to do. But it’s so life-giving when you own your No’s. It’s also kind of rough, because of course when you say no, you might be missing out on something really cool, but missing out on that thing strengthens your commitment to your Yes’s.

The Nester wrote a post called Why the World Needs the Makers to Say No Boldly, in which she says the following:

I’ve learned that I am the ONLY person who will protect my own creativity and livelihood…I’m learning what it means to be intentional with both my life-givers and creativity-killers. I don’t have a lot of answers but I no longer see the personality and scheduling ability of a Maker as a weakness.

And in a recent post, Emily P. Freeman (her sister) said on her blog,

I’m learning the language of my own yeses, and they tend to speak with excitement, not dread.”

Learning the language of your yeses (isn’t that brilliant?) means you’ll also therefore learn the language of you no’s. Sometimes there’s nuance in deciphering them, but it’s worth it. I’m just beginning to experience the gratification of saying no to something that doesn’t fall within my right-now capacity, capability, calling and/or competence.



Do the Work


There’s not much I can add to that. Except to say that every time this video pops up somewhere, I listen to it again. Because I need to keep hearing his words encouraging me to essentially keep on keeping’ on. I need to hear that my taste is good and my work will catch up to it one day.

Plus, it makes me breathe a sigh of relief that yes- sometimes I do feel that disappointment in things I create. But to keep going serves your art and your audience, while quitting serves neither.


Don’t Be a Helicopter Mom to Your Art.

I first heard Glennon over at Momastery talk about the fact that hovering around your art and making sure people are being nice to it is not your job. And also, it’s an exhausting misuse of your energy and creative juices. Your job to survive a creative life is instead the following:

  1. Create!
  2. Call it Good!
  3. Rest.

She also shared this quote which you may have heard before: “What others think of me is none of my business. “ – Dr. Wayne Dyer

And to that, I would add this articulate demonstration of artistic philosophy:


But seriously. If Taylor can do it. You can too.

tea cup

Keep Surrendering Your Art to God

Remember that Ecclesiastes verse I love?

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Verses like this remind me of the beauty both in margin and in work, in stillness and in action. More importantly, they remind me of the steadfast and supremely creative character of God. Have you ever thought about how creative God must be, that he has made everything beautiful in its time?

Even me. Even my laundry days. Even the days when no matter how I try, the lines don’t leave my pen right, the strokes baffle my brush, and the keys sound trite and spiritless no matter how I arrange them.

I think of the times I’ve failed or been rejected, creatively or otherwise. The thing is, with God nothing is wasted. That’s how much we can trust him.

He’s so creative, he brings beauty even out of failure- even out of nothing. So keep surrendering your art to God- remember it belongs to him anyway. He has put us in charge of our efforts, but not our outcomes.

I put it to you, creative kindred spirits- what else would you add to this list? So far, to cultivate our creativity well, here’s what we’ve got:

  1. Give Yourself Margin
  2. Say No
  3. Do the Work
  4. Don’t Be a Helicopter Mom to Your Art
  5. Keep Surrendering Your Art to God


Next Up: Day 4: Why Believing in Yourself Doesn’t Work {For the Creative Who Can’t Right Now}

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