Daily Creativity: Part 5 – A Slow Experiment

Wang Xi

What an unexpectedly beautiful ride this month of daily creativity has been! In today’s poggie Ben and I wrap up our May experiment with a recap of our own efforts and realisations, as well as a whole heap of fascinating research in to the benefits (both obvious and not-so-obvious) of cultivating a daily creative practice.

I began this experiment with a particular creative output in mind (starting a novel for 8-12 year olds) but have delighted in the way my practice has evolved as I’ve begun to let go of perfection, expectations and particular outputs. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve moved away from writing the story down, instead choosing to make it up it chapter-by-chapter every night as I put the kids to bed. And can I tell you, that shift has been both challenging and liberating.

Some nights I’ve got the goods and will lay next to the kids for half an hour, building and weaving a new world for all of us to explore. Other nights it comes slow and clunky, and I find myself asking for their ideas to fill some of the gaping holes in my story. And while I used to think that was a failing on my part (if I can’t do it perfectly straight away then what’s the point?) but this experiment has shown me that the benefits of creativity are rarely attached to the final outcome. Instead, daily creativity has seen me increase my compassion and empathy, feel more playful and content, and I’ve rediscovered the joy of process over product.

These benefits are reflected in the research into the benefits of creativity, and Ben and I spend the rest of the episode diving in to what those benefits are and why they’re so important. The ones that blew my mind most of all:

  • drawing, painting, sculpting and expressive writing have all been proven to help people deal with and process different kinds of trauma, by allowing them to access and express emotions that can be difficult to articulate otherwise
  • writing by hand can help boost memory and effective learning (as opposed to typing, which doesn’t have the same impact)
  • play-acting or theatresports can lead to improved psychological wellbeing, problem-solving and word recall, with the benefit lasting up to four weeks
  • expressive writing can help with chronic pain management
  • music therapy has been proven to boost the immune system in some participants, as well as change and improve responses to stress
  • expressive writing has also been linked to the increased production of a white blood cell called the CD4+ lymphocyte, which is key to a well-functioning immune system (or put another way: writing actually helps our bodies build a stronger immune system…)

Now I don’t know about you, but this list of benefits blows my mind. To see not only that creativity can help us to feel better emotionally, but is also good for us physically is just incredible and is certainly not something I expected when we started the experiment a few weeks ago.

But like so many elements of slow living, we now find that there is a strong thread that connects so many parts of life: Creativity impacts our mental health. Walking in nature can help us fight off a virus. Deep breathing can reduce stress. Sharing a kindness with a stranger can increase our sense community. The more we experiment, the more connections we discover and the more convinced I am that slowing down and learning to live more intentionally really can help us change the world.

Now, if that sounds a little too lofty for you (perhaps you’re thinking, “I don’t even have time for five minutes of creativity, I don’t think I can manage changing the world!”) we also round out today’s episode with a list, courtesy of Psychology Today, of ways to incorporate creativity in to your daily life, no additional time or equipment necessary:

  • if you find yourself disagreeing with someone, choose to respond in the exact opposite way you normally would and see if the shift in perspective changes things
  • take a different route to work
  • spend time daydreaming and see if it allows you to reframe a problem you’re trying to solve
  • get ahead on a project you’re working on, and avoid the creativity vampire that is deadline procrastination
  • think about a problem you’re trying to solve before going to bed, and let your brain churn it over while you sleep

We’ve loved watching your #slowexperiment posts on Instagram this month (so many delicious cakes and gorgeous gardens!) and would love to know how you found the experiment. Did you discover, or re-discover, a creative passion? Did you unlock an unexpected benefit of creative time? Did you struggle with perfectionism or playfulness?

In the meantime, enjoy the episode and, as always, thank you for listening.

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