Stella & Dot Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Blythe Harris believes we are all born with an inherent sense of creativity. In our conversation, she shares a series of simple yet highly effective habits that can help us access, enhance, and express it.
Simple Habits To Tap Into Your Inner Creative
How do you typically introduce yourself? If you’re like most of us, you share your name and job and then ask the person you’re with what they do too. Stella & Dot Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Blythe Harris was accustomed to the same until a traumatic accident left her without a response to that common question.
When she was 22-years-old, Blythe was riding her bike when she was tragically run over by an 18-wheeler, pronounced dead at the scene, and then miraculously revived by paramedics. Waking up to a completely new reality led to a personal awakening. “I’d always been a high achiever and defined myself based on my achievements. My accident stripped all of that away and forced me to look inward to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be,” she reflects. “Being alive became my baseline for success. Everything else is icing.”
We talked about Blythe’s drive defying all odds to fully recover in our conversation. Here, I want to highlight how it inspired her to change the way she approaches life, as it can be an influential shift for all of us.
First, she decided she wanted to create a meaningful life, not an impressive resume, which meant she would focus on designing a lifestyle rather than solely prioritizing her career.
Next, she knew she “wasn’t given this second chance at life to not have an impact.”
She’s fully achieved both of these goals through the likes of empowering 25,000 Stella & Dot stylists to earn over $500 million in flexible income to raising two beautiful children, which after being told having kids would likely be impossible felt like the final chapter in her recovery.
Blythe “truly believes that everyone is born with inherent creativity” and has made it her life’s mission to not only help us get in touch with our creative selves but to make creativity the focal point of our daily lives. I learned so much from our time together and am grateful to highlight these simple practices she shared to help us enhance our creativity.
Carve out creative time
The only way “to tap into your imagination brain is to give yourself quiet time and space to daydream,” Blythe says. “Whether it’s sketching or going on a run, giving your mind time to wander allows you to start accessing the creative side of your brain, which is less about rational thought and more about giving yourself permission to make connections between seemingly disparate things.”
She suggests carving out one or two hours to think creatively with no agenda. While the duration should, of course, be based on your schedule, it’s essential to give yourself enough time to get into and stay in a state of flow, when things start feeling effortless and joyful. That’s when your true creativity comes through.
I love how passionate she is about protecting this time: “Put daydreaming on your calendar like it is a board meeting. It is non-negotiable. You are having a meeting with yourself that will be one of the most productive ways you can spend your time to elevate your contribution to everything in your life - your family, your work, your relationships.”
It’s useful to approach this time with an exploratory mindset rather than expecting an outcome. Whether you come up with a brilliant project or spend two hours hiking, all of the creative ideas you’ve generated go into what Blythe calls your “imagination network:” An internal well of inspiration comprised of everything you see and do.
To make scheduling a single or few hour time block feel less daunting, Blythe suggests clustering your task-oriented responsibilities during a specific time of day so you can complete them without influencing your ability to get into a state of flow.
Silence the voices that stifle your creativity
Retire your inner judge: Our inner judge emerges in early childhood when we become concerned about how others perceive us. This internal voice not only causes us to be critical of our work but can actually stunt our creativity. “As we grow up, we stop thinking we are creative and start having internal judgments about whether something is good or bad. That fear blocks our creative channel so the ideas can’t even bubble up anymore,” Blythe explains. “We have to tap into the creative freedom we had when we were young. That’s where the magic happens. You have to have joy in the process to create something beautiful.”
Try returning to this state of mind during your next creative session by welcoming every idea that arises rather than labeling it as good or bad.
Name and tame your resistance voice: Whether you’re working on a creative project or simply going to the gym, inner resistance nearly always surfaces during the time between beginning a task and getting into a state of flow.
Resistance is part of human nature, so while we can’t eliminate it Blythe has a simple and effective approach to control it: Name it.
She shared how it came up for her when she was trying to carve out more creative time for herself, which required letting go of numerous parts of her role…“My inner voice kept telling me why it wouldn’t work and emphasizing all the risks of letting go. I had to go through the exercise of realizing that voice is not me, distance myself from it, and even name it the ‘resistance voice.’ I accepted that it was going to keep talking because it’s part of the process; Any time you are making a change, especially a major transformation, the resistance voice gets really loud. Your job is to recognize that it’s there and take a step forward anyway.”
Tune out external negativity: Creativity is always personal, which can make receiving feedback feel particularly vulnerable. Because creativity stems from within, it’s essential not to allow outside voices to block your creative channel. Blythe has another brilliant solution for this: Furry ear muffs.
“Whenever you’re getting feedback on your work, put on an invisible pair of furry ear muffs to act as a protective feedback filter: Only the strategic insights get through the fur and into your brain so you can protect your creativity from harsher comments. If someone is saying ‘People aren’t going to want a triangle shaped necklace!’ all you hear is ‘The silhouette can be improved.’ Great, that’s something you can work on.”
“If you don’t take stock of what is or could be influencing you then everything will influence you,” she adds. “All of those things get in the way of your creativity. You have to protect your creative mental space to keep your heart as open as possible. The more you can clear negativity out of your system the better off you will be.”
You don’t need to reserve your furry ear muffs solely for work situations, either. As someone who regularly utilizes ‘positivity air freshener,’ I can confirm they are a valuable tool to avoid being influenced by negative or unproductive thoughts.
Three simple practices to keep your creative channel open
Morning Pages is a simple practice of writing down three pages of your stream of consciousness, whatever is on your mind, right after you wake up in the morning. The goal is to capture the space between your dreamlike and awake states. Don’t worry about writing cohesive thoughts. Just get everything out of your head and onto the page. Blythe has been doing morning pages on and off for 15 years and shared their two main benefits: “We all ruminate about things that are bothering us, even if we aren’t aware of it. The act of clearing that out of your head and removing your worries creates more white space for creativity to come in.” The practice also helps you capture the creativity of your dreams, and, with time, may even help you remember them more.
Mini-meditations help you access one of your five senses to bring you back to the present. They only take a few moments and “are an incredible way to jumpstart your brain into a more imaginative state.” Close your eyes while sitting at your desk and feel the weight of your body. Try listening to the sound that is furthest away from you. I particularly like rubbing two fingers together as a quick way to calm down and recenter. Blythe recommends doing a few every day to boost creativity and decrease anxiety and stress.
Switch up your routine: Whether it’s exploring a new city or ordering takeout from a different restaurant, mixing up your routine, even in small everyday ways, affords you new experiences and adds inputs into your imagination network.
Stay true to your integrity
Having had a perspective-shifting experience at such a young age and truly living intentionally as a result, I was curious about how Blythe evaluates opportunities. Her response was very moving, so while it isn’t a creative tip as we’ve discussed above, I wanted to make sure to include it here…
“It all goes back to staying true to your integrity. You know when an opportunity is appealing to your ego or to your soul. When an opportunity presents itself and you start thinking about yourself in the third person - ‘Oh, this would be amazing because I’d be this and I could do that’ - that’s speaking to your ego. That’s not what I want to go towards. I try to pursue the opportunities that resonate most with my heart — The difference I want to make in the world, what will help me move into a higher state of flow, creativity, and spirituality, and what’s best for my family. When you choose those types of opportunities you make the greatest impact on the world and everyone around you. That is our journey — to find that.”