Creativity and FIRE: living along the way

Since my FIRE journey is all about living a fuller and more intentional life overall – as well as trying to organise the financial wherewithal to live on my terms – creativity is something I’ve been thinking about a lot more. With the COVID lockdown I also started to feel that I don’t have creative outlets, and a 100% focus on either work or my kids means that there are gaps in terms of fun, time for myself, and a way of living chunks of time in my imagination rather than constantly in this somewhat dystopian world.

I always thought I wasn’t creative. In particular: I cannot draw for toffee, can’t play an instrument, can’t do ‘crafts’ like sewing and knitting, and haven’t really got pleasure out of trying those things. I have friends who are brilliant at all these creative endeavours and I love to see this in them, but I’ve always thought ‘so sad, but that’s not for me’.

So recently I have been trying to reclaim creativity, to think about what it means for me in this brave new life I’m trying to create. Partly this means thinking differently about what it means to be creative.

Last weekend’s Friday night dinner. How many pomegranate seeds makes it stay winter again? Since it’s still snowing in April I will keep eating these babies and hoping it brings on spring.

Firstly, it doesn’t have to be art. I love to cook and bake, making beautiful things which are also delicious. Is it less creative because cooking feels like such a mundane task? Really consciously engaging in cooking – or anything – makes it transcend the every day and become a more imaginative and fun process. There are days I slap something in the oven and forget about it, but there are days when the warm fug of the kitchen, the murmur of the radio and the smell of fresh bread just makes everything feel that little bit better.

As Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic,Be the weirdo who dares to enjoy‘.

Secondly I realised that with something of a negative mindset, if I am good at something then I don’t consider it to have a value. My internal story is ‘I’m not creative’. ‘I’m not arty’. ‘I’m not good at this stuff’. But when talking about it, I do create – not just delicious kitchen goodies but this blog for example, or long, involved bedtime stories for my kids. I used to DJ back in the day, and I love to sing. Being musical isn’t just about whether you got piano lessons as a child, nor whether you took up learning an instrument during the pandemic though that’s awesome too.

Both of these things relate to my FIRE journey in a lot of ways. From being mindful in all the things I do, to looking for ways to scale things which come easily rather than always look for the hard route. But there are two things that stand out for me when I think of FIRE and creativity: that frugality is creative, and how much people feel ‘just getting by’ stifles their creativity and drives them to FIRE and goals to live life doing what they love.

Image credit Ignite the Spark who also run a fabulous course if you need more creativity in your life

Living a frugal life means being creative.

The easy or fast way to get something done is often just to throw money at the problem. Creativity means thinking around a problem – do I need that? Is there another way to achieve that goal? Looking for alternative solutions can be creative and thrifty as well as very satisfying. I try not to buy much in the way of clothes, which means looking for new ways to dress up old outfits, even if this just means putting them together differently. I also try not to waste money on days out (though this isn’t always easy) so thinking of fun ways to hang out with the kids also leans on a creative approach and finding new ways to appreciate familiar things and opportunities.

Lots of people on the FIRE journey are doing it so they can live their creative dreams. Do what you love is great advice, but does it stop being true when you are trying to make a living from it? There are lots of great resources in the community about making an income from creative pursuits and the extent to which this is possible (or desirable) – I loved this from Our Next Life. For me I am happy with my day job, but there is so much more to life.

What do you do to get creative? What part does creativity play in your FIRE journey? I’d love to hear from you!