Be Creative Every Day: Tips From the Non-Creative

Shift CollaborativeGeneral

Crayola Colored Pencils and coloring sheet

Creative: Having the quality or power of creating. Resulting from originality of thought, expression. (

As you can imagine, a creative agency like Shift Collaborative is full of creative professionals. I am not one of them. Not in the traditional sense. I can’t draw a stick figure. I don’t sketch or doodle during conference calls. I make lists.

I’m a people person, a project manager. I work with colleagues to keep projects on task and to translate the work to the client. I love to brainstorm ideas and work as a team.

But I spend a lot of time working on spreadsheets and documents. I’m not complaining, but last year I felt like I needed my own creative outlet. So I started taking a photography class in October 2015. I already owned a “good” camera but didn’t know how to use all the features, and a 101 class was the perfect place to start.

At that same time, the Adult Coloring Book phenomenon was growing, and I added a coloring book and pencils to my Christmas wish list.

The Art Before Breakfast book opens with the following:

You are about to discover that

  1. Making art will make you saner and happier
  2. You don’t need to think you have “talent” to make beautiful art
  3. Art making can fit into the craziest, busiest, most hectic and out-of-control lives – even yours.

Cover of Art Before Breakfast

And then, Shift partner Cynthia Closkey gave me the book Art Before Breakfast.

Was this all a coincidence? Were the stars aligning? I was definitely getting the message: Be creative every day.

I kicked off 2016 with a resolution to be creative every day! Some days that meant taking photos, and other days – especially those cold, gray days when the sun goes down at 4pm – it meant coloring.

I started with my new coloring book and the first few times I sat down and put Crayola Colored Pencil to paper, I wanted to hurry through the image and get it done as fast as I can. But that’s not how it works. I learned to turn on some music and take my time, selecting colors and working through the image.

I then turned to a Page-A-Day calendar. On most days I spend 10-20 minutes coloring a picture. Mine are very symmetrical. (I can’t help myself.) Some days, I don’t finish the image. And I’ve learned, that’s okay.

Crayola colored pencils and coloring paperIn a December 2015, Huffington Post shared a blog post from James Clear, who writes about the health benefits of creativity writing.

In our always-on, always-connected world of television, social media, and on-demand everything, it can be stupidly easy to spend your entire day consuming information and simply responding to all of the inputs that bombard your life. Art offers an outlet and a release from all of that. Take a minute to ignore all of the incoming signals and create an outgoing one instead. Produce something. Express yourself in some way. As long as you contribute rather than consume, anything you do can be a work of art.

At Shift, we encourage all our clients to be creative. In our exerciseSHIFT kickoff meetings, drawing and doodling provide a physical and mental break from whatever everyone has been doing prior to the start of the meeting.

You have certainly heard of left brain versus right brain thinking. It has long been thought that left brain thinkers have strong math and analytical skills, and the right brain thinkers have more creative characteristics.

I say use your whole brain!

I’ve continued my photography education, and I was excited to hear my instructor tell me that she can see my personal style evolving and emerging.

Some of the instruction given in the latest photography class, which focused on composing an image, reminds me of how we can be creative every day. Maybe you’ll find it helps you too.

  • Be mindful of the background
  • Avoid distractions
  • Add some depth
  • Keep the clutter out
  • Simplify
  • Change your perspective