On March 16, 1987, I was given the gift of a lifetime, which took me 30 years to receive. For an instant, I had a glimpse into the heart of creativity. I experienced something greater than anything I had ever imagined possible—layer upon layer of reality held within a single moment of creativity. For me, the content of this revelation was hard to grasp and even harder to believe. I asked myself: How could a single flash of insight or inspiration be so expansive?
I devoted myself to finding out the answer, not realizing that I was embarking on a journey of discovery that would last three decades. The journey took me to the University of Arizona, where I learned to think about creativity like a psychologist. It also led me to the realization that psychologists did not understand the creative process very well, mainly because they were reluctant to look at the experience of creativity: passion, intuition, imagination, and revelation. For my fellow creativity researchers, focusing on these topics was considered “career suicide.”
So, in 1996, I committed career suicide—not without some trepidation. I decided to sit down and write a book about the hidden aspects of the creative experience. After two years of writing, much of which was spent staring at a blank computer screen, I realized that I knew very little about this experience. In order to understand it, I was going to need to immerse myself in the creative process fully. And this immersion required complete surrender: I had to let go of all my assumptions and beliefs, not just about creativity but about myself. My pursuit of this elusive thing called Deep Creativity took great sacrifice: I had to let go of any expectations regarding the outcome of my exploration.
The turning point in my understanding came through receptivity. I had to learn to receive whatever gifts came into my life with grace, which is total gratitude and humility. This did not come easily for me; that is why I refer to it as “slow grace.” Sometimes, I would find myself struggling, holding out for something more. Yet, the gifts I received were extraordinary: a wonderful spiritual community; a chance to travel to Mexico, India, and Italy to learn from great spiritual teachers; and the privilege to teach and write books in ways that connected me deeply to beautiful, like-minded people.
As my mind opened up to new possibilities, I began to unpack and unravel some of the mysteries embedded in the creative experience. Within any given moment of creativity, I cam see: worlds within worlds: a cyclical dance of creation; a unified source of creativity abiding in all things; the two potent creative forces nestled within the human heart; and the dynamic interplay of a creative trinity. I have come to view the creative experience as a bold adventure filled with passion, turmoil, inspiration, sacrifice, sheer joy, and unconditional love. This adventure leads to the realizations of truths that are timeless and self-transcendent.
Deep Creativity is a way of understanding the creative process that comes directly out of my personal experience. But if it were just my own perspective, then Deep Creativity could be dismissed as the ravings of a lunatic. That is why I have spent so much time combing through the memoirs, interviews, journals, and letters of eminent artists throughout history. What I found is a great deal of consistency, in terms of how artists describe their creative process.
Deep Creativity: Inside the Creative Mystery is now in print (available here) and will be in bookstores March 6. I am happy and thrilled beyond words to see this 30-year adventure come to fruition. In the days and weeks to come, I will discuss specific aspects of Deep Creativity here on this blog, as well as in videos, weekly podcasts, and social media. Your comments and questions are always welcome. My intention is that you discover, as I have, the profound truths inherent in the creative experience.