As our lives get busier and our days continually filled with things we ‘must get done’, it’s no surprise that for many of us, finding the time to think creatively, or to be creative, gets seemingly harder.
For each of us, creativity might look slightly different. Whether you paint, write, dance, or like me, run a business, creativity is the fuel that we constantly need to ‘top up’.
Likewise, perhaps you have been dealt a challenging situation – at work or at home – and what you need is the space to think creatively about how to solve it. When you have the pedal to the floor each and every day, finding that space starts to feel unattainable.
It’s no wonder then, that often people say things like, “when I was in the shower this morning, it came to me!”. Of course, it wasn’t the shower; it was that brief few minutes of time out to let your mind shift gear that created the space for problem solving.
While I am no expert on the brain, I do have a passion for developing my own creativity. Why? Because if my husband Cameron and I don’t keep evolving and differentiating Active Creatures to appeal to existing and new customers, we don’t have a business in the future. Incentive enough, ha!
If creativity is something you too are interested in cultivating, I hope you will find some inspiration in my observations below.
Learning to do less, to achieve more…
About one year into starting Active Creatures I hit my first big rock… I was working around the clock and not sleeping more than six hours a night. With everything I had to get done, my mind was constantly racing and unable to find rest. It’s no wonder that in this state designing women’s clothes was challenging. I’ll admit that during this time, as much as I loved the gym, I had one eye on my weights and the other on the gym clothes that women next to me were rocking. And if that wasn’t bad enough, yoga was even worse. In the sanctuary of meditation on the mat, here was me, one-eye-opened, checking out the yoga clothes and activewear of the women surrounding me.
Needless to say, this mental unrest was physically exhausting me. For the first time, I actually felt my brain was this muscle that would elect to just ‘shut down’ around midnight when it was so fatigued it just couldn’t stay awake anymore.
It was a tough lesson to learn that actually doing less was making me more productive. In other words, sleeping more, meditating at yoga (instead of looking at the yoga pants!) and taking time out to walk my dogs with Cam, actually helped me find greater clarity and focus; which was the beginning of bringing more creativity into my sports clothing designs.
Paying less attention to others…
But that was only the beginning. Because with focus, I also got pretty caught up in what others around me were doing. Who else was making similar women’s clothes? Who else was pushing their brand towards activewear? What other trends in gym clothes did I need to be watching?
This level of focus on what others around me were doing was like climbing a never-ending Stairmaster on the highest setting. Bloody exhausting. And absolutely useless in helping me create the space for my own creativity. So I decided to ditch it. I completely stopped looking at competitors’ gym wear collections.
Instead, I turned my attention to aspirational brands across the globe, and across categories, that I could take design cues from. What I found was that this totally ignited my creativity because it became a game of problem solving…
As an example, how could I take a design element I’d seen on a piece of furniture, and integrate the idea of it into my gym wear collection. To this day, this is how I create collections. I scan the globe for best of breed ideas outside of women’s sportswear that appeal to me and then work out ways to bring those key elements into my design process.
Learning the power of time
In the early days of Active Creatures, I rushed everything. Every decision was made quickly. Each women’s sportswear collection was pushed through as fast as possible. Unknowingly, I was competing with the clock for how much I could achieve in the shortest amount of time.
But what resulted were a lot of disappointments. Leggings that - had I have spent a bit more time thinking about before putting them into production - could have been Great instead of Good. Or Dog Jackets and Dog Coats that if not rushed through so quickly, could have expressed the creativity of Active Creatures more fully.
So I decided to sloooooow down.
Nowadays it is not uncommon for me to spend 12 weeks working on a gym apparel collection. I’ll research ideas first. Then I’ll sit on those ideas, just to ensure I still love them in a few days time, or a few weeks time. Then I’ll start designing. Stop. Reflect. Iterate. Go again. Stop. Share for feedback. You get the idea. And interestingly in this seemingly disjointed process of slowing and stopping, you’d expect that creativity dissipates. But it doesn’t!
I’ve always read that the brain jumps around (a, to b, to r, then back to c etc) and I think this is true of creativity. By slowing down the process, creativity can really start to flourish. Whether that’s designing a women’s clothing collection or contemplating a problem… giving yourself time helps you more fully – and creatively - solve the challenge at hand.
Learning the right time
I do believe that there is a right time for creativity in our busy weeks. It will look different for everyone. Mine is a Saturday. For me, Saturday marks the end of a busy business week. And it has that special feel because there is still Sunday to follow it.
So for some weird and wonderful reason, I wake up on Saturdays in the creative zone, ready to tackle my next creative challenge or design the very latest in yoga clothes. Capitalising on your right time – or carving out time in your week – is extremely important.
If you wait for divine intervention to come down, hit you, and tell you it’s time to be creative, you’ll probably be waiting a while! Plan for creativity, give yourself time and space and magic will happen!
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Co-founder & Director, Active Creatures