As I've written before, I've been drawing a lot of inspiration from the creative fields these past months. This morning I was listening to the recent Chase Jarvis episode of the James Altucher Show. One of the things they talked about that resonated with me, was how creativity is like a muscle - use it or it will atrophy.
As humans, we are all inherently creative beings. Go into a year one class and see the students work and you will be quickly reminded of that. But sadly for a lot of us, we lose that as we get older. We start thinking of how others may judge what we're doing rather than focusing on the fulfilment we get from making stuff.
The good news is, just like atrophied muscles, things can be improved with some purposeful rehab. It doesn't have to be something big. And it doesn't have to be artistic.
Research is by definition a creative field. It is literally about creating new contributions to fields of knowledge. The same goes with writing - asserting your position, saying something in a thoughtfully structured way, an extremely creative process regardless of the topic area.
I can attest to seeing improvements through practice regularly. Since I've been writing this blog my academic writing has significantly improved. My measure of this is the feedback from two of my supervisors regarding my most recent literature review. Over the years I have learned that they are not an easy audience. Whenever I send out a draft for review it's with some level trepidation and fear. Not bad fear, more like healthy discomfort knowing that it's going to be uncomfortable but will ultimately lead to a better outcome (still sucks for the moment though). I still felt that way with this paper, but it needed much less surgery to get it ready for publication than previous ones. Part of that is because I now know that writing is a creative process for me, and there is a huge gap between my shitty first draft and one that is ready for review by others. I'm better at judging when to put it out for feedback. The other is that I'm getting to be more confident and concise with my writing.
You don't have to write regularly, you don't have to construct a research project. You can do whatever fits with your life to start exercising your creativity. Cook dinner a bit differently than usual. Think about a problem from a different perspective. The what doesn't matter, it's the doing it that counts.