I write a lot. I speak a lot. And I teach a lot. I also share with a lot of time thinking with other people and problem solving. My work is emotionally draining but physically fairly passive. (That’s why I need to push myself to exercise or I will not do it.)
But the truth is I do not think I am a creative person at all. Creativity generally refers to artistic or intellectual inventiveness. Generally highly creative people are very imaginative. I honestly do not think that I have any of these gifts, at least in abundance. When I meet someone who does I am always a bit in awe. But I do work at it. And frankly I think creativity is very overrated.
In a sense that few realize all of us have a creative side, though it may never be used by some. I believe that it is a very important part of your living well and becoming a full person. If you can learn to express this part of who you are you will be a healthier person. Psychologists have done quite a bit of analysis about creativity. I find this research quite helpful.
Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to the human creative process as a "blissful state of self-forgetfulness in which task and doer become one." A colleague of his suggests that such "flow experiences" are generally associated with a stronger self-esteem. But knowing this can make a person like me feel even worse, especially when I feel I have nothing to say and I must try to say something anyway. I often look at a piece of paper, or more likely a computer screen, and feel that I have nothing to say at all. Know the feeling?
But what I have learned in all of this process is that creativity doesn’t begin with a finished product, or even with a great idea. Some of the things I have created that have had the best influence, and have brought me the greatest joy, were not all that impressive to me and did not flow out of great creative moments in my life. Eric Maisel, a creativity coach, says this well: "You must be able to create in the middle of things, or else you will not create" (Coaching the Artist Within, New World Library, 2005). That is so true. I am creating things when I am very busy and deadlines loom. The pressure is palpable and the sense of failure real.
A great American poet, William Carlos Williams, was also a practicing pediatrician. He wrote poems during moments between seeing patients during his very busy day. He wasn’t escaping from anything when he wrote. He was allowing his world of children, illness and human reality interact with his ability to write and express himself.
It seems to me that the key here is to believe that you just might find some creativity along the way if you work. And, to your surprise, you can access this far more easily than you may know. But first you have to begin. You have to stop, slow down and start writing thinking, building, fixing or painting, etc.
Another creativity coach, Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2002), says, "By resigning as a self-conscious author, I wrote freely." Her approach was to listen to her head, her heart and her surroundings and then simply respond. She says the biggest enemy of creativity is actually "self-consciousness." I really agree with that. I was once so self-conscious that I feared my critics more than God or myself.
So what really matters here is that you show up. More than half the battle in writing, at least for me and most everyone else I know, is sitting down and beginning. It is about getting over my perfectionism and getting the motor running. Julia Cameron adds, "Art is not about thinking something up. It is about the opposite—getting something down." Amen.
Take this blog as an example. I read a great article in a fitness magazine produced by the health club that I am a member of and it made me think about this a subject a bit. Then I sat down this morning and simply began to write this blog. You can do the same.
Sit down and start something. You might be amazed what you can do. Throw out your desire for excellence that throttles your ability to produce. Stir up unconventional thinking as you read and observe throughout your day. Be alert. Dare to fail. And affirm your ability to create. You will be surprised. I am, to be completely truthful.
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“My work is emotionally draining but physically fairly passive. (That’s why I need to push myself to exercise or I will not do it.)”
I am with ya.
That is why I recommend the following:
John, thanks for the encouragement, and thanks for coming to our class at RTS. We appreciated your insights into a lot of things and you are causing me to think through some issues right now. Thank you.
Thanks for the reminder John. The starting is often the hardest part. I finally decided to do just that last fall and participated in national novel writing month (nanowrimo.org). It’s amazing what you can actually accomplish when you just get in there and do. Haven’t finished the novel yet – inertia set in sometime in December, but I’m back at it now. This article was a great push for me to get back at it.