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In a fast-paced, innovative world where attention spans are shrinking by the minute, we are more “under the pump” to think and be creative than ever. But remember, creativity is not a passive process. Like a muscle, creativity must be stretched, challenged and occasionally pushed past its comfort zone.

Communications specialist Phumeza Langa, host of the #SistaHoodHour Twitter chat and  #SistaHoodHourConversations podcast, gives us her tips on how to cultivate your creativity spark.

1/ Create work that will continue to inspire you

It may sound corny, but bear with us. Imagine reading something you’d written, months or years after writing it. Now imagine that it inspires you in some significant way. The point? “To create more work, to reflect on how far you’ve come and to start planning for the next steps – or to pause and look at it all and remind yourself that you are where you’ve worked hard to be,” says Phumeza. Now keep creating work that you can return to and be inspired by…

2/ Press that mental “pause” button

In those moments when you start to feel overwhelmed, too many thoughts or ideas are whirling around in your mind, or you’re experiencing sensory overload – pause. “Allow yourself some time to go back to the drawing board of what you’re working on and would like to accomplish,” says Phumeza. “Retrace your steps to try and find out where and/or what is making you feel like you’re deviating from your path.”

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3/ Ask yourself “why?”… over and over again

It’s easy to be so busy with the process of being busy that you don’t take time to check in with your “why” – your reason for doing what you do. Your “why” is that reason for pursuing your work and for making various positive changes in your life, explains Phumeza. “Keep asking yourself why and know that there are no wrong or right answers – there are [just] the answers that make sense to you and feel true to your journey,” she says.

4/ Get moving to get inspired

“Many moments of inspiration have caught me off-guard, [so I] make sure I have a notebook and pen with me to quickly jot down what pops into my mind. Lately, I use my phone’s voice memo to record a note that I can transcribe later and work on, especially when I’m taking a walk or running,” says Phumeza.

During exercise, while focusing on the steps she’s taking, paying attention to her breathing and cheering herself on, Phumeza’s mind is at its most relaxed.

“On a really good day, the ideas start coming and I’m getting better at ensuring that I don’t stop myself going through that process by telling myself that some of the ideas are ‘silly’ or over the top. I let my mind go. I need to free think just as I sometimes need to free write,” she says.

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5/ Create a space to do the creative work

Consider creating a physical space for yourself that motivates and inspires you. It could be a comfy place where you can read or meditate, or just a spot to spend some quiet time doing something that relaxes you. It could even be a workspace that feels like a sanctuary and encourages you to create.

“Honour that creative soul in you that deserves a sacred [space] and, in some ways, a psychologically healing space too. It’s important that you do the inner work to allow room for healthier life-giving creativity,” says Phumeza.

6/ Be inspired by others, but don’t compare yourself to them

“Last year in the midst of our hard lockdown, I found myself having to decide what I wanted to truly do in terms of my work with #SistaHoodHour,” says Phumeza. “When 2020 started, I had big ideas and plans. I had just started my podcast and was excited before it all came to a halt. My focus had to now be split between being a mom to my toddler (#myseniormanagement), wife, employee, freelancer, cook and baker, and all other titles that many of us took on.”

Phumeza took a step back and only focused on the Twitter chat. “I watched creators whose work was amazing and listened to remarkable podcasts. I started feeling like I should be doing something like that,” she says.

“[But] the feeling of inspiration became slight irritation and low-key resentment at trying to figure out how I can ‘make it happen’ for myself. Eventually, I unplugged. I spent less time checking what the latest episode was and wondering how that specific guest was bagged.” Phumeza allowed herself to be inspired by them – but didn’t fall into the trap of comparing herself to them. It was a game-changer.

“The experiences and lessons of the hard lockdown were a lot to take in, but I was reminded in different ways that I needed to learn to ‘pause’ – to really pause,” she says. “Focusing on what I was doing and had been doing offered me the opportunity to decide what I wanted to truly do in the next couple of years – but also to decide on the kind of woman I wanted to be and continue to grow into.”

#SistaHoodHour was not only about social media, she continues – it’s about showing up for Phumeza in every possible way, in the deepest way, and learning along the way. “I cannot ask other women to journey in such a deep and vulnerable way without being willing to do the same thing for myself, and knowing that I am not alone… I have the SistaHood (Hour) with me.”

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