Ever feel fuzzy-eyed and heavy-headed after staring at the screen for a long time?
Kind of like after a long road trip. You step out to finally stretch your legs and everything feels stiff.
There’s six major muscles connected to our human eyes. Like our leg muscles, they love movement. When they’re frozen in the same position hour after hour, they get fatigued, achy, and ultimately lose their strength.
We can improve our vision, minimize our risk of headache and reduce “screen fatigue” by blinking and looking away from the screen every few minutes at distant sights (according to a recent publication in the Wellbeing Journal, Vol. 30, Issue 1).
What’s this got to do with creativity?
I’ve often said that embodying our true artist self is not about how well we can render something.
It’s about our ability to OBSERVE.
Whether that's observing a magical forest before you or a wild vision in your imagination.
It requires allowing your eyes to look beyond the narrow, linear path.
To look to the side.
To look above and below.
To look into the distance and foreground.
Observe the colors,
To expand your awareness.
It requires both an internal and a physical expansion of vision.
And this, much like exercising our eyes, is the process of exercising our creativity.
Creativity, fueled by imagination, is a muscle that thrives off of being exercised too.
When we spend so long seated, looking in only one direction (the same dull, uninspiring job, day after day, week after week, year after year…the Same routine... the same way of making our breakfast…etc.), our creativity muscle becomes weak.
We may even forget it’s there.
But like our eyes, our legs, and all other miraculous parts of our bodies hard-wired to thrive and grow when when nurtured, our creative, VITAL spark of life WILL grow and strengthen when exercised.
So what does the exercise look like?
The answer lies in what anything needs to exercise: Movement and SPACE.
Our creativity is moved by our imagination.
And to be activated into movement, our imagination first requires us to give it SPACE.
That may mean stepping out of our familiar routine for a minute, an hour or a day.
Taking a bath for 30 minutes instead of a shower for 5 mintues.
Claiming a night to ourselves away from family, to allow our thoughts and feelings to surface.
Or stepping outside and noticing the sky's color for 2 minutes before continuing to solve problems on the screen.
While we were out shopping yesterday, my partner called me over to look at some paintings through a gallery window. It was the first time in a long time I’d seen paintings that immediately and completely captivated my attention. I was so inspired by their lluminosity and unusual intrigue that I couldn’t stop thinking about them for the rest of the night.
This “break” took my eyes away from the “beaten path” and gave my imagination space to move again—in five short minutes of observation.
During these breaks, there are two key things we can do:
Notice your surroundings.
Notice your feelings.
Imagination is more than a child’s game. It is actually THE vital force of human life.
Think of it:
A family imagines having a child.
You imagine where you want to live. HOW you want to live. What you want to eat.
Oprah imagined that she wanted to share a powerful message. She let it guide her.
By making our imagination conscious, we exercise our creative capacity as human beings.
To make our imagination conscious, we must create space for ourselves to play, dream, and imagine.
Here’s some ways to start:
1) Change up your routine. For instance, try listening to different music while you workout. See how it feels; what thoughts and feelings arise.
2) Carve out some you time. Book a night away by yourself. Bring your journal and your sketch pad. Plan to give yourself space to imagine, dream and create.
3) Get in nature. It may sound self-explanatory, but, nature is a powerful source of inspiration. When you’re out, try making a point to observe and notice. If you find yourself walking through the forest, desert, town park, etc., and still spinning around the wheels of a busy day in your head, notice that.
Without self scrutiny, allow those thoughts to take a seat on the bleachers of your brain. (you can come back to them later, if you want). For now, this is YOUR time. Check out the trees, the sky, the passers by. What do you notice? What stands out to you? Does your landscape feel beautiful, energizing and inspiring, or do you want to change your surroundings?
What emotions do your surroundings bring up? Excitement, calm, or joy? Anger, complacency, or fear? If you were to pickup some pens and paper, what kinds of lines and colors might those emotions take on?
4) Just for fun (because why not), play imagination games with yourself.
If you could wake up to ANY surroundings tomorrow, what would they be? The bedroom you already have? A glowing fairy cave? A beachy, luxury resort? A tent on top of a majestic mountain?
If you could snap your fingers and create ANY outfit for yourself, what would it look and feel like? How would the fabric fit your body? How would it make you feel? What colors would it highlight?
If you could claim any superpower, what would it be? Flying? Invisibility? Speed-reading?
Ok, how did that feel? Hopefully not so bad, eh? And maybe kind of fun? I promise you, the more you do it, the more exercising that imagination muscle will feel like the natural part of you that it is.