Beyond the creative block
Every artist knows what it feels likes to stare at a blank canvas, screen, or notebook, waiting for that moment of clarity when new ideas begin to flow freely. The experience can seem lonely and frustrating. In that silence, we find ourselves face-to-face with our own limitations; fear and self-doubt may creep into our hearts. We wonder if and when creative inspiration will ever come. If we depend on creativity for our livelihood, deadlines and financial pressures will add to the tension and discomfort that we are already feeling. We have been depending on a stream of creativity that seems to have run dry. Worst of all, we have no way of knowing why it has stopped flowing or if the flood of creativity we once knew will ever be restored. What was once a raging river has been reduced to a trickle. We call this experience a creative block.
I want to let you in on a little secret about such blocks: They have no basis in reality. Yes, the feelings and sensation are real. In no way do I mean to dismiss an experience that can be absolutely excruciating. The only reason I can write about it is that I have been there in the past. But I stopped experiencing creative blocks the moment I came to the realization that they don’t really exist.
If creative blocks aren’t real, then what exactly is going on at such moments? Everything we feel arises from the fact that we are trying to force something that can never be forced. Creativity is a form of grace—a gift from a mysterious source that comes into our lives spontaneously and often unexpectedly. The sensation of being in the flow of fresh ideas, images, and insights is nothing short of delightful. We must celebrate this abundance when it arrives but never, ever come to expect it or take it for granted in any way.
I love the fact that there is no button we can push or switch we can flip to bring about creative inspiration. The act of creating does not follow simple formulas; if it did, we would find it far less compelling. Creativity is an honor. To experience it is to know true splendor. When I write, there are moments when the words appearing on my computer screen touch my heart at the deepest level and elevate me to the heavens. I feel great humility in the face of such awesome creative power flowing through me. Grace of this magnitude is a privilege, and my first reaction is always to say to the universe: "Thank you. Thank you….More please?"
Grace comes to the graceful—and the grateful. Open yourself to the flow of creativity with no attachment or expectation. As with any feast, the act of creating should begin by saying some form of Grace: “Thank you, Creator, for what we are about to receive.” The exact words do not matter--only the attitude of gratitude. It is important to remember that grace comes most easily to those who can share it with an open heart. So, make sure to give some of it away.
We live in a society that treats creativity as a commodity rather than a gift. As a result, we may be tempted to clutch onto every little creative morsel that comes our way. We fight to protect our “intellectual property,” guarding it against even the slightest intrusion. But what if we just gave it all away, without a shred of concern for ourselves?
I can imagine what you are thinking: What about those of us who make a living off our creativity? How are we supposed to feed ourselves and pay our bills? We can’t just give away the products of our creativity. That is so unrealistic! And of course, I understand the predicament faced by anyone who aspires to pursue creativity as a profession. If you have bosses, patrons, customers and dependents relying on your creativity, you will feel pressure to produce. And out of such intense and overwhelming pressure, the creative block is born.
In Deep Creativity, I focus on the process rather than the product. That is because all great art emerges from great experience. I define creativity in terms of an experience that has two basic qualities: freshness and transcendence. Creativity flows when we are immersed most fully in that experience. Anything that pulls us out of it, such as financial concerns or time pressure, will interfere with the flow. When you create, empty your mind of all distractions, open yourself up to the flow of grace, and celebrate the privilege of being able to take part in this extraordinary dance of creation. In the weeks ahead, I will offer specific strategies for doing just that!
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