Creative Living for the Cash Poor (or anyone just feeling stuck)

A photo by Drew Coffman. I meet with clients who are in the midst of major life changes – between jobs, immersed in school, or creating space for recovery – which can mean that cash flow is significantly decreased and the things that once brought satisfaction may not be quite so accessible at the moment. It’s times like this – more than ever – when the need for creativity is at its highest, and coincidentally when you might feel the least motivated to do anything about it. It’s common knowledge that stress takes a toll on your body and mind.  And while it’s true that things like meditation and exercise (within reason) can be helpful to alleviate and manage stress, I find that it’s also very common for people to find themselves just feeling stuck and unsure of where to turn especially if they can’t exercise and haven’t yet found the value in meditation. Maybe it’s about inspiration, or maybe it just comes down to the decision to do something different. Either way I thought I’d share some ideas that might pique interests in hopes of getting the ball rolling.

First, start by thinking about the things you used to enjoy at a time when you weren’t feeling stuck. Don’t censor yourself here – write down everything. Write down things you enjoyed last year, two…five…ten years ago. Write down the things you enjoyed when you were 8. Next, go back and cross things off the list that are no longer healthy for you (you might want to check in with your therapist on this one). Circle the things that you think are too expensive to do right now. Then highlight the things that you can do right now, even if they seem silly – yes, you can walk outside and study an anthill – if you liked to do this when you were 8, there’s a good chance you’ll still find something interesting about it today. Next, go back to the circled “too expensive” items on the list and challenge these to find another way. Maybe paying for a manicure once a week is not feasible right now, but connecting with a friend (or friends) to do manicures together might be a possibility. Going to a show on Broadway may not be an option, but checking out a manuscript from the local library or listening to a soundtrack on youtube might be more accessible and surprisingly inspiring. If you’re still feeling stuck, here are links to more ideas that may help stimulate your creative juices:

  • An extensive list of artist dates from the Artist’s Way blog  – these activities are intended to be done alone, but I think in this context it’s ok to invite friends – you’ll find suggestions like: go visit an art store, music store, hardware store, just to look around… find a hammock and lie in it…gather pretty stones from your driveway and make a design with them (Andy Goldsworthy!)…visit a graveyard…or stop by a thrift store. Be sure to look in the comments section, there are some great ideas there too!
  • Challenge yourself to money-free weekends like this couple did. My favorites: teach yourself how to juggle, practice origami, try geocaching.
  • Google your community calendar: In Philadelphia, you’ll find ideas for things to do -some of them free – on such as when you’ll get free admission to the art museum or free admission to the Barnes Foundation. highlights things like local festivals and outdoor movie nights or Shakespeare in the park. And don’t forget about First Fridays!

It’s likely that not all of the suggestions you find will be right for you, but like the Nike slogan says: Just do it… or at least, just do one thing different. For you, that might be sitting outside and feeling the sun on your face for the first time in a week, or maybe it’s choosing to drive a different route to work (or therapy) one day, just to get a different perspective. Just do it. Then sometime down the line you can take another look at those unhealthy things that you crossed off your list and elaborate more on what you were trying to achieve with them in the first place – I’m guessing that when you cultivate your creativity, eventually you’ll find something to take their place.


Copyright 2016 ©  Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.

Rachel Braun, ATR-BC  Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA

Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders.