Creativity is a strange form — an often misunderstood and elusive thing.
The root of the word of creativity is crēscere, meaning to swell upwards or make something grow, in Latin. When diving into ancient roots of words, I tend to find that the definitions are more fitting than the modern understanding of the word. Perhaps it was because they weren’t sitting around scrolling social media, or watching too much Netflix, all the time.
This swelling upwards is a great way to describe creativity. Another concept you could use to help you understand creativity is Eros. Soft, moist, nurtured earth, something that swells from within mystery and uncertainty.
Eros has little value in the modern world, yet, it’s where all creativity must birth. Uncertainty, imagination and unknowing. When you sit down to write an article, do you know exactly how it will turn out? Down to the last word? No. That’s the way it must be.
Creativity is a dance between the known and unknown worlds of the creator.
It is the same for a musician who sits down to write a song, a novelist to write a book, a painter who prepares their paints. There is only guidance and influence, from within and without.
Here are a few things to consider, so that you can get out of your way, and let what wants to emerge on the page.
Creativity is a conversation between what you have experienced, the sensations you can draw from, how you imagine the world to be and the outside influence you have experienced and been able to process.
It’s impossible to be creative if you do not soak in your world, transmute it within you and then go ahead and create something that translates those experiences into understandable chunks for the audience.
For a writer, this process starts with reading. Read other people’s work extensively: different genres, styles, racial backgrounds, women, men. Read for pain. Read for pleasure. Read philosophical works, historical accounts of war, death, famine, inspiring love stories. Read the sci-fi dystopian and utopian novels predicting a future that you can’t yet imagine, or one that’s due to come true in fifty years.
All of this will expand your paradigm and positively affect your writing. It won’t necessarily all go in your writing, but one thing is for sure, you’ll be able to find a more authentic voice. You’ll understand what styles and voices call to you and which ones you want to influence your work.
Shame & Guilt
Shame and guilt are such essential aspects to human beings. They exist. So much of the narrative around shame and guilt is to stop us from feeling them. That heaps more shame and guilt on top of shame and guilt.
These two emotions design are to set the boundaries between what is acceptable and what is not. Taboo is the vehicle to set that boundary.
Creatives struggle with shame and guilt regularly. Mainly, as the cultural narrative doesn’t focus on Eros, culture persuades us to push through and achieve something challenging.
Creativity doesn’t work this way. Sometimes you need to rest, surrender and allow things to emerge.
The antidote to shame is empathy. First, you need to understand your behaviour when you’re feeling resistance and shame. Shame isn’t a transparent feeling; it’s hidden behind compulsive behaviour that stops you from creating. For example, when I feel ashamed, I’ll distract myself with immediate tasks in my environment, inconsequential tasks, that make me feel like I’m achieving something.
When I feel shame, my forehead gets hot and heavy. Others say that shame makes their gut feel nervous, or their chest heavy. What does shame feel like in your body?
The next step to navigating shame is to share it with someone who understands how to hold a safe space for it — yourself in a journal, a close friend or a family member.
The idea behind shame is a fear of disconnection from your community. It stops us from creating for fear that we’ll be ostracised, abandoned or disowned. The trick is to know that it’s a natural feeling. That what you’re creating isn’t always going to be made for your community. Sometimes the resonation will be outside. You’ll meet people that you never knew existed, who resonate with your story.
The three p’s of the apocalypse
The three p’s are:
- performance anxiety
These are the mechanisms that block most people from creating. Let’s explore them one by one.
As I described in the shame section, procrastination is a set of compulsive behaviours, habits, that you use when you don’t want to create what you’re creating, out of fear — mostly distractions.
The way to navigate this is to get curious around your behaviour. Indeed, once you do this for long enough, you’ll notice patterns in your habits. From here you can get authentically interested in the moments of these patterns. Eventually, you’ll begin to see the moments that you start to procrastinate.
Viktor Frankl’s famous quote springs to mind here:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
It explains that cultivating the space of awareness around these habits allows you the freedom to choose.
