Making space for creativity

You need to explore, and you need to focus.  Creativity brings you both.  Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

How can we get more time to be creative, and what advantages does it give us?


Creativity is the ability to reform life in new patterns, and not to be restricted by what has gone before.  In psychological terms, it involves two types of thinking, divergent and convergent.  You need divergent thinking to gather in new ideas, and then convergent thinking to focus all your new ideas into a new pattern.


In order to encourage creativity, therefore, we need to do two things:

  • First, we need to expose ourself to new ideas, experiences and objects.  This can be going to a new place, talking to new people, or exploring new physical objects.  Libraries, exhibitions, social groups, travel – all of these, for instance, can be vehicles to creativity.
  • Secondly, we need to decide on a medium, a vehicle for our own creativity.  This can be a journal, poetry, other writing, visual media, audio media, work with physical media such as sculpture, textiles, decoration, or landscaping.

Creativity is essential to human development.

Our growth is dependent on exposure to novelty, and we have body and brain mechanisms which are primed to notice opportunities for exploration.  That is why a baby’s eyes often stray to anything new that is happening in the room.  We are primed to seek stimulation.  This is divergent thinking, and is why young babies are often so easily distracted.

Later on, our further growth is dependent on making our own creations.  So, a baby grows into an infant who can build with building blocks, or draw with felt pens.  This is convergent thinking.  Because it requires concentration, it is more difficult.


If we understand the above, we have a way of understanding anxiety.

Suppose someone gets stuck in the stimulation phase, for ever watchful and responsive to triggers.  They will be easily distracted, and any old thought or experience will throw them off balance, because they have no way of controlling the mess of thoughts and feelings.

If you are like this, you are missing the ability to focus.  Your life will seem to be an unending series of shocks and surprises.  You will find yourself complaining that too much is happening.  Actually, the same amount of stuff is happening as has always happened.  But you are primed to be reactive, and have little or no control over your own reactions.

If you can develop a greater capacity for convergent thinking, this can help.  Think of your experiences as the building blocks for your creative life.  If you leave them in a mess, then your mind will seem to be a mess, like a child’s untidy room.

How can you develop the ability to tidy up your mind?


To improve or reduce anxiety, finding focus is ideal.  When you are focused, your mind is better able to tidy up all the building blocks in your mind into a clear and coherent space.

An easy way of finding focus, is to begin a simple task.  This can even be the washing up, going for a walk, or cleaning a pair of shoes.  It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it can act as a focus for your attention.  Once you are embarked on the task, you will find that your mind feels more at ease.  This is because your easily distracted self is being balanced by a focused self.

If you can make your task a creative one, then this can be even better.  Craft-based group therapy works on this principle.  An element of self-expression can not only reduce distractability and panic, but also allow the mind to make good patterns out of one’s own experience.  In this way, creative writing, visual art, songwriting, crafting and similar exercises, can calm the anxious mind in the present, and build a less chaotic mind in the future.


Today, try to do two things:

  1. Seek out what is interesting to you.  It could be a bit of shopping, in which you scan shops for interesting items.  It could be visiting a library, where you could see what types of books interest you.  Whatever it is, explore a little out of your normal zone.
  2. Take time to indulge in a convergent action.  This could be as simple as the washing up.  Or it could be as artistic as trying to complete a poem or a drawing.  Whatever the case, let it be a focused task.  Ideally, let it be one you have chosen for yourself, to give you a sense of control.


Creativity is the ability to make new patterns.  This involves two skills, one easier and one harder.

  1. The easy skill is getting distracted and exploring.  Even babies can do this.  But if you get stuck here, then you can turn into an anxious mess, as the world will feed you with too much stimulation.
  2. The harder skill is getting focused and convergent.  This is a mark of maturity in development.  Once you engage on a focused task, your mind will tidy itself up, and life will seem less of a mess.  If the focused task is creative, then you can build helpful patterns in your mind for the future.
All in all, creativity is part of what we are as humans.  We owe it to ourselves to harness our anxious, easily-distracted, divergent selves.  If we can gather all that wonderful divergent thought into a focused activity, then we have the best of both worlds.  We can continue to dream, but will be calm and focused enough to manage our dreams into something concrete and helpful.