Creativity is a muscle. Exercise it daily — if you only need to create once a week, your muscles may have atrophied if you don’t do it just because you don’t have to. Joel Falconer, lifehacker.com

Have you ever had one of those fabulous “aha!” moments at work? One of those times when the perfect idea popped into your head and you knew it was the solution you and your team had been seeking? Ever been in a client meeting, glumly sitting listening to voices drone on and on, when suddenly you saw the entire problem from a new angle, one that changed everything?

That’s creativity.

Creativity is the lifeblood of any organization’s real growth. Creative problem-solving abilities are what set you apart from your competition. Creative PR campaigns stand out in the crowd, help reach client goals and get people talking. Creative visuals jump off page and screen and into our minds and hearts. Creativity matters.

Getting and keeping creative juices flowing can be an ongoing battle, as all of us respond to the pressure and challenges of daily life.

Right now most of us are stumbling to the end of the year, and toward the holidays, which for some, have already started. We’re juggling myriad responsibilities. Work and family and holiday commitments intermingle and for many of us, being or feeling creative is the last thing on our minds.

Creativity, that mysterious and powerful “thing” we hear about so often, is an integral part what we bring to our work and our lives.

And a stifled or burnt out sense of creativity can quickly be recharged or built stronger during the holidays.

What Is Creativity?

What Is Creativity - Public Relations

“Creativity begins with a foundation of knowledge, learning a discipline, and mastering a way of thinking,” says Linda Naiman of Creativity at Work. “You learn to be creative by experimenting, exploring, questioning assumptions, using imagination and synthesizing information. Learning to be creative is akin to learning a sport. It requires practice to develop the right muscles, and a supportive environment in which to flourish.”

Merriam Webster defines creativity as “the ability to make new things or think of new ideas.”

Though we often tend to associate creativity with the visual arts, music, and literature, creativity expresses itself in myriad other ways at work and home. We see it in the way people make something work on a limited budget, or teams come up with new and exciting solutions to client problems. We know as we watch kids approach digital tools, fearlessly using them in ways we’ve never imagined. We see it in exploration and discovery and new product development. 

How Do We Use Creativity in PR?

“Developing ‘creative’ solutions to problems is a critical part of the planning process in public relations,” says Edward Glassman in his book Team Creativity At Work I and II: Creative Problem-Solving At Its Best. “Creativity in the field involves developing new themes for programs or stories, identifying new audiences or creating new media opportunities.”

Whether we’re part of a “creative team” or working as a solo PR, all of us use creativity on a daily basis. We call on it to find the right approach for a pitch or campaign, in the use of digital tools in new ways, and sometimes in just figuring out how to keep on keeping on. We use our creativity in working on public relations campaigns, finding the perfect joke or story for our presentation and in combining just the right words to get and hold an audience’s attention.

But Creativity Can Be Easily Squelched 

Deadlines and work pressures, self-criticism and being too concerned with what your co-workers will think of you can squelch creative thinking in a heartbeat. Feeling like you need to follow the rules and color inside the lines, or being afraid to try something new or stick your neck out are also creativity-killers.

And finally? Stress and anxiety, are the big blockers. You may feel as you find yourself working through all of the tasks associated with the end of the year and approaching holidays. Strangely enough, those same holidays can be what you need to rebuild your creative muscles and recharge those creative batteries.

10 Steps to Building Creative Muscle During the Holidays

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1. Walk away from the routine.

Use your time away from the office to celebrate being outside of your daily routine. Do something different, out of the ordinary for you, and note how much fun you have. Store those thoughts and feelings away for later.

2. Permit yourself to have fun.

Many of us dread certain aspects of the holidays. Whether it’s the annual dysfunctional family get together or the watching of that odious Christmas special one more time, try to give yourself permission to have fun. Find something you can enjoy and view the holidays through a filter of determined enjoyment.

3. Explore new places or holiday customs.

Visit someplace new or explore new and different holiday customs. Breaking away from the familiar, whether it’s geographic or cultural, feeds your mind and provides new images, sounds and smells on which your creativity can feast.

4. Express your inner artist through decoration.

Have fun with the gaudiness of the holidays and express your inner artist by decorating. Try something new, experiment and have fun. In regular day-to-day life, we often overlook our hidden artistic sides. Even the least imaginative person can put up some fabulous holiday decorations.

5. Give back.

Giving to someone during the holidays just feels right and warms the heart. Find a way to give back to your community, to your friends and your family. You’ll smile, and your heart will lift.

6. Soak up holiday music and pageantry.

Dive into the music and pageantry of the holidays. Go to the concerts and take part in the music. Sing your heart out to holiday music while driving. Feast your eyes on the lights and decorations surrounding you. Allow yourself to be enchanted by the magic that can appear at the holidays. Attend the theatre, the Symphony or the ballet and feast your senses on the visual and audible richness of the arts.

7. Connect and reconnect with family and friends.

Enjoy them, even the weird ones. Listen to their jokes and stories and marvel at who they are and what they mean in your life. Let them know how much they mean to you. If you can’t? Smile at the thought of what you could say.

8. Indulge in festive foods and drinks.

What better time in the year to enjoy the richness of food and drink? Have fun with it. Taste new things. Prepare favorite recipes. And then? Get out and walk off the indulgences. The exercise will do you good, and your creative mind will rejoice in both feasting and walking.

9. Write notes of appreciation to people who matter.

Take the time to tell the people you love how much they matter. Find new ways to express yourself. Thank the people in your life for being there for you. Kind of like giving back, it feels good, and it makes them feel good also.

10. Laugh.

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Laugh at ridiculous holiday sweaters, stupid Santa and reindeer jokes, absurd holiday decorations, awful gifts (but not in the face of the giver, please), and the hilarity of awkward holiday social gatherings.

Do any of these things—or all of them—and find your creative juices flowing again when you get back to your desk. And that creativity, charged up and ready to go, will stand you in good stead in the year to come.

A version of this post was first published on the Cision blog.

Images: Hartwig HKD  (CC 2.0), matthew venn (CC 2.0) Linus Bowman (CC 2.0), Chlsgraphy (CC 2.0), Elliot P. (CC 2.0)