When was the last time you let your hands get dirty?

It isn’t much of a secret: our digital screens are taking up more of our time and attention. Whether we are scrolling through a bottomless well of content, feeling FOMO as our friends post about their vacations on social media, or constantly refreshing to see who liked our recent status updates, the mere presence of our phones are impacting our mental health and likely degrading our creative spirit.

As infinite as the content that comes through our phones and tablets seems to be, the medium is rather limiting. A screen glowing screen, buttons you can tap and swipe, and a handful of keys create a very standard result. For a few years, we worried about getting “Blackberry Thumb” from the miniature keyboards, now we have “texter’s neck” from always looking down at our phones.

Beyond the physical device, digital algorithms respond to what we view and read and work to bring us more of the same, so we continually come back to our apps and devices for more. Constantly being shown more of the same can result in narrow views and limited thinking. Before long, you may find yourself with only one opinion – yours – and for all you know it is the only one and the right one.

It feels like creativity is valued more than ever today, likely because it is rare to come by something truly inventive and unique. Companies look for creative solutions as a way to gain more market share or cut costs from their overhead. Academic institutions want creative students who can develop a good story they can use to attract even more tuition-paying students. Most people claim they want a space that is creative or will inspire creativity in them.

The key to creativity is not in the screens we interact with for most of our day. Our smartphones, tablets, and laptops may be tools of productivity and connect us to the world, but they likely won’t do much to inspire our artistic or creative selves. 

Log Off and Tune In

Digital devices may give us information, but creativity gives us an opportunity. Dedicating time to create art in the tangible realm allows us to work with all of our senses, our hands, eyes, and ears to create connections that are overlooked in the digital realm. By taking to the tangible, we give ourselves the gift of creating an opportunity to see things differently.

Immediate Access

There is a very low barrier of entry to creating art; there is little required to get started. No skills training or formal education, no need to purchase thousands of dollars worth of materials. Poems can be written on the backs of grocery receipts, music can be drummed out with a pair of chopsticks on the kitchen counter, pictures can be drawn with basic crayons on a sheet of paper or with chalk on the sidewalk. None of it requires a screen or a digital connection or approval from anyone.

A New Way To Think

There have always been advocates for teaching handwriting to children. As more children learn language through their digital devices, the need for handwriting is more important than ever.

At the most basic, one’s handwriting is the most elementary art they can produce for themselves and the world around them. Ink on paper, using symbols to form thoughts and expressions – handwriting is an artform!

Writing by hand also gives your brain an opportunity to physically manifest the thoughts you might need to work out. Writing by hand organizes the thoughts, seeing the writing allows your brain to put them together in a new order or offer a new perspective.

Tangible Tactile Responses In The Brain

Every brain responds to stimulus. A glowing screen that is smooth to the touch and buzzes when it wants attention will hardwire your brain to react in a very specific way. Opening up more of your senses and interacting with more mediums and textures allows your brain to light up in ways you might have never expected. The result: new ideas, new ways to look at old ideas, and an outpouring of creative thought.

Whether the new response is a pencil scratching across a pad of paper, the smoothness of paint on a canvas, or the feel of sculpting clay in your fingers – new stimulus drives new and different responses.

Engaging with new types of art causes our brains to behave in much the same way. Seeing something new at an exhibit, engaging in dance, or listening to a new band in concert engages several senses at the same time, allowing new parts of your brain to light up and create something new.

Art has always been adored and seen as something just to the side of “normal” and “ordinary,” for a good reason. In every generation, there is the push to standardize methods and make products that are designed for the widest audience possible. As everything works towards a homogenized consistency, we are eventually starved for something new and different.

Turning away from the screens and engaging your brain with tangible art allows for the outpouring of creativity. This is the same creativity businesses look for when it comes time to innovate new products or when communities need to find solutions for problems that plague them.

Digital screens are a good way of turning our brains off and letting information pour in. Art, with tangible and tactile mediums, is the solution to the problems presented by our lifestyle of digital screens and pocket devices.