The creative process – what a tease! When creativity is present and flowing it feels so good, life feels right, we feel empowered. It is satisfying to be productive, to share our passion with the world, to express ourselves through our work. And when creativity is elusive – we wonder where it has gone, what we have done to deserve the dry desert that lay before us. Is there a way to maintain a healthy relationship with creativity? Can we call creativity to us rather than waiting around for it to hit? Is there a way to be creative on a deadline?
Though they are different, I use creativity and productivity almost interchangeably, because when we are creative, we are productive. How are you going to articulate 2Q trends in Japan as they relate to fund performance? There are as many ways to write an investor letter are there are to depict a tree on a canvas.
Let Go, Plug In, Let Flow
If you are tired of struggling with the creative process, it’s time to design a pre-creation ritual: a series of actions that stimulate the senses and get the blood pumping. Just as vocal chords and muscles are at peak performance when warmed-up before use, creativity is more readily accessed when we take a few simple steps before diving in. This needn’t be dramatic or overly time-consuming: the fifteen or thirty minutes you take to do this could save you a day of unproductive suffering.
#1 – Let the River Run (Body)
Creativity is a flow of energy, and when we are easily creative, it is because that flow is running abundantly through our body. So check in – are you feeling the flow? How does your body feel? The first step in this process is to be honest about being stuck. Are you uninspired? Have you been staring at a blank screen for too long? Stop what you are doing and step away from your medium.
To paraphrase Mantak Chia, chi is always running through the body like a river, sometimes it flows strongly, other times it drips along. Rather than forcing chi to move, we can focus on releasing the blocks in the body that are impeding the flow. To do this we need to move and stimulate the body. What are some fun and pleasurable ways for you to change the pace? Maybe it makes sense for you to get physical – take a quick jog, dance to your favorite song, “shake it out” in your office. Maybe you prefer more specific stimulation – a quick self-massage with energizing essential oils, or dry-brushing your body to awaken the skin and lymph system (start at your appendages and brush in toward your heart). Are you a coffee person? Explore using caffeine as a tool – assess whether caffeine will provide a needed spike in energy, or tax your nervous system. I’m a fan of Yerba Maté tea: the caffeine acts as a tonic for your muscular system rather than a stimulant for your nervous system.
#2 – Get Electric (Spirit)
Once your body is open, use the energetic power tool of grounding into the core of the earth through your first chakra and plugging into source energy through your crown chakra. For step-by-step instructions on plugging in, see my blog entry “Happy Living and the Importance of Being Easy.”
#3 – Active Creation (Mind)
Your body is open, your spirit is flowing, now let’s address the mind. The mind can be our worst enemy and harshest critic, stopping us from doing a project before we’ve even started. Our destructive self-talk is any number of, “it’s not good enough,” “don’t expose yourself in that way,” “you’re not worthy.” There is nothing about this conversation that is helpful, and we need to start to create despite it. To get into action, put proverbial pen to paper and just start talking. Whatever your medium, give yourself freedom to doodle, do it sloppily, bang around with it. As you get the flow going, you can see the expression manifesting and eventually refine it. There’s no sense in editing something that does not yet exist.
The Theater of Life
Along with the above actions we can take to stimulate the creative process, I find it can be helpful to keep the following points in mind, as life does not get put on hold because we need to be productive.
#4 – Even at the Center of Fire there is Cold
It’s a Prince lyric, and I think it’s a great metaphor for the yin and yang of life. As light is defined by the absence of it, so there is contraction and expansion, and ebb and flow. Where are you in this cycle? Did you just experience an expansive period of productivity and activity? If so, honor the energetics of this dynamic and allow for the integration of everything you just experienced. Are you trying to move mountains today when your energy is going towards your big event tomorrow? We inhale, and we must exhale in order to breathe again; there’s nothing to judge in this dynamic, there’s nothing wrong here.
#5 – Compassion is Key
Though we may have an understanding of why we are stuck, we probably don’t like it. When we enjoy what we do, we want to do more of it; we want to see the finished product out in the world. And if we don’t enjoy what we do, then we at least feel satisfaction or relief in a job done. The self-awareness piece is this: can we love ourselves even when we are not producing, can we have compassion past the “shoulds,” can we sit with ourselves in the stillness of no activity. This takes some discipline, but it’s a useful skill: it’s so painful to be at war with oneself. (For a step-by-step, see “Freedom through Self-Love.”)
#6 – Sacred Vessel
It might help to think of yourself as a vessel for divine creation. When we create, we are gifting the world with the manifestation of the specific creative energy that comes through us individually. From this perspective you can relax, receive, and play with how the divine wants to express itself through you.
And finally, because inspiration can hit in any moment, be prepared! Have a notebook nearby, keep a recorder by your bed, make notes on your ipod during your morning run.
Do you have something that helps you to get into the creative flow? I’d love to hear about it!