In March 2020 I wrote a post / newsletter about Positivity through uncertainty. Little did I know at the time that the pandemic would last for over a year and have far reaching impacts on life across the globe. In this post I want to share my reflection on personal experiences since Jan 2021.
Note: I do not take lightly topics such as mental health issues. If you are currently experiencing mental health issues please seek appropriate medical / psychological help.
In Apr 2021, my teammate Ryan Gregg shared an article with our team that really resonated with me. The New York Times article below (sorry if you get blocked by a paywall) describes a middle ground between depression and thriving called “languishing”.
After reading the article I saw a number of similarities to my personal life. I still had energy to devote to my work, interact with my family, and be social online. I did feel like I was missing some of the former creative spark that I had in years past though. In 1:1 chats with a number of peers I heard similar experiences and many were also in search of something, anything to get motivation and creativity back into their lives.
In search of creativity…
Are people born creative? Or is it something that you can acquire / cultivate / grow?
I happen to believe it is the latter. Rather than stay in that state of languishing, I wanted to start doing things that would break me out of that cycle. The below items are things that I started (or continued) doing to get my creative energies flowing. If you identify with these or have other suggestions I would love to hear about them. Feel free to share in the comments or contact me on email / Twitter (@BrianTJackett).
As mentioned in my What I’m Working On – March 2021 post, I started reading books more consistently at the start of 2021. Not only has reading kept my mind sharper but I’ve also gotten many ideas for improving my professional and social skills. Feel free to check out my recent reading list or books on my “to-read” list on GoodReads.
Books I’ve read / recommend in 2021
- The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind
- Leaders Eat Last
- Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In
- Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time
Morning walk / bike ride
Prior to the pandemic I tried to work out at least 2-4 times a week. This included 5k runs, working out at the gym, yardwork, and more. Despite those previous healthy habits my exercise routine stopped altogether with gyms being closed (or not offering childcare) and working long hours from home each day. By the time my typical work day wraps up, my wife and I were busy with making dinner, taking kids to sports, putting them to bed, and finally crashing on the couch late in the evening.
Thankfully, during the summer of 2020 my children started showing interest in bike rides around the neighborhood and my oldest (6) learned to ride on her own. Separately my wife found a bike trailer that we can hook up to either of our bikes. Now I can bike with my youngest two to a nearby playground, let them run around, and then hop back in and head home. Everyone gets exercise and a break from the house.
Separately, for the last 4 weeks, each morning I take a 10-15 min walk around our neighborhood. My oldest daughter has joined me on many of these walks and we do math problems, tell stories, or talk about her school week. This is a nice break to spend some 1:1 time with her that we don’t always get otherwise. These short walks don’t compare to my previous exercise routine but it does help.
Many years ago I used to play around with image editing software (Microsoft Paint, Paint.Net, etc.) as a side hobby. Mostly I used those tools to “photoshop” a co-worker’s head onto a funny comic or prepare screenshots for a blog post (How I Blog – Updated 2018).
Recently a peer at Microsoft (@MaximRouiller) shared a pixel art image he did with animation (link). I saw the hashtag #LearnPixelArt and decided to check out the weekly “challenge”. I’ve been spending some time each Friday morning creating my own pixel art and sharing back to the challenge. It’s a nice break to create “art” and try to have some fun with the topic or category suggested. You can find my items here:
Here’s a sneak peek at a design I’ve been doing on the side: the Microsoft Graph logo 🙂
Over the course of my 15+ yr technology career I’ve picked up a number of tips and tricks for Windows, Office, and other platforms. Recently I decided to start sharing these out on a weekly basis (Thurs mornings). Not only do I get to share with others but I’ve also gotten a few tips from others in return. Additionally I’ve started to explore creating animated GIFs to illustrate many of these tips. Up until a few weeks ago I had never created GIFs so this was a fun way to explore animation / GIFs. I am using LICEcap but if you have alternate suggestions I would love to hear about them in the comments.
Side note, my manager Jeremy Thake recently suggested I take a look at TikTok as a way to share out these types of tips and tricks. Honestly, I’ve never used / look at TikTok before, but might be worth exploring in the coming weeks. I’ve created an account but at the time of publishing don’t have anything shared yet. Feel free to follow for when (not if) I give this a try.
If you find yourself in a similar experience in search of creativity, start exploring options and activities to get yourself going. Creativity isn’t something you are born with, you have to work at it at times. Hopefully some of the suggestions shared above will motivate you to try something new. I would love to hear what others are doing. Please share in the comments.