Some thoughts on the nature of creativity, the joy of writers block and tips on how to improve….
It is never too late to begin. I know of nothing more illusory and unhelpful than the idea that the time we feel we have “lost”, is time we cannot regain. The very nature of creativity is that it is not about the past, or even about the future. It is about the moment – an exploration of it, a celebration, an engagement. What we feel we have not done – what we feel guilty of or frustrated about – needs to be let go of. It is okay to “have wasted time”. It is okay to have avoided starting something because we feel that we have lost so much time already that there is no point in beginning. We have to forgive ourselves of our own frustration if we are to create something.
I believe that creativity is as native to us as our humanity. It is in each and everyone of us, and in utterly unique and individual forms. I have never seen a child who is not fundamentally creative. Somewhere along the line – whether through our education, our parenting, or our society or our collective will to “safety”, it gets eradicated. Or rather repressed. The first step in re-discovering one´s creativity is to be assured that it exists inside yourself. As something from nature, or life, or God. It is always potential, and can never be destroyed.
You are not in control.
Creativity makes us better. It reveals to ourselves our feelings, lets light into the dark places. One of my favorite books is called Mandala Symbolism by Jung. In this book a deeply damaged woman discovers her centre through Jung´s encouragement of her to draw every week a mandala to represent her psychological state. At first the mandalas are simple and childlike – she has never drawn. Over time they become pregnant with meaning, imagery, even a growing technical ability. I believe that creativity broadens our humanity, helps with our problems, leads us to greater health.
The cycle of up´s and down´s is utterly subservient to the creation of a life´s work.
It is not about the amount of time you put in but about the quality of the time. So often we will sit down at our desks when our energy is low, when we have a hangover, when we are tired, after work – and expect miracles to happen. We sit there, the page is blank, our frustration grows, we start being foul to ourselves. We check the internet. Wait. No result. A horrible mood ensues, a darkening. “We cannot do it” and this type of thought comes up. But all that has happened is that we have sat at our desk because we feel that we “should”. And we have chosen the wrong moment. If there is one thing that creativity thrives off it is fresh energy. You have to obey its rules and its requirements. You cannot make art out of ego, you can only make it out of subservience to its own principles. So my advice? Be lazy! Take a rest. Churchill slept religiously for 2 hours every afternoon. He said it gave him two days and improved his concentration. So manage your energy, not your time.
Equally, creativity requires process. I have never tried to write a song. Never once in my life. I am always within writing. Some days this is only single lyrics. Other days a changed chord. Or a fresh seed for a new idea. But I give myself utterly to the ongoingness of the process. It is as real to me as time itself. By giving into the process, you become it. It is not something external, something separate. If we make ourselves available to something – that is doing a little every day – it becomes a part of our fabric, our way of life. Creativity does not want to require energy. It simply wants to be channeled. If one makes oneself a receptacle, a vessel, it will come to you. For instance, if you want to write a book, you simply have to write everyday. Every unfinished book dries up simply because we cease to write. But we have to stop tying to “will” our art. Rather than trying to make it in a month, we have to accept it as a partner into our life. If the book takes a couple of years, its okay. But it will write itself if we make ourselves available to it.
We overestimate what we can do in a week, underestimate what we can do in 5 years.
If you want to improve:
turn off the internet
turn off the phone
don´t answer the doorbell
The history of man has its triumphs, but its over riding characteristic is of brutality, persecution and war. If we are to change things, we must have the courage to explore, discover and express our creativity. A rich life is a creative life. Creativity deepens us and allows us to bring our subconscious into play. In this way our problems and troubles are processed far deeper than in our purely conscious life. Rationality and reason are heralded by man, our progress only possible through the application of “enlightenment thinking”. But look at the state of things. From over-fishing to genocide in Rwanda, to the rise of the Right in Europe to the the destruction of the rain forest. Things are our of kilter. Our creativity is like the mother we have repressed – I think the world is built on the rules of the father. I believe that our capacity to be “at one with the world and nature” lies in the expression and exploration of our creative potential.
Learn to look at a blank sheet of paper not with fear, but with love. It is an opportunity. It is always potential. Writers block is not something that just exists. It is usually a sign. We have become to obsessed with ourselves. We must go for a walk. We must go on holiday. We must read a new book, listen to a record, see a friend, get drunk, howl at the moon, do something different. Allow the world in anew.
Equal to the importance to the acquiescence of the will to “process” is the subjection of the ego to discipline. Process is the way that we allow creativity to breathe – to make ourselves available as a channel or vehicle for that fundamental creativity, of which the universe is just an expression. But to channel something we have to develop the tools to do so effectively. A great song, a beautiful painting does not emerge from nothing. It is an elixir – that is something which induces life. It itself is not something but something which has an inherent transformative power. Art is not something dead, but something living – something which in turn creates and continues the dialogue of the universe with itself. A dance, a ritual, an explosion of the fundamental “yes”. The Hindus understand this perhaps more than any of the other great religions. But an elixir choses its channel carefully. It arrives to the medium which is at the present moment, most receptive, most available. In this way how we live, the choices we make, the discipline we live by, effects our capacity as an artist. Our technical ability, very simply, opens new doors to the universe which were shut before. That does not mean wonderful things do not happen to the non-technician. Someone like Jackson Pollock had as great an effect on art as a David. But the more we develop, the greater our own capacity and receptivity develops.
Quality will out.
On the subject of technical ability I have had a long dialogue with myself. I came to music very late – at the age of 19. I never had the lessons as a child that many of my peers had. I never had the thrust of motivation a teenage boy has to learn his guitar scales so that he can impress a girl. I came to music because I was suffering. My mother was dieing, and I had to find a way to channel what I felt. My musical life was born of the search for catharsis. I am not particularly musical. I never often played a gig where I did not think that the support or headline act was considerably more talented than I am. On top of coming to music late, I also came to music in the worst period of my life. I didn´t have the mental capacity to develop technically because to do that often you need a degree of stillness of mind. It has taken me years to learn good practice techniques, and of this, I am still a novice. But one thing I have learnt. And that is that the more humility you have, the more you will learn. Practice takes time. It takes an acceptance that there is no quick fix. If you try to rush it you don´t develop. You can only improve by slowing down. You have to learn to “be” with what you learn. You have to remove your ego, remove your daily concerns, and you have to be with what you are doing.
Someone will always be “better” than you. But they will never be the same as you. What matters in art is not to be “the best” but to discover “your voice”. As a species we are one. But our variations are infinite. Value you individuality. No matter what any one says, it is unique to you.
One must have the discipline to work, the courage to improve, the patience required to get better.
Technical development is slow. It does not make you stupid, it does not make you incapable.
Great work is pre-existent.
Live with the devil – you will be given hell in creativity. It is a condition of the job that there will be a demon who questions much of what you do. Are you willing to dance with him? Does he really have to be an enemy? Learn to befriend him. He is the one that can make you better at what you do. He is the one that will challenge you. That will cause you to question your work. Listen to him. Communicate with him. Disregard him.
Do not be afraid of a void. As Shakespeare said – “nature abhors a void”. Allow it to be, and gently explore it. In time, and at the right moment, it will find away to fill itself up with something new, something wonderful, something yours.