Think Tank: Creative Extracurriculars

The first thing we're working on is Zentangling, which is soothing in itself. Here's my Zentangle, where I incorporated a whole bunch of different patterns in one shape.

The first thing we’re working on in class is Zentangling, which is soothing in itself. Here’s my first Zentangle, where I incorporated a whole bunch of different patterns into one shape.

I’m taking an art journaling class, and it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. For two hours on Monday and Wednesday afternoons after work, I get to work on my journal, eat really good food and zone out. I’ve only been to one class so far, but when I got in my car to go home yesterday, I immediately noticed how zen I felt. I’ve had the worst senioritis lately, but I was ready to go home, eat dinner and tackle the ever-growing pile of homework.

All things considered, I’m a busy college student: three classes, a senior research project, two clubs, a student newspaper gig, a part-time job and impending grad school applications. In the little free time I have, I read, browse the Internet, go to concerts and museums, and practice yoga — which all happen to be inherently creative things. I know that I don’t have the exclusive on having a lot to do, but when I realized just how relaxing a creative outlet is, I found myself wondering about how big of an impact a regular activity could make in my life.

So, of course, I went to Google.

I found this really awesome study on college students and creativity, which was exactly what I was looking for. The creative outlets the polled students liked most were writing, academic work, conversation, science, music and visual art. This wasn’t all that surprising, since I know quite a few people who have side projects and initiatives, or enjoy hobbies that don’t have much to do with their major. The researchers also found a correlation between creativity and social activity, and that creative students are more social and engaging. In the discussion section of the study, the researchers mentioned that “students’ creativity narratives clearly express the ways in which these students feel distinctive — reinforcing notions that creativity is connected to self-expression and individuation.”

The study also quoted philosopher John Dewey, whose work is a cornerstone in our understanding of aesthetics. “We are given to associating creative mind with persons regarded as rare and unique, like geniuses,” he said in Art as Experience. “But every individual is in his own way unique. Each one experiences life from a different angle than anybody else, and consequently has something distinctive to give others if he can turn his experiences into ideas and pass them on to others.”

So even though my art journal is a deeply personal experience, Dewey’s idea really resonates with me. If I make exercising my creativity a top priority, I’ll be a better contributor to the things I’m involved in and an even better student.  Not only am I having fun in this art journaling class, but I’m cultivating myself too. And when the class is over, I’m sure I’ll continue on with my journal and other projects.

In one way, it’s just like going to the gym and working out — you have to train, and when you work out consistently, the muscles look fantastic and perform well. And, you feel a great burst of adrenaline and endorphins. Mentally stretching the brain and challenging a way of thinking seems to be good for the soul — not just for mine, but probably for yours too.

Yes, yes it does.

Yes, yes it does.

What do you do to stay creative? Let me know in the comments.

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