Today on the Wit & Delight Podcast we’re talking about creative habits and how to bring creativity into your everyday life. I’m speaking with one of our Wit & Delight contributors, Jill Elliott, who is the founder of The Color Kind. She is also a creative consultant, strategist, writer, and artist curating a life around design and intentional living. Jill has 20+ years of experience in the creative field and was formerly a chief creative officer for a global fashion brand. She is a dear friend of mine and is someone I’ve come to look up to and admire. I’ve loved hearing her point of view on how life can unfold and how we can find our way through the act of creative practice.
In this conversation, we talk a lot about getting out of our head, getting busy with our hands, and using creativity as an outlet and a way to connect with our inner child and look at what’s possible for ourselves, not only as people but also as creative thinkers.
Name: Jill Elliott
Occupation: Founder, The Color Kind
Website: The Color Kind
More About Jill: Throughout her career, Jill Elliott has developed all varieties of creative strategy, from concept to campaign, product design to visual merchandising for small to large brands. Jill stepped away from corporate life in early 2018 seeking a more connected existence and a well-balanced life. Still craving a daily creative outlet, she founded The Color Kind, an online space to connect and inspire to lead a creative life and build community. Jill lives in Dallas with her daughter, S., their fish, Precious, and their golden doodle, Lolo.
Jill Elliott: Creativity has always been a part of my life. As I got older, as a professional I spent a lot of time taking art classes and then really honed in my career on the creative side of the fashion industry. I spent 20+ years doing everything from visual merchandising to concept development to art direction to styling—really anything that I could get my hands on that was creative that also drove the business side of fashion. It was fun, it was exhausting, and I did it for a long time, but I’d really gotten away from having a creative practice of my own as something that I did for fun. My creative practice at the time was something I did for work—it paid the bills and I loved it, but I was really missing it from my personal life.
Then about four years ago, I was going through some big personal shifts. I was Chief Creative Officer at Fossil, where we met. I was going through a divorce. I had a three-year-old daughter who I was trying to figure out how to be a single mom for. And I really felt this pressure to keep it all together. I had all this pressure to be okay at home, so my daughter didn’t see any of the trauma I was dealing with, and to be fine at work, too. I was doing therapy and yoga and meditation and journaling—I was trying everything I had read that might be helpful in processing trauma and grief and releasing it from my body, but none of it was really sticking.
Then one morning my daughter was gone and I was cleaning up her paints from the night before, and I sat down and started painting on a whim. And something stuck. I started craving more of it and carving out some space to do it every day and that’s how I found my way back to being creative—not just for professional life but also in life—and started to research some of the benefits that creativity can have.
Jill Elliott: I think first you have to be doing something that you really love. For me, it was painting and making art because I love color and shape and visuals. But it’s not that for everybody. Creativity has so many expressions. The definition of creativity is really about learning and connecting new thoughts and new processes so you can take that into any medium—it could be dance, it could be cooking, it could be photography, it could be going on nature walks. So many activities are creative if you’re taking time to see new things and connect new steps.
So the first step is to think about what you love. If you love eating out and trying new restaurants, taking a cooking class might be a good thing for you to do. If you love going to museums, try to figure out what you love about the museum. If there is a certain artist that you want to try to learn color theory from, take some time to study that. If you’re sitting down to do something you love, you’re going to carve out time for it. If it feels like one more thing on your wellness checklist, that’s not the point, and it’s not going to help.
Beyond that, I would commit to starting small. For me, that means 10-15 minutes a day and a 5″ x 7″ card. Sitting down to a blank canvas can be overwhelming, but if it’s small, I can think, Okay, I just need to make a few marks. It’s not a big deal.
I dare to say we all have 10-15 minutes to sit down and do something away from the phone for a minute. Just do it, have fun with it, and if you’re not feeling it that day, do it anyway. Sometimes the days you push through are the days you might learn the best lessons about yourself.
We’re all crazy stretched for time, but with the iPhone we can all track how much time we’re spending on social media and other things. I dare to say we all have 10-15 minutes to sit down and do something away from the phone for a minute. Just do it, have fun with it, and if you’re not feeling it that day, do it anyway. Sometimes the days you push through are the days you might learn the best lessons about yourself.
Jill Elliott: It depends on how you define having fun. And it is uncomfortable for sure. I’ve been doing it most days for four years, and there are still days that I sit down and have no idea what I’m going to do, but I’ve figured out some tricks to go back to on those days or to repeat something I’ve done before. And again, it’s not for anybody but me so the outcome itself doesn’t really matter.
Turning off that critic and figuring out how to get in the flow is so important. When we can turn off the overthinking brain, find the flow, and be in the moment, it’s easier to play the song or to paint or to get through the 10-15 minutes. I think if you were to commit to it for a week to ten days, you’ll notice enough shift in your approach and enough of that flow coming into the practice that it will get easier. Once that happened for me, I was hooked.
BY Kate Arends - November 13, 2019
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.