anna brones

writer + artist

Coffee Outside, With a Dose of Creativity

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Coffee Adventures Outside is a collaboration between myself and Alastair Humphreys, released each month on the new moon. We hope you’ll join us in our coffee adventures, wherever you are. 

What makes you feel creative?

Every month we have been exploring ways that coffee can offer the opportunity for interesting microadventures, a vehicle into exploration of the world around us or our inner selves. What is otherwise a very regular routine can lead to  something new when simply done in an alternative setting. We started things with a simple coffee outside, then took a challenge to explore someplace new, and then took time and space for solitude in the forest. This time around we’re aiming for creativity.

We tend to equate creativity with things like drawing, painting or singing. But no matter what profession we are in—teacher, rocket scientist, accountant, adventurer—we all require creative thinking. Creative thinking is about seeing what’s around us, using the knowledge that we have, and being able to link things together in new ways. Creativity is about problem solving, having new ideas, changing perspective and carving a new path forward. 

We don’t always allow ourselves to be creative, or even worse, we consider creativity an inherent personality trait, something only attainable to an elite, talented few. But we all have the capacity for creativity. Think of creativity like a muscle. We can work at it and we can train our creative selves. If we haven’t worked at it in a little while, we might feel rusty, a little weaker than usual.

The capacity for creativity lies in all of us. Creativity is elemental and part of what makes us human. As acclaimed biologist and thinker E.O. Wilson puts it in his book, The Origins of Creativity, “creativity is the unique and defining trait of our species; and its ultimate goal, self-understanding… This infinite reach of imagination, put quite simply, is what made us great.”

While we’re culturally enamored with the idea of a “lightning bolt of inspiration,” the reality is that the creative process is much more complex: a combination of seeing, learning, and thinking. We have to be doing all of those things, and doing them regularly, before we get to the exciting inspiration bit. 

Perhaps it’s no surprise that we love the idea of a lightning bolt of inspiration. As a society we love quick fixes. Like a magic pill to keep us healthy, we enjoy the illusion that we can just go about life as normal and wait to be hit with bouts of inspiration. This does us two injustices: 

  1. It allows us to believe the myth that creativity is an inherent personality trait that some people have and others don’t. 
  2. If we identify ourselves as not having this elusive creative trait, then we don’t have to worry about it, we don’t have to do any work.

It gives us a cop out. 

But here’s the thing about creativity: creativity lies in the work, in the doing. If we want to be more creative, we have to invest in our creative selves.That investment comes in two forms: investing in our creative wellbeing and investing in the skill of our creative medium. In other words, we have to work at our creative crafts. 

That’s what this month’s challenge is for. We want your coffee outside to be paired with a creative act.

A few of you might already be well-versed in your own creative practice and know exactly what you want to do. Some of you might appreciate that you don’t always give the time your creative practice deserves. But many of you may also feel that you have no idea what your creative practice is, and just be curious to try something new. 

Wherever you’re at, start with this question: what makes you feel creative? 

Think about the moments that you feel creative, or when you feel inspired. Certainly you might feel creative when you are in the act of making something, but most likely there are other factors too. You feel more creative when you have fewer distractions, or when you have time for yourself, or when you are learning something new. These are the things to pay attention to because they are the things that require your regular investment. A creative process is as much about creating things as it is about taking the time to invest in the moments that keep our creative brains active.

As coffee can be an entry point to adventures big and small, so can creativity, and there is power in creative microadventures. Just like regular microadventures are a way to bring adventure into your everyday life, creative microadventures offer the opportunity to infuse creativity into your everyday as well.

Most of us have a big project we want to get to and complete at some point in our lives. To write a book or a screenplay, paint a masterpiece, design and build a treehouse. However it is so easy for us to get hung up on the big projects—the ones with an endpoint  that can be checked off with a sense of accomplishment—that we neglect all the stuff in between. We forget that the small investments are what carve the path for the bigger projects, they’re what keep us creatively active and nimble. A creative path requires constant movement, experimentation and play. It is more robust when we find ways to bring small acts of creativity, and small investments in creativity, into our everyday.

As this new moon transitions from late spring towards summer, it’s important to spend some time thinking about these small investments in creativity. Unlike winter and its call for hibernation, we are working our way into a season that is traditionally a time of “doing”.

You might feel like you’re warming up, opening back up to the opportunities around you, fueled by a new sense of energy. You may have identified some big projects you want to work on. No matter how much energy and inspiration you have, those larger creative investments inevitably require a scaffolding, something to support you and carry you through. 

Today we want you to identify your own creative microadventure, take your supplies and coffee kit and head outside. Consider this creative microadventure a combination of a creative act (ie making art, writing a poem) and a creative investment (ie going on a walk, turning off your phone). For example, drink your coffee outside and spend ten minutes writing about the experience. Or take your sketchbook and create a drawing of your coffee outside setting. Or drink your coffee and dance like nobody’s watching. Remember that this creative microadventure is about process, not product. Draw something that you don’t love? That’s fine! Write something you want to toss in the bin? Again, that’s fine! There is no right or wrong way to do a creative microadventure, the only important thing is that you take the time to do it. 

See where this creative microadventure takes you. Hopefully you want to do it again. For if we are conscious about building creativity into our regular routines, we ensure that creativity itself becomes part of all our days. 

Think about your cherished morning cup of coffee: if we can commit to drinking a cup of coffee every day, we can certainly commit to an everyday investment in our creativity as well. 

Share photos of your adventures with us: #coffeeadventuresoutside

Written by Anna Brones

May 12, 2021 at 09:00

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