Meet Ben. A graphic designer, playing card creator, bread maker, violin player, and so much more.
What does creativity look like for you in your professional life? Your personal life? Are there differences between the two?
As a graphic designer, I’ve built my whole career on creativity. Nearly every moment I’m working, I’m being creative, whether it’s picking the perfect colour palette for a poster design, or finessing custom typography for a logo. I feel truly lucky to be able to make a living sculpting information into clear and beautiful formats, but it can be exhausting to have to rely on creativity all the time. Some days, when I’m feeling tired or down, I envy people who can just show up to work and grind through their tasks regardless of their mental state, without relying on a creative ‘spark’. But most days, I derive huge amounts of joy from designing, creating, and seeing my designs out there in the world, making an impact. It feels a bit like magic, to see a little germ of an idea transform into a complete creation, just through pushing some pixels around on the screen.
In my leisure time, I focus on other facets of my creative self: making music and baking bread. These feel like refreshing and different kinds of creativity from my design work. With baking, I am creating something with my hands, and I can let my brain take a break. I find this type of physical creation invigorating and relaxing, similar to going for a hike or reading a book.
Playing my violin is my most beloved creative outlet. Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly joyful, I pick up my violin and can’t stop playing. The music will just pour out of me relentlessly – an unstoppable creative flow. Other times, if I’m feeling low or fatigued, I have no interest in even picking up my instrument.
It feels like I have a certain quantity of creativity in me that has to be released everyday. Sometimes it can go into my graphic design work; other times into music or baking. The creativity always has to escape somehow!
Do you think creativity and your brain health are connected? How so?
My creativity and brain health are strongly tied together, in a self-fulfilling loop. I feel happiest when I’m being creative, and when I’m feeling happy, the creativity pours out of me. A joyous cycle.
But If I am feeling down, my creativity plummets. I feel like creativity takes quite a lot of energy, and if my brain is putting its resources to other things, like getting me through the day, there’s not much room for creativity. Which means there’s not much room for generating happiness.
In order to keep my brain healthy, I need to set aside time for creativity, whether I’m in the mood or not. There’s nothing like a bit of art, music, or baking to get me out of a funk.
What do you do to get into a creative "flow"?
My creative flow usually comes at an inopportune time: right when I should be going to bed. When it’s late at night and the rest of the world has shut down, I find myself better able to focus. There’s something about the thought that “If I’m not working on this, my only alternative is to go to bed” that makes my mind keep pumping out the ideas. It somehow feels like there’s less pressure than during the day, and any productivity during the nighttime is a bonus. I’ve tried to fight my night-owl tendencies, but sometimes I just have to embrace them in order to make real progress on a creative project. My creative brain seems to get a boost between the hours of 11 pm and 2 am, and the flow comes easily. Inconvenient, but way better than nothing!
Do you have a brain health tip you'd like to share? Something that you do everyday or almost everyday to intentionally take care of your brain's wellbeing.
My favourite brain health strategy is practicing gratitude. If I’m ever feeling down, uncreative, or lacking in self confidence, I try to remember how lucky I am to have the life I have. To get to earn my living through creativity. To live in a safe and peaceful place, surrounded by kind people. I think of all the experiences I’ve had, and all the wonderful things I’ve worked on. A little positive reinforcement seems to make whatever problem I’m dealing with seem a bit more manageable.
Also, sleep and downtime are hugely important to me. I need at least 8.5 hours of sleep a night to feel happy and creative. I also rely on free time, alone, without any agenda or exceptions, to recharge my creative battery and let my ideas flow.