My day-to-day work is rooted in the technical practices of engineering and mathematics. Neither exudes creativity on the surface, but they also aren't completely void of it either. Among many things, there is creativity found in both practices through the problem-solving and decision-making processes. Creative, but limited as outputs are naturally restrained to objectives rather than being free for expression. Expression is what generally comes to mind when someone thinks about creativity. It is what makes us unique and feel less robotic, but also tricky to navigate unless your career caters to this type of creativity. If it doesn't, like my own career, it is easy to miss the benefits it provides like helping reduce stress, taking your mind off work, and even improving creativity and thought processes at work.
Difficulty of Staying Creative Throughout Life
I would not say that I have ever shied away from creativity in my life. As a child I was obsessed with creating things, whether it was magazines, skate videos, video games, websites, the list goes on and on. There was something always satisfying in taking an idea that I couldn’t escape thinking about to completion. However, as one knows or soon finds out, work becomes a big component of your life and there is less time to dedicate to creative outlets unless you carve it out for yourself. When you are early in your career, time is spent on your career development, and less on individual pursuits. This was the case for me, and I eventually got to a point where I questioned what my future was going to look like, and if I was doomed to end up living a life void of interests and passions outside of my nine-to-five.
At one point in time, I viewed my work as the means by which I would find fulfillment in life causing unnecessary stress and too much time thinking about career decisions impacting my future. It wasn’t until I hit a bit of burnout trying to build a startup, that I decided to dedicate time to more expressive creative outlets. Hobbies that would tap back into the joy I had in my childhood building whatever I dreamt up. When starting off with figuring out what those hobbies would be, I made hard rules that it wouldn’t be work-related, and rather than being hard on myself and a perfectionist, I would share my work regardless of what opinions anyone had about what I had created.
Progressively Adding Outlets
Photography was the first outlet, that I continue to do to this day and love. Surprisingly, despite the previous burnout with the startup, programming fun side projects with defined scopes was another, and more recently collaging. When I’m engaged with any of these types of outlets there is an immediate cutoff of thinking about anything related to work or judgment. I just stay present in the moment and practice, like I would for sports or meditation. This approach has provided me with happiness, inspiration, and perspectives, that focusing purely on work like I did in the early stages of my career wouldn’t have been possible.
Break Your Stigmas
I may have not pursued a career path that one would characterize as creative, but that hasn’t held me back from pursuing creative outlets in my life. Despite what many might believe have been told about themselves, you aren’t born creative, it is a spirit that anyone can have and should be pursued for many of the benefits that have helped me in how I live my life and even my “non-creative” career. Break through your own stigmas, and find outlets that make you happy.