A couple of weeks ago, I got the idea to surprise my family with some little gifts as a means of expressing my thankfulness and love for them. What could be more personal than making something with your own hands? So, after successfully completing my treasure hunting at the hobby shop by acquiring several acrylic paints, a paint brush, a few colourful décor pearls and prefabricated wood projects, I started working on my ‘masterpieces’. It took several days and much effort as I haven’t held a paintbrush in my hand for ages, but it was definitely worth it! Not only because everyone was moved by my initiative, but also because I truly enjoyed the creative process itself, I realised how much I missed having handicrafts in my life.
Indeed, humans are born creative. For a child with a limitless imagination, spinning incredible stories, imitating a character or building awesome constructions from Lego are some of the most enjoyable things to do, and truly they are essential activities in their development. During the emotionally chaotic years of teens and young adults, creativity becomes a way of self-exploration for most of us as it helps us to realise our habits, impulses and desires, helping us to better express ourselves to the world. Creativity also empowers us while reducing stress and anxiety. It aids us to overcome periods of depression and increases our positive thoughts, giving a nice boost to our self-esteem. And the procedure works vice-versa: the more happy and relaxed we feel, the more creative we become.
But for many, when adulthood comes along with its responsibilities, the lack of time and constant tiredness, that childhood imagination is blown away. We easily become stuck in a rut, such as between work and home or a crying toddler and demanding housework. We stop nurturing our soul by practising at being creative, which used to smuggle some refreshing moments into our busy days. Little do we know that being creative wouldn’t only improve our overall well-being and optimism, but – according to studies – would also sharpen our brain, and make us be more social and enjoy better health in our elder years. Instead, artistic endeavours become seen as pointless, time-wasting activities despite the many benefits.
You might argue now that actually you’re clumsy and cannot draw even a single straight line, but if you think further, the world of creativity is so wide and can be applied to many areas. Even in our everyday routine, we need to use our vivid imagination quite often; dressing up in the morning, preparing meals, coming up with an original initiative at work or helping children understand their homework, just to mention a few, all require being innovative aka creative.
Islam’s history provides us with outstanding examples of ingenuity, particularly in the early period of Islam which was full of talented Muslims who gifted the world with numerous inventions. Muslims have formed lasting memories not only in education or science (both of which require creative thinking to excel at), but also immensely in the field of art, such as the Lusterware ceramic and the Ebru painting art or Islamic calligraphy.
Thus, the correct question you need to ask yourself, that was posed by Sir Ken Robinson, is “…it’s not how creative you are. It’s … how are you creative?”
You have carved out a little personal time, set up your workspace and are ready to refresh your soul by enjoying this time with your creative self. The only problem is that it seems you’ve lost your muse. You’re striving, but the inspiration apparently doesn’t want to come. Well, you don’t have to wait for your musings to gift you with some brilliant ideas; you can be creative by using several tricks.
• First, you need to switch on your “curiosity button” and be on the watch for new ideas all the time. Remember, being creative is being open-minded, noticing things that others might not, looking at things from another angle and asking the question “How else?” In fact, acquiring the art of being open-minded will also help you to be open to new ways and techniques in other areas of life as well. Thus, constantly questioning and analysing things around you and paying attention to even little details will produce some inspiration.
• But don’t just look for ideas – try out something unusual, too! It might be a new flavour or a new technique; it doesn’t matter where you work this newness into your life, just get out of your comfort zone.
• Though creating relaxes us, relaxing and meditation also positively affect our creative process. Hence, take some deep breaths or pray two rak’ah with complete focus to calm yourself down, thereby facilitating the flow of your thoughts to eventually receive the desired inspiration.
• Instead of meditating a few minutes, you can go for a walk as well (even inside the house) or try some stretching. Move! Statistics say that physical activity stimulates creative thinking.
• Usually, when people create, they prefer solitude to be able to reflect and be fully immersed in their work. But you can shake up your routine from time to time by getting together with friends or other like-minded sisters. Socialising is not only fun and needed for your soul’s harmony, but also gives you the opportunity to discuss your notions and get further inspiration for your project.
• Now that you have a bunch of sparkly thoughts in your pocket, don’t just wander aimlessly, rushing from one idea to another. Create a detailed plan; it will help you stay focused.
• However, first and foremost, you must feel the power of passion and fall in love with what you do so that you can put yourself truly in that work. Try things that you really want to do.
Explore your creativity!
Okay, so you feel the desire to get into something creative but not sure what best suits you. Below, I have collected some ideas which can help you explore your innovative self and enjoy your free time in a halal way:
1. Writing: SISTERS, as an example, is just one among the hundreds of platforms where sisters with much enthusiasm for writing can express themselves. You can start writing for different magazines and websites, blogging, or opening your writing vein in the more literary genres, pouring out novels or poems on to the page (or hard drive!).
2. Handy Sisters: Aniconic painting and sculpturing, photography, knitting and sewing, designing clothes and accessories and making handmade jewelry or home decor are only a few techniques on the endless list of handicrafts which can be deeply satisfying to make and can even be employed to create original Islamic work pieces. (Have a look on Etsy for inspiration.) You can make basically anything yourself – and often even save some money at the same time! The more you learn how to make things yourself, the less you need to spend money on buying them.
3. Singing Birds: Though as Muslims we face some restrictions in the field of music, there are still halal ways to follow your enthusiasm in a beneficial way. Learning and teaching the correct recitation of the Qur’an to other sisters or organising an afternoon class for preschoolers singing Islamic nasheeds might be options to consider.
4. Fantastic Foodies: If the world of spices and cake pans is attractive to you (unlike me) and you want to challenge yourself, you may want to sell your masterpieces in a charity fundraising auction or start your own project with other kitchen fairy sisters.
Finally, whatever you commit to, it’s important never to compare yourself to others. Just remember to purify your intention in front of Allah (SWT), then have fun and enjoy the mind and soul-refreshing effect of creativity!
Timea Aya Csányi is a reverted sister from Hungary living in Egypt with her husband. She works at Onislam.net as a counselling service editor of the Family section; she is a student at IOU, a freelance writer in Hungarian and English, and an active blogger. You can contact her through her blog: magyarlanykairoban.wordpress.com