Why I Need Creative Outlets Besides Writing

Sunday, November 13, 2016
Cooking allows me to express myself through a variety of foods.

I enjoy creative writing. That’s no secret. But over the years I’ve discovered it’s also a good idea for writers to have other creative outlets besides reading and writing. They can help you decompress, mentally work through stresses and issues you may be grappling with, use different areas of your brain, and, in some cases, work their way into your writing projects.

Exercise has always been something I’ve tried to keep up with, but in the past year, I’ve also taken up two new hobbies that are letting me be creative in ways I never imagined.

The first one is cooking. A few years ago, I started following a local blogger who ended up writing a cookbook that ended up as a New York Times bestseller. Her recipes focused on cooking with whole foods so I felt good about the dishes I was making. The editor in me couldn’t quite leave the recipes “as is” and you’ll find Post-it notes stuck to various pages with notes like “add more salt,” or “cut the chili power in half,” or “double this recipe so you’ll have leftovers.” Lately, I’ve gotten even more creative with the foods I make, probably thanks to me discovering “Chopped” and “Chopped Junior” on the Food Network this past summer and binge watching episodes on Netflix. I especially favor Mexican-inspired dishes (my homemade guacamole finally convinced my husband he liked avocados) and Italian meals. Now I throw around phrases like “flavor profile,” “composed dish,” and drop hints to my family that things a glass salad dressing bottle would make a great stocking stuffer.

I also joined the chancel choir at my church a few months ago. I’ve always loved to sing, but never found many ways to practice it in between writing, editing, cooking, and driving my kids back and forth to their activities. Now it makes me feel good to have choir practice once a week (something just for me) and learn choral pieces I’ve never heard before. It gets me out of my head and my house (sometimes I need a little nudge in that area) and forces me to work with others to create a cohesive program.

It dawned on me today that these two activities work well for me because each time I do them, there is a clear start and finish. Once you begin cooking a baked good or dish, you pretty much have to follow through to the end. The same thing goes for singing in a performance in front of an audience. This may be why other outlets don’t work so well for me—things such as sketching, coloring, or crafting. It’s too easy for me to set them aside (not unlike my short stories and novels) and never finish them.

Do you have any other creative outlets you enjoy? What are they and how do you feel they help you?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who has recently discovered a love of cooking and unearthing quick and healthy recipes. You can get an idea of some of her culinary adventures by following her on Instagram at @rlroberson.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--I LOVELOVELOVE zentangling. (Google "Zentangle patterns" if you'd like a new monkey on your back.) It's a way of doing something completely different with my hand, and allows my mind to take a rest from my writing.

I hadn't thought of cooking something as having a definite end (and a short time frame) but that DOES add to the appeal (along with getting to eat the results).

By the way, I love "Chopped." I've never caught the "Junior" version. I'll have to start working on catching up.

Beverley Baird said...

We all need those creative outlets. Gives balance to our lives - especially when writing is a struggle (which it is for me lately). Loved your post. My outlet is art - collage, journaling usually. Feels good to just play with paint as well.


Totally agree here. I love to cook, too. I even collect cookbooks. I also dig creating gift baskets for family and friends. Nice post.

Margo Dill said...

I do scrapbooking--although I am so behind because as you said--there is not a clear beginning and ending. But it is fun and I do with my one of my friends, so it is also a social outlet!

Michelle Mach said...

It definitely works well to have more than one creative outlet! I make things (jewelry mostly) and I find that it uses a different part of my brain to play with colors and shapes. It also gives me quiet time to let my mind wander and that often feeds into my writing.

Theresa Boedeker said...

I play the piano, make jewelry, and cook. Each one nurtures a different part of my creativity and takes a different amount of energy or time commitment.

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