The Simply Soft Life 3: Creating

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This is the third instalment of a series of articles focused on finding “The Simply Soft Life”. This time, I’m reflecting on the art of “creating” and the role that creativity can play in life. The first part focuses on how we can learn from the Italian way of life and the second on minimilasm to help find a soft life.

What is this “Simply Soft Life?”

As a reminder, as I travel, I’ve been searching for ways in which life can be more enjoyable, with less complication or stress. This is how I’m describing “The Simply Soft Life”. It’s a combination of two things, the good old fashioned “Simple Life” and the “Soft Life” trend that has been sweeping social media for the past 6 months. In essence, it’s a personal journey to live a less cluttered life, with less pressure on striving, delivering, doing the “right” thing (or the thing that is expected by society) and more focus on finding joy, contentment and flow. Easy right?

Why creativity is important to the simply soft life?

Well, creating and creativity is really important! Yet, as adults, we often forget how vital it really is and what the benefits are. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard another adult say, “I’m not creative at all!” or “I’m not a creative person.” In fact, I’m sure I’ve said it many times.

Would you ever dismiss a child as “not creative”? In all likelihood, no. Perhaps a child might be less good at drawing than their peers currently or perhaps not as good at writing yet. But it would be pretty dismissive and damaging to say that a child is “not creative” at all. We are more inclined to realise that children grow and change, so we can easily acknowledge that some of their unique talents haven’t “yet” developed, but we would rarely suggest that a child is not capable of developing in that area.

But as adults, we are really quick to diminish our own talents. Or, just as easily, to assume that we can NEVER develop in a particular area. This goes to the heart of the “growth mindset” v “fixed mindset” mentality, that you will have no doubt heard of. But even if you’re a whip smart growth mindset guru, I bet you’ve spent hours coaching yourself into running better meetings, or managing difficult conversations, but very little time honing your creative skills.

In short, creativity is under recognised as a skill that can be developed and grown in adults. Most of us also dedicate limited time to creating.

How can creativity benefit us?

One of the top search terms when you type “creativity” into Google, is “Why is Creativity important for Kids?” So, what’s the answer? Well, the most common reasons cited are that it helps to improve logic, sensory capability, concentration, self-confidence and it helps children to interpret their world.

Once again, does this also apply to adults? I’d say that it does, and arguably some of the benefits may be even greater for us grownups. In a world where we are distracted constantly, millions of emails, social media pings etc, surely anything that can help to improve our ability to concentrate has to be a good thing? Plus, against the backdrop of a global pandemic, negative news coverage and a world that can sometimes just feel rotten, do we also not need an outlet to help us interpret our world?

I’d say there are two additional important benefits for adults too – both of which could help us move towards a soft life:

i) Stress Reduction: Stress is endemic, it causes illness. I heard on a recent Podcast that studies now show that high levels of stress between the ages of 40 and 50 can lead to an increase in the likelihood of suffering from Dementia later in life. Doing something creative activates similar patterns in your brain to meditation, thus reducing the impact of stress. And, if you’re able to achieve a state of “flow” whilst creating, this has a similarly relaxing impact on your body. Yet, it’s probably when we are our busiest and most stressed that we make less time for creating. Stress reduction is integral to living a more simple, soft life.

ii) Opportunities for connection: Creating more can help you connect with others. There are countless opportunities to join creative courses or classes, or even free communities. For example, if you like creative writing, you could try an online course or join writing hour held by London Writers Salon (a daily opportunity to dial into Zoom and write alongside others). Whether you choose to join something formal, or just talk to likeminded creatives, making the conscious decision to hone a particular part of your creative skill set will no doubt open up new chances to connect with others.

I know that I am happiest when I’m using energy to create more. I feel fortunate that I discovered this at a very young age. My Mum taught me how to bake when I was really small, she loves to cook, and this rubbed (baking pun) off my me at an early age. I also discovered my love for writing when I was little. From the age of 4, I could be entertained for HOURS, with a pen and paper. I’d sit and write anything, from food menus, short stories and epically long novels (which made little sense). But as a child, you also create just for the sake of it! Even if you’re not particularly good at something. Queue grainy 90s photos of my attempts to play musical pots and pans!

How can we all create more to find the soft life?

The short answer, make time for it. Easier said than done, but even a few minutes a day could have benefits.

You could try writing, painting, drawing or take a dance class. BBC Maestro has loads of different creative courses, as does Future Learn (which is free). Maybe music is more your thing, what about learning to play an instrument or downloading an app to help you make some dance beats? Or, if you prefer something less “artistic”, then what about cooking? Dig out that recipe from 2020 and try banana bread (#nostaliga.) There are endless free recipes online, some of which don’t require many ingredients and are easy to follow. Or what about flower arranging or making an Autumn wreath? Maybe go foraging and create a display using cuttings from your local woods.

Or if you really don’t have any personal time, think about whether there’s anything at work that could give you an opportunity to create more? Are there ways that you could experiment throughout your workday? Why not try encouraging creativity during a work meeting – an easy way to do this is just to ask the question, “could we do this differently?” See where that question takes you.

The number one thing that I’ve learnt, is that when you are actively creating more, it’s better if you try (where possible) to lose a sense of needing an “outcome“. Doing something creative and putting it out into the world without expectation is difficult and requires bravery. But if you have enjoyed the creative pursuit for what it is, an outlet of expression and joy, then it won’t matter if other people don’t like the result. Take pleasure from the “doing” and not the outcome – that’s the simply soft life.


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