Did you ever wonder why small children (and most cats) would rather play with the box a gift came in that the present itself? Well, I think they are on to something. A toddler can think of a zillion ways to play with that box, to use their imagination to make it anything they want it to be.
But us? We ‘adults’ are so jaded that we often want expensive, shiny, boring things. Things to wear and show off, things that don’t really inspire us—to work better, to play better, to be better.
Some of the ideas I offer here* are merely fun for fun’s sake. But, personally speaking, they have a side benefit of making me a more imaginative, creative, fulfilled person. My hope is that at least one of these things might be perfect for a certain person on your gift list or for yourself (you deserve it, too!).
How Having Fun Spills into Your Creative Life
What some people consider play is what keeps me in new ideas, what activates the part of my brain most receptive to creativity and what helps me me write more unique plots and characters. Julia Cameron said it best in her groundbreaking book, THE ARTIST’S WAY:
Creativity lives in a paradox: serious art is born from serious play.
So how does play benefit you?
In your work: Often solutions in the workplace emerge from a choice of two or three top-of-mind, mundane ideas. Think of the lost innovation and unique solutions you are leaving on the table.
In your writing: Play primes you to notice and generate new ideas—for your business writing, your novel, or even a simple blog post. You may not even be aware of it, but they are there, lurking, ruminating.
In your life: When you make time for fun, it shows up in your relationships and interactions with others.
5 Cheap Gifts for a More Creative Life
1. Feed your mind. Read.
Read for enjoyment (and many other benefits), but also try books outside your favorite genre. If for someone else, get them a gift certificate from your (or their) local bookstore. If for you, set aside $100 or so for a books shopping spree.
A one-year-subscription to THE NEW YORK TIMES; an Amazon gift card; a Kindle Reader (I’m on my third one—I keep upgrading); Kindle gift cards.
2. Free your mind. Write.
Regular, uncensored writing, even if it is ten minutes a day (I do mine first thing in the morning) is one of the best ways to break through the brain’s ‘logical gatekeepers’ and get to your best ideas. Try it. Or give a journal to someone you love.
Morning Pages (Julia Cameron again); cheap notebooks with lined paper (in grocery stores or Office Depot); bound journals (they freak me out and stifle my spontaneity but you may like them); graph paper notebooks (I love these—I can write, draw and doodle new ideas as they come to me).
3. Drop the tech tools.
Ditching those digital/keyboarding habits by writing by hand, for just a few minutes a day, might be just the thing to reignite those neurons in your brain and get things moving again. Try mind mapping for idea generation and don’t forget those nice, thick-point pens.
Roller Writers (my favorite cheapish pen); fountain pens (more expensive, but so fun); Sharpies.
4. Being an artist is not the point.
The nice thing about the visual arts is that there is no room for criticism. The artist, or should I say, creator, merely shares what is in their heart. And who can argue with that? In the process, we get to dabble in our subconscious, which is where all the rich ideas come from. So get to it!
Sketch book and professional pencils; water color sets (the five and dime store has great ones); DRAWING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BRAIN (this book has helped me immensely); THE ARTIST’S WAY (see above).
5. Call out your inner child. Play.
I have to say that I am partial to this one. I still take regular breaks from blogging and writing my novel to play. It not only brings me joy, but it seems to recharge my creative juices. And there are many, many ways to do it. Just visit a toy store or a WalMart, or search online. You will find so many inexpensive, fun ‘toys.’
Juggling balls; Slinky, kaleidoscope; Gumby (my favorite toy to bend and flex when I’m not finding the right words); Etch a Sketch; hand puppets, paddle balls; toy cars; legos; jacks; marbles…and on and on and on.
If you have a child, you may have to lock up your toys because, remember, they belong to you and no one else.
* DISCLAIMER: None of the above links bring me commissions or affiliate sales, or in any other way benefit me financially.