On losing creativity…and getting it back again.

One thing about academia that I always argue is that the first thing to go is your creativity. You’re so bogged down in reading and academic writing that you feel you no longer have the time to really read and appreciate a good book, do some painting, write a poem or dance to your heart’s content. I have been known for falling asleep onto a paper about Prosopagnosia before.

One of the main reasons why I have started this blog is to reclaim some of that creativity back. Although, my MSc may not look like it will benefit from my focus being deterred for an hour or two (or three or four), I believe there are many benefits blogging can have on my academic writing. Keeping creative can maybe offer you a way of doing things with a new perspective and keep refreshed, I am also many other things than just in academia.

With academia sometimes coming cross as an “exclusive club” to a newbie like me, I sometimes feel like I don’t fit in because I can also tell what brand of shoe somebody is wearing and I enjoy experimenting with makeup as well as love science. I once heard a comment (from a fellow woman in science), that:

“Academics have no time to put on makeup, we much prefer to go down and do the science”.

Awkward. Little me sitting there canny impressed with myself that my winged liner was so en pointe that day (a personal challenge every morning I tell you). My response: Get up 5 minutes earlier. Then…

Every single morning I am a blank canvas. I get to experiment with colours and textures every day in the way that I put clothes on my body and paint my face. I can match my outfit and my makeup to the mood that I am in. Once I’ve finished, I’m not one to be bothered too much about the way I look for the rest of the day, I may try something different tomorrow.

Then there was quiet. Then we changed the subject. Because it’s really not that important in the end. As long as we do the science well.

Have an ‘off-screen’ project.

I like the idea of this, and I know that I enjoy it once I get started. You can make yourself feel awful for not spending ALL of your time on your thesis, so really, I haven’t. What are your hobbies? Do you like crafts? music? creative writing? I once made a mosaic mirror based on the beautiful pieces on Newcastle Quayside Sunday Market. I asked my local tea room (in the North West) to save their broken teapots for me (they did, and more in a little shoebox!) and I put together this lovely heart mirror. It may not be market-standard, but it’s homemade and I am proud of it.

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I’ve also dabbled a lot in embroidery and sewing. I go through phases (I like to call projects), from having a sewing machine to buying a guitar to learn (currently keeping the sewing machine company in the loft). However, when I had the sewing machine, I made things from cushion covers to these little stuffed hearts out of different textiles I found and odd-end haberdashery things. They hang on my door handles around my flat. There was something about experimenting (of course, we have to keep the science theme here) with different techniques and patterns in the stitching and shapes that was quite therapeutic. It’s nice to have a hobby that doesn’t involve staring at a screen – I just get so bogged down and under stress with the academic side, I don’t do it enough!

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I like to make scrap books and guestbooks, if the guestbook is not for an event of mine, I like to spend some time writing something profound creative. I collect beautiful notebooks, notably paperblanks to use as my travel journals. Again, I haven’t allowed myself to go anywhere (even for a weekend) due to thesis guilt. One Day.

I like to let myself loose on a ‘project’ every now and again. Whether it’s a mosaic mirror out of broken teacups, hangy-up smelly things for Christmas or something for my flat, I also try to introduce creativity into my daily life. I carry on experimenting with make up, and, importantly when it comes to living in academia as well, read fiction. I’m really bad at this, I want to get better at winding down before bed rather than working until I crash. Like a New Year’s Resolution, let’s say.

There really needs to be a healthy balance between academia (or work life) and creativity. How do you go about achieving it?

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