How Creative Pursuits Benefit You in Your Non-Arts Job

Charcoal drawing of the artist in 3/4 view, looking at an easel.
Self Portrait, 2004.

Ever since I decided to attend law school, people have been asking me how a person with an art background becomes a lawyer.  I’m not going to talk about my reasons for pursuing a legal career today (I’ll save that for another post), but I do want to explore how creative pursuits can benefit us in our jobs and lives.

The best attorneys are more creative than most people realize.  Lawyers don’t just mechanically apply the law (if that was all we did, computers would have replaced us by now).  Attorneys fashion solutions to problems facing clients.  Some lawyers craft creative business deals that will benefit multiple parties; some come up with persuasive ways to present stories in court; some draft legislation and regulations to address issues of public importance.  Most lawyers spend a lot of time writing, in the form of briefs, memoranda, contracts, or letters.  Though we think of legal writing as distinct from “creative writing,” all of these kinds of work product are inherently creative.  No matter the practice area, good lawyers flex their creative muscles on a daily basis.

I would wager that nearly every knowledge-work job calls for a great deal of creative decision-making.  Any time you prepare a document or present information, you are exercising creativity as you decide how best to convey your message.  So how can you better recognize these opportunities and take full advantage of them?

Devote some time to a creative hobby on a regular basis, and don’t feel guilty about it.  The time you divert from your long working hours will be time well spent; it will benefit both your work and your well-being.

You know how you sometimes struggle for hours to come up with an answer to a perplexing problem, only to have the perfect idea pop into your head in the shower?  I frequently experience those “aha moments” while I’m painting, cooking, or writing.  These solitary, quiet times are perfect for idea generation, and taking a break from active deliberation can allow you to harness the cognitive power of your unconscious mind.  Engaging in creative pursuits also relieves stress, which is an inhibitor of new ideas.

I believe that exercising your creative muscles outside of work can improve your ability to think creatively at work, in the same way that regular training can prepare you to run a marathon.  As this week’s Quote of the Week by Maya Angelou conveys, creativity begets creativity.  The more you stretch your mind, the more flexible it will become.  Perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that some of the best lawyers and business people I know are also amateur musicians, actors, writers, potters, and photographers.

What creative hobbies do you enjoy, and how have they benefited other areas of your life?

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