The wonder of Christmas, the return to child-like excitement (when the fatigue caused by the numerous activities and ever-growing to-do list!) fills me up with creativity each year.
It's so easy to create during the holidays. The ideas are endless and the only thing that prevents me from creating more is time.
Why is it so easy to be creative at Christmas time and the holidays? I think it is a beautiful blend of wonder + anticipation.
Wonder is defined by Cambridge Dictionary as a feeling of great surprise and admiration. There are a few times when I am filled with wonder without any effort at all: the holidays (specifically Christmas), springtime, when the world has woken up with warmth and blooms, and the peak of autumn when fall colors explode with joy.
For the last few years, I've been publishing articles on creativity on ideas on how to get a fresh start in the new year if one is feeling sluggish.
It is quite easy to fall off healthy rhythms, at least for me. Once a year, typically in the middle of the wintry season, I need a call to arms, a return to what is good and true and noble.
This year I am doing something a little different. The previous posts are still relevant (I hope) and helpful for gaining inspiration, but this year instead of focusing on creativity, the focus is on cultivating a spirt of wonder in the everyday.
Why Strengthen the Wonder "Muscle?"
First, cynicism and suspicion seem to be running rampant through our world. And it's wonder, so often associated with childhood innocence, that helps to keep me curious, upbeat, moving forward, and choosing to see all things bright and beautiful instead of embracing a darker view of life.
I am not one to put my head in the sand. It is a firm belief that one must live in the world, interact with it, and work with what one has been given. But the risk of being exposed to the world of skeptics and negativity threatens to zap any natural sense to see the wonder, like the too-early tree blossoms knocked out by the February frost.
The state of the world demands being stubborn about seeing the good, beautiful and mysterious.
Second, as I alluded to above, having my heart and a head full of wonder – that surprise and astonishment at something amazing, is a sure way to fire up creativity inside of me.
Big changes have the potential to make big differences in life, but if we wait for those monumental shifts in our lives to experience wonder, we may wait far too long.
Thankfully, the opposite can be true too, maybe more so.
Wonder can be encountered in the everyday, normal routines of living.
I'm learning about this – seeing wonder in the everyday - and I could be wrong, but I think it has more to do with how I see the world and what I am letting in (and what I'm keeping out!). And knowing wonder can be experienced on the daily, in the middle of monotonous living, is a gift.
Most of the time, we live in the same communities, work diligently in our jobs, build homes and lives for ourselves and our families, serve in churches and volunteer in towns and cities, take care of littles or assist aging family members. If we wait for "that big move" or the promotion or the marriage or fill-in-the-blank, too much of life may pass us by.
I am learning (emphasis on the present tense in learning, an ever-present endeavor) to see, to take note of what is around me, and be amazed by the gifts in the world. The more I practice seeing, the more I pray for eyes to see, the easier it gets.
Despite the problems, storms, and difficult circumstances, I want to be someone who shares and spreads beauty and kindness.
To do that I know that I not only need to have the discipline of practicing creativity, but the discipline of noticing and seeing the wonder in the world.
23 Ideas & Ways to Experience More Wonder
1. Take walks, especially in nature. Look for hiking spots in your region for longer nature adventures.
2. Read deeply about a subject you've been curious about. Read a few books and write down what you are retaining. What new questions do you have?
3. Cut out words and pictures from a few magazines. Organize them into a collage. I share a few of mine in the YT video below.
4. Keep a journal of the gifts God has gifted you. This idea is from the 2010 book by Ann Voskamp. Her style of prose may not be for everyone, but her idea of keeping track of "a thousand gifts from God" has an amazing ability to shift one's mindset to start looking for and seeing amazing gifts in everyday ordinary life.
5. Pick up a practice you had as a child but let go of in later years such as embroidery, playing an instrument. Do reach out to me mid-year and see how I'm doing with this.
6. Invite someone over for dinner and intentionally ask them about their lives: their hobbies, favorite child memories, and school / work favorite memories.
7. Go to a live music performance of classical or jazz music. Or, swap out the morning news with your favorite movie soundtrack or classical music once a month.
8. Try a morning of no external noise while walking (i.e. podcast or music). Note the different sounds you hear – how many birds, children, wind in the trees, frogs croaking, etc.
9. Wander through your local art museum.
10. Note if there are areas in your region where that are popular places to see spring blooms or fall foliage. Note when these areas and create a trip to see them. For example, Daffodil Hill in Northern California is a popular place to see fields of daffodils growing.
11. Set a discipline of creating a certain time each week. Mark it in your calendar and mark it when you do that. Enjoy the wonder of what happens when you do the craft consistently and build your body of work.
12. Create an inspiration board of your favorite hobby. What NEW things will you add / attempt / explore this year? This is especially inspiring and wonder-inducing for those of us who are longing for the sunny, warmer, growing days of spring. What plants and vegetables and flowers are you looking forward to seeing grow in your garden or along the local trails? How about traveling? Where are you going this year?
13. Go for a night walk and look up at the stars.
14. Sit with someone older than you by at least a few decades, perhaps a family member, someone from church or your neighborhood. Ask them about their lives or how they remember iconic moments in the past. Ask them to share their favorite memory or recipe.
15. Read or listen to poetry or some other art form that you normally wouldn't be drawn to or don't feel like you have any aptitude for.
16. Rewatch your favorite childhood movie and let yourself linger in the memory of why you loved it so much.
17. Choose something to do that has always been a bit intimidating. See if you can successfully move through it. I.e. rollerskating read through the Bible in a year, memorizing your favorite poem, cooking all the recipes in a cookbook (or maybe pick a dozen to make this year), walk a half-marathon.
18. Create an inspiration board for someone else. (Yes, I've rediscovered the joy of cutting and pasting! And almost any age can do this, what a fun project with littles!) This would work best for someone you know fairly well. Create a collage of their favorite things along with a few things they've expressed an interest in pursuing and doing. Or, maybe it is a board with the theme, "My favorite things about you." On the back, write a short note, letting them know you love and support them. It's always a bright surprise for others to know they are noticed and known, at least in part.
19. Buy a bouquet of flowers from a local grocery store or vendor. Count the petals on your favorite flower in the bunch. Count the leaves on the flower.
20. Create a botanical sketch from the flowers purchased in #20. As best as you can, take one flower and sketch it out as if you were a botanist from the 1800's, creating an entry for a book you are creating.
21. Create some art – paint, sketch, collage – with a child. If you don't have children or yours are grown and gone, ask a friend for a painting date (probably a momma with littles would not mind if you entertained them for an hour!).
22. Read The Enchanted April. Then watch the movie. Do you think beauty really has the power to change people? What is the connection between beauty and love? Where would you go to soak up natural beauty?
23. Change up all the décor on your walls. Shop for frames and pictures at second hand stores. A sweet friend of mind hangs empty, artistic frames next to art for a artistic flair. It's quite fun and can completely change the feel of the room.
24. (Bonus Extra Idea!) Start a writing, reading or painting group with the goal to encourage and inspire and grow together. Commit to meet once a month or once a quarter for the year.