Creative Cross-Training

Two of the ways I live a creative life.

Two of the ways I live a creative life.

I’ve been thinking lately about creativity, cross-pollination or cross-training, and living the creative life (or creativity as a lifestyle).

Renaissance Women and Men

The mother of one of my childhood friends is a weaver. But she has also been known to make puppets and design knitted dolls and many other things. Her husband is a musician. My friend grew up to be a fiber artist. Stepping inside their house, at age 12, was wonderful — entering a world of playful creativity.

One man I know is a music director, an opera singer, an actor, a writer, and a teacher — and he does all of them well.

A lot of the creative people I know don’t have just one outlet, although they may have a specialty. They’re Renaissance men and women.


This makes me think there’s value in creative cross-pollination. Some creative people are naturally attracted to multiple disciplines, their creative spark spilling out on all sides. Others might gravitate towards a particular area and then branch out, using their side ventures to enrich their main focus. Athletes do this: figure skaters, for example, might also take ballet to learn to move gracefully (or karate for power, if you’re Elvis Stojko).

My Experience

I am, first and foremost, a writer. That’s not likely to change. But I’ve written before about some of my other creative outlets…

Dancing My Passion (specifically, contra dancing) and Dancing Up a Storm

How Writing Is Like Knitting — And Why That Matters

Vegetable Gardening? Ooh, Shiny!

And while I haven’t written about my recently rekindled interest in photography, you can see the evidence in my travel posts. By the end of that trip, I had started feeling like a photographer.

3 Tips for Cross-Training

So how do you branch out?

These tips are written as if you already have a specialty — an art that’s a profession (or that you’re trying to make your profession) or that you’ve always loved. But they also apply if you’re a multi-creative type…or if you’ve always wanted to be creative and don’t know where to start.

1. Pick something that’s unlike what you spend most of your time doing. I like dancing, knitting, and gardening because they’re physical and tactile — unlike the very cerebral world I inhabit when I’m writing (and when I’m at my day job, too). That means they’re a true break.

2. Don’t worry about being good. You’re serious about your specialty. You don’t have to be serious about the other things you try — it’s okay to play and have fun with, say, drawing…without needing to master it too. Give yourself permission to be bad at what you’re doing.

3. Create in the company of others. There’s joy in being part of a group where everyone is creating something at the same time — as any NaNoWriMo fan knows. And I say this as a raging introvert. Exception: if most of your life is spent interacting with others, maybe you’ll find more release in solitude.

Your turn! What do you think of creative cross-training? What do you do to live a creative life?


2 responses to “Creative Cross-Training

  1. I’m a strong believer in this, Siri, and often blog about my other creative outlets (I call it Feeding the Muse). Although it’s not strictly ‘creating’, one thing I like to do is get into the outdoors (and of course travel). This year I joined a community a cappella singing group which has been a great creative vice! Aside from that, I like to take short courses on occasion (e.g. (painting, weaving, mosaic…), although haven’t done one of these in quite a while.

    I think the main thing is to experience diversity and not get locked into doing one single activity. Especially if it’s a creative endeavour that needs life experience to fuel it.

  2. Feeding the Muse — yes, exactly. I forgot to mention Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, where she talks about “artist dates”…another term for what you’re describing. Getting outdoors, travelling, or just plain getting out of your usual routine are all great tactics!

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