I have met a lot of people recently who have a stranglehold on their creativity. They are so anxious to make something beautiful or profound that they can barely pick up a pencil. The pressure they have placed on themselves to create something true and meaningful is crushing. They are frustrated, and frozen by their own perfectionism, fear and need for control.
One person in particular that I met, wondered if she would ever be able to access her life’s purpose. She was very good at her job and had excelled, but it did not bring her any joy. I looked at her and said, “you took a step on the path today, and there is no doubt in my mind that you can find what you are looking for.” Easy coming from me, I am all life’s purpose. I can not seem to do anything that is not aligned with what I deeply feel in an almost pounding, demanding way.
In the writing class that I teach, I added a selection from FLOW by the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csiksczentmihalyi. In his seminal book he discusses the state of being one with a task and the pleasure it brings. “‘Flow’ is the way people describe their state of mind when consciousness is harmoniously ordered, and they want to pursue whatever they are doing for its own sake. In reviewing some of the activities that consistently produce flow–such as sports, games, art and hobbies–it becomes easier to understand what makes people happy.” (p.6)
When I was walking through the Reina Sofia art museum in Madrid, I copied down some text from their selection of surrealists paintings and sculpture. My notes state, “Magnetic fields–stream of consciousness ends up revealing what really wants to be expressed through a magnetic relationship among the imagination’s different creative connections.” Breton, 1924
1) Loosen your death grip on your own consciousness–think bad things, ugly things, silly things. Do not admonish yourself for it. There is beauty and its opposite, revel in both.
2) Expect nothing of yourself– do something you know you are bad at, and fail at it with abandon. Desire failure, because it is the midway point, the resting point of growth.
3) Do it with your eyes closed. Draw, write, sculpt, listen—quit accessing your judging mind of right and wrong and just draw for the sake of the line, write for the sake of the word, smell for the sake of your nose.
4) Roll around on the floor. Be silly. Get a pie in the face (as a friend of mine recently did). Play because playing is our first and best source of creativity. Before we know what art is, or cursive is, or movies are, we play and make up characters and scribble and make up nonsense.
5) Create a Non Torture Policy. Life is hard, don’t be your own worst enemy. Accept yourself “wabi sabi.” You are not beautiful without imperfections. Have joy in every extra smidge of fat, every hair out of place, a tear in your sock, a lopsided smile. Say a mantra of I will not torture myself today, I will not rake myself over the coals, be perfectionistic, or let my wings melt as I fly to close to the sun.
And how do I know this? I am a not only a creative, but also a member of the chokehold society. The dialectic between creativity and quality is knowing when to go big and loose and when to sculpt and add structure. A seasoned artist is one who knows when to create and when to edit.