January UBC Health Heroes: The Creatives

Posted by: | December 23, 2010

by Anna Lidstone

Anna Lidstone has written extensively on creativity and has presented numerous workshops on ‘Protecting Your Creativity’ and ‘Finding Time for Creativity’. She is also a Senior Writer in the Development Office.

They sidle up to me in the corridor. “I just wanted to tell you,” they whisper, “about my new book/song/painting/quilt…” Their eyes lights up and their excitement is palpable. “Some of my friends don’t get it,” they might say. “But I know that you do.”

These are the creative heroes at UBC, the secret and not-so-secret “artists” on campus who value creativity and the role it plays in their life.

Some of them work in the places you might expect –the film, music or writing departments. But others are in less obvious roles. It might be an admin assistant with a talent for design. An engineer/filmmaker. An accountant who makes amazing quilts. An IT specialist/playwright.

Once you start looking, you find them everywhere, in every discipline and every unit.

What they all have in common is that they have all discovered that nurturing their creativity is, for them at least, a vital part of living a balanced and healthy life.

“Creativity is the most important thing to me,” one person tells me. “It makes me feel alive.”

Another says, “I used to think I could do without singing. But I’ve figured out that I can be exercising and eating well but if I’m not singing regularly, I don’t feel healthy.”

A busy parent tells me, “My kids know when I haven’t been writing. I’m so grumpy!”

But it’s not always easy to find time for creative endeavours. Most of us are trying to fit our creative activities around study, jobs, bills, family commitments, parenting and a million other pressures and commitments. So how can we juggle it all?

Here are some tips for finding time for creativity:

Give yourself permission

A commerce student who loves to sculpt told me, ‘I’m so busy and have so many commitments. Sometimes I wonder how I can possibly justify time on something frivolous like creativity. But for me, it’s not frivolous. It’s not a luxury. It’s a necessity.”

Start today

I’ve often heard people say that they’ll work on their own creative projects later – after they graduate, when they retire or when their kids start school. But you probably don’t wait until you’ve finished your internship to start brushing your teeth, or decide to put off exercising until your 70th birthday – you try to make these things part of your day-to-day life. Maybe creativity deserves the same respect.


Make a commitment to work on a creative project every day for two weeks. Keep some notes about how it makes you feel. Do you have more energy? Do you feel more focused? Does it make it easier to resist those 3pm donuts? Are you less irritable? Noticing how nurturing your creativity affects you will make it easier for you to include it as a regular part of your life.

Take advantage of small pockets of time

Three weeks on a desert island to finish your film script might be awfully tempting, but is hard to arrange. What might be achievable is 10 minutes of scribbling while you wait for a lecture to start, or ½ hour on the bus ride home. It might not seem much, but the small amounts add up. And anyway, the more it becomes a habit, the more time you’ll find.

It’s not easy to find “art/life” balance but most people say it’s well worth the effort. To everyone who’s facing the challenge of making creativity part of a healthy lifestyle, I salute you, and I look forward to hearing more of your stories.

Read next month’s Healthy UBC for more tips on nurturing your creative health.

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Food of the Month

Oranges Every month, the Healthy UBC Blog highlights a locally available food, and gives you a recipe or two to try out.  This month, read all about mandarin oranges, rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, fibre and folate.

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