August 14, 2022

The Quest To Stay 'In Control' Of The Creative Process

There are times when you lose yourself in creativity only to find yourself moments later.

There are times when you lose yourself in creativity - only to find yourself moments later.

Are you somewhat of a creative? Maybe you can't sing or dance to save your life, and scored a C Minus in painting while you were in school. Perhaps your creativity trickles into your Insta posts, but not your writing, or vice versa.

Either way, we are all hard-wired to create - each one of us has the primal human capacity to dream, explore, discover, build, ask and seek. This might mean completely different things for different folks.

“The artist is a collector. Not a hoarder … artists collect selectively. They only collect things that they really love.” — Austin Kleon

Creativity is not limited to 'innovation' or 'art' - it's a wider spectrum, a way of life where you discover & act on new possibilities. Millions of years back, a homo sapien was curious enough to venture out. And here we are, with the world in the palm of our hands. We may never know what chemical imbalance led the great grandparents of the human race to do what they did, but it sure led to a chain of human ingenuity that has changed the face of the planet, and the universe.

I would like to believe this curiosity is the spark of the divine in us.

Recognizing ourselves as 'creators' and fostering this creativity in our daily lives connects us to who we are at our core - which is why it's also so deeply fulfilling. Each one of us can choose to consciously live this way.

However, living a creative life comes with its own set of challenges. Creative folks tend to have messy minds with varied interests, influences, behaviours, qualities, ideas, contradictions and stresses. There seems to be a nuanced link between mental illness and creativity.

This could only mean one thing.

I'm somewhat bonkers. Not a total ding-a-ling, still very much here. But just slightly off my chump - and in that I and the father of the human race have something in common. Thing is, we all have a real shot of living kinda loony, but really fulfilling lives...

However, there's a peculiar thing about creativity - the more you try to force it, the less likely you are to achieve it. I often compare it to passing wind - sometimes you need to relax and not clench to let one rip.

This does not mean you negate the importance of a routine. Finding the space to become intimate with our own mind, or sit around doing nothing for a certain time of the day helps cultivate your mind. On other days, much like farts, they strike in the middle of the night, and you come up swinging in bed, frantically looking for your pad to scribble notes.

Multiple authors, lyricists and poets have claimed they remember themselves writing something, almost to lose themselves in the process as they let the 'muse' take over, only to awaken in a daze later.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” ― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

This is also the reason multiple creators often refuse to take credit for their genius. Michelangelo, perhaps history’s greatest sculptor, famously said this about his iconic 'The Angel In The Marble' sculpture.

"Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." - Michelangelo

For Michelangelo, the idea was already there, inside the lifeless rock. His eyes and hands were merely the vessels by which the idea—the art—was brought into the earth as God had intended.

This begs the question, how much are you in control truly?

After my rather exhaustive research, I have concluded there is no method to the madness in terms of 'harnessing' creativity. You can only nourish what you got inside of you - like a gardener tending to his saplings...you can set time aside for your art, keep notepads in your washroom or bedside, and sit for inspiration to strike.

But that does not mean you won't come up swinging at midnight ever. Or even lessen how much that happens to you.

Here's my favourite Zen Pencils comic on the power of a creative routine:

Image credit: Zen Pencils

There are also ways to nourish your creativity - it's the equivalent of ensuring your saplings get the manure, water and sunlight they need to grow. Remember, it's a painfully slow process, and you must live mindful and uninterrupted lives to get the maximum juice out of yours.

Here are 5 of my favourite ways to nurture your innate creativity:

#1. Allow yourself to be a child all over again

Go ahead—dance, draw, explore, be silly, and have some innocent fun. A kid is born creative, our society beats them into line with rote learning. So get your creative juices flowing first.

#2. Solitude is key to creativity

Set aside time every day for creative work. Either rise early to create, or meditate a bit after work before you sit down to think and create something truly exciting.

#3. Messiness=Intuition

Insights (your “Aha!” moments) are like li'l gifts from your unconscious mind for staying still. Give into the messiness of creation - don't try to streamline how you think or create.

#4. Allow yourself to daydream

Every day, allow yourself a break to daydream while you walk, doodle or clean your living space. Personally, I call this mood ‘mellow mayusi’ - an indescribable feeling of sinking into a reflective mood brimming with melancholy.

Consider this your creative incubator, your own 10000 Startups!

#5. Celebrate your creativity

Creative folks are often sensitive, even hyper-sensitive. Rather than avoiding or denying who you are, choose to live with that intense sensitivity.

This makes life more difficult, but it also brings great rewards.

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