Four things accompanied me everywhere I went as a little girl: Snowy the threadbare cat, a field guide to garden wildlife, a children’s encyclopedia of science, and the latest copy of Twinkle magazine (yup, I am British). Among the latter’s 20-odd pages of stories about Nurse Nancy who ran a hospital for poorly toys, and Wendy and her friend Witch Winkel, Twinkle held a treasure trove of delights. There were things to cut out, like paper outfits for a cardboard girl and boy; ideas for games to play; songs to sing, and things to make. There were also puzzles to solve, and pictures to color in, and if I was really lucky, the issue would come with stickers, crayons, or best of all, a piece of costume jewelry that would transform me into the imaginary “Madame Penelope” for the day (not a French brothel owner might I add, but a wealthy lady who was friends with the Queen).
Twinkle unleashed my imagination and gave me the opportunity to express that creativity in a myriad of art forms. With glue, with scissors, with props, with song, with written words, and bits of card cut from the backs of cereal boxes that I could drop into designated spaces, my creative juices — as we adults say — would start to “flow,” and I’d be fully absorbed in the moment for hours on end.
I was reminded of the joy I would feel and the wide pallet of ways to create, that we naturally draw from as a child while thumbing through a copy of A Book That Takes Its Time. Stuffed inside its thick and whimsically-illustrated pages, among the inspirational and motivational essays, are postcards to send, positive reminders to cut out and stick to our laptops, lists to fill in, questions to ponder, mini-journals, ideas for new ways to cook, to play, to relate, to explore nature, to exercise, and then, of course, stickers! It’s like a mindful Twinkle for grown-ups, and an open door to creativity, if we accept the invitation.
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We need these open doors — these permission slips to be childlike again. Our lives seem so incredibly busy that taking time to relax seems impossible, and taking time to have fun doing something creative seems almost frivolous. But it is these moments of creative expression that recharge us, and that bring joy to our lives so we can return to our tasks with enthusiasm. As authors Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst, point out: “Remember those epic afternoons, spending hours sticking paper onto newspaper to make collages, drawing things that were unidentifiable, and writing nonsense in a diary. […] We were happy.”
Yet our lives as adults are so full of plans that we have little time left to experience surprises and spontaneity anymore. A Book That Takes Its Time encourages us to carve out time to tap into our creative nature where funny ideas and happy thoughts can emerge.
Express Yourself Fully
As we get older, we begin to limit our creative expression to singular activities, and we create labels around that expression so that we become: chefs, writers, actors, painters, poets, piano-players, singers, photographers, potters, knitters, graphic designers, app developers, engineers, and chemists. We forget that we are a species that can create in hundreds of thousands of ways, and indeed, to create is what gives us purpose and joy.
Often we trap ourselves in a mindset that we should focus solely on our craft — that practice makes perfect, and we shouldn’t distract ourselves. Sometimes we even think that creativity is for others and not for us — forgetting everything we do is a creation.
What would happen if we did take a little time to try creating something different? Perhaps affording ourselves time to sort through images to make a collage will result in inspiration for our novel. If we reflect upon an inspiring quote and bring it to life as a poem or picture, we may well return to our work more enlivened. Surely, in the same way doodling has been shown to relieve stress and refresh our minds, any different creative expression, whether it’s origami or welding, can actually release blocks and increase our creativity. It puts us back in that childlike state where the inspiration can flow through without obstacle, and where energy and joy return. When we broaden our exploration of our connection to creativity, we welcome in more creativity.
Re-ignite Your Fun
One of my favorite things about A Book That Takes Its Time is that every page ignites a spark inside that calls for no commitment other than to be open to doing something fun. We have a tendency to become very serious about “being creative.” We turn our expressions into careers that come with financial ties and pressures. Or instead of just playing around for a few hours developing a new recipe, taking photos or building a treehouse, we can convince ourselves that this needs to become a hobby if it is to be worthwhile. We believe if we’re going to invest our time and money into something, then we need to be serious about it. And that forces expectations around the outcome. We ask ourselves, Will what I create be any good? Almost immediately we begin to dull an endeavor that was supposed to be light-hearted. But we can bring more levity to our creativity by learning from our child-selves. As children, we were in fact, creative and resourceful in our creativity. If we wanted to play with a Frisbee, we found someone who could lend us one long enough to try it out. If we wanted to grow some seeds, we found someone who could show us what to do. We regarded everything simply as an experiment. We never gave much thought to the outcome because we were so engaged in the moment, and if it didn’t grab us, we simply did something else.
When we return to seeing creativity through these more playful eyes, we become more inclined to make time for it in our schedules. Then our lives can become what the authors call, “an unhurried adventure in creative mindfulness.”
If you want more joy and playfulness in your life, start by discovering what truly makes your heart soar. Download our Mini-Course in Mindful Analysis exercise (7 days of writing and thinking) and unleash your creative spirit.
Download excerpted from A Book That Takes Its Time: An Unhurried Adventure in Creative Mindfulness by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst (Workman). © 2017
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