A considerable part of our society wants things to be perfect so that everyone will love it and we’ll get famous. Money is so deeply etched in our minds as something to worship above all us. Creatives often stop their projects on a false assumption that it is not worthy unless it’s widely celebrated and propels the artist up the social ladder to stardom.
Fantasy, it’s untrue.
The best creativity helps another human being to understand their own experience of what you’ve created. The feelings, experiences and realisations that you came to through that process will resonate with them, and they’ll be able to interpret them into their story. That’s the beauty of creating.
Fundamentally, creating something has to come from a need to express your story, understand it more fully, and take the next steps you need to take in life. The rest is given over to the universe.
There is no such thing as bad art, only expression of the unique story you live in.
We’ve all had that dream haven’t we, where we’re standing in front of our class ready to perform. We look down and find we’re only wearing underwear, or our teeth are falling out? Just me?
Performing is one of the most vulnerable things anyone can do, and you do leave yourself wide open to opinions in the form of praise or criticism.
Know that any feedback you do get will almost always be positive, because the people that don’t resonate often disengage with you, and that’s fine. The negative feedback you receive is usually down to their pain, not yours. You can take all of this information as an opportunity for more awareness and decide how to learn and grow.
The best way to be nobody is to do nothing. So many creatives get stuck in the space of doing nothing so that they’ll never be criticised. All of the best art is criticised because it pushes the boundaries of our understanding of what it means to be human. Don’t let opinions get in the way.
In his Masterclass series, Malcolm Gladwell says that he never approaches creative blocks by stopping. If you’re blocked by a certain aspect of the writing process, continue. Find a different part of the piece to write on, know you can go back and fix anything on the second or third edit.
I have started to put this theory into practice, and it works. Treat the initial draft as an imperfect dump of your thoughts, the second edit as a refinement, the third to focus on style and grammar, the fourth to fix any minor spellings and changes in the text.
Also, embrace tools such as Grammarly.
Creativity is a contract between you and what wants to emerge through you. The sure way to dry up the river of creativity is to stop creating. You’re intentionally saying to it that you don’t want to keep that resource open.
You’re not a creative unless you create. Many creative people are imaginative, sitting around and imagining beautiful projects that never come into fruition. I was the same for years.
Discerning what is possible for you is essential. You cannot act upon every idea. You need to find the one that lights you up.
Part of your output needs to focus on efficiency and practicality. What is possible for you?
Similarly, if you’re a professional creative, a percentage of your output needs to be sellable. It’s the nature of things. You need to survive. I like to focus 5 hours of my day on things that will bring me money, and 4 hours on projects that satisfy my soul in creativity. Those two things don’t always align. It’s nice when they do, though.
The next thing to understand is that once you create something, you don’t own it anymore. It’s up to the audience to find meaning, and you can’t control that. I had a conversation about this recently in which we came across the metaphor of creativity like having a baby.
The first phase starts in the imaginations of the father and mother. Then there’s stepping out onto the creative journey; deciding to act and making love with the idea. The middle phase; growing and nurturing the baby. The end phase of birth is inherently traumatic for both the mother and the baby. It’s a separation from the comfort and warmth of the womb. Surrendering, letting go, can be beneficial. It could be described as guiding and being guided at the same time.
Certain creative projects will emerge in certain ways, like how a baby has its personality right from birth.
Getting out of your way is another way to communicate that creativity isn’t an ego game. It’s not usually logical, rational or linear. It doesn’t respond well to control or contempt. It’s a conversation that needs to be respected.
The different factors that define a creative project will give you the parameters in which to play. Things will want to emerge in a certain way, depending on your skills, life experience and imagination, and the nature of the thing you want to create.
Taking all these things into consideration, you can be relieved to know that it’s a process that will always have a valuable ending. It will always give to you and others.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want a deeper connection with our community, please join us as a Premium Member today.
Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS. Need more info?
Photo credit: Thought Catalog on Unsplash