The Importance of Having a Creative Outlet

One of the most important things I’ve learned throughout the course of my PhD, is that having a creative outlet is a non-negotiable for me. I enjoy my PhD, so it’s not a rare occurrence for me to get lost in my to do list and even up working in the office during the day, and then from home at night. That isn’t an ideal situation. It’s important to take breaks, to step away from your work and to focus on something entirely unrelated.

Earlier this year I decided that I needed to make time to read – I don’t mean to read more scientific papers (though that was on my radar too); I wanted to find my love of reading for pleasure again. I made a point of buying new books, renewing my library card, and forcing myself to go to bed an extra half an hour earlier each day so that I could read and switch off before I went to sleep. That worked for a while, until it sort of became part of my day – I now read on average 1 book (not related to anything PhD) each week, but because it’s such a routine thing, I don’t find that I’m getting the same relaxation/reward from it. So I’ve started something new.

I started Science On A Postcard a few months ago, and I’m having so much fun with it! I’m giving myself an hour or so each week to doodle and draw, to think up products that I never would have thought of otherwise – and I love it. I’m not aiming to make any money from my little shop, it’s just an outlet to facilitate more creativity; the more products I sell, the more products I can then create.

As well as Science On A Postcard, I’ve started actively seeking out little creative activities that force me out of my comfort zone, or will introduce me to new people and/or new skills. One of the things I’m most excited about over the coming months is Say It Ain’t Sew. Say It Ain’t Sew run free hand sewing classes each week in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, Ellon and Aberdeen. I haven’t been to an Aberdeen event yet but I’m really looking forward to attending one of the Christmas ones – basically, you turn up (the Aberdeen one is based on a Wednesday night in Brewdog), all materials etc are provided for free (such a winner for students!), and you sit and sew a little project with some cool people and a beer. 2 hours on a Wednesday night is not going to de-rail my PhD, and I think it’ll be a really good forced break. Taking a step back from work often means I’m super excited to get back to my desk too – and I’m in a much better place in terms of concentration, focus, and creativity in terms of my academic work.

What do you guys do to force yourself to have a break? Any weird and wonderful creative outlets I should be looking for? Leave a comment and give me some inspiration!

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