Stoke a creative spark in your daily life

In my neck of the woods, we're experiencing the kind of weather that inspired Norman Rockwell's entire canon. Yesterday, I saw cute little girls in plaid coats, dogs trotting through dry leaves, and the light coming down on my dirty neighborhood sidewalk, sunny but diffuse in that quintessentially October way. Fall seems to stir up our creativity (call it a vestigial habit from our school days), and the trick of making it a part of our lives is just listening--hearing our inner creative voice (everyone has one) and letting it out. Here's how.

Try a daily photo challenge.
We take photos at weddings, graduations, and birthdays, but a daily photo challenge calls you to look for the beauty in your ordinary, everyday life. Looking around for just the right frame becomes not only an exercise in seeing the art of the everyday, but a simple exercise in awareness. Choose a method that works for you: digital photos, snapshots on your cell phone, polaroids, whatever. And then, if you feel really inspired, make a scrapbook of your efforts: the trip to the post office, the dinner on the coffee table, the morning latte. Some day someone's going to ask you, "What were you like way back when?" And there it will be: the tiny, little details of the everyday life you lived.

Look for moments of synchronicity. Synchronicity is when two seemingly unrelated events occur together in a meaningful way, a "meaningful coincidence," if you will. Each of us brings a personal bearing to meaning, so looking for synchronicity is really a matter of connecting the dots in your life. For example, my best friend is interested in changing careers and applying to a local college. This morning, on my walk to the coffee shop, a car stopped in front of me with the university's bumper sticker on their windshield: synchronicity! It's an exercise in opening yourself up to everyday signs and symbols, and seeing the pattern in the randomness of life.

Give yourself ten minutes to write. This is the daily photo challenge for wordsmiths and a toned-down version "morning pages," recommended by creativity guru, Julia Cameron. It doesn't matter whether you do your writing first thing in the morning, while you're riding the bus, or before you go to sleep, but for ten minutes, let your mind go wild. Don't write about "something." Just get whatever is in your head out onto the paper: worries, dreams, a scandalous thing you overheard at post office, or just writing, "I don't know what to write," over and over. The point is to develop a practice, just like a new workout routine is designed to build up your muscles. Your clearing ten minutes of time and space in your life where your creativity matters.

Shake up your routine. When we get stuck in our usual routines, it's harder for creativity to bubble up and break the surface of our daily lives. Shake things up. Take a different route to work, try a new recipe for dinner, read a different newspaper. Alter your usual regimen just slightly if that's what seems doable. If you order pizza on Friday nights, go for Japanese; if you go to yoga on Tuesday, try pilates. It's not just the changed event itself that's stimulating, it's the entire process. Who knows what you may see on the way to the pilates studio, or who you may meet waiting in line for your shumai?

Indulge your curiosity. One of my favorite takeaways from a workshop with Julia Cameron was her suggestion to take weekly "artist dates." Artist dates don't have to have anything to do with art. Instead, they're a chance to indulge whatever piques your curiosity and delights your senses. Maybe that means going out of your way to visit the farmer's market, checking out a book at the library on modern design, or finally popping your head into that gorgeous-looking store that seems too rich for your blood. Follow your nose, and see where it takes you.

Do you guys feel like your daily life could stand some more creativity? What do you do to scratch that artistic itch?

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