Creative Impulse and Statis

The impulse to create is a universally human attribute. For some, creation may be hiding under many layers that we need to peel back. I recently had a conversation with someone who was told that they could not draw. And it’s not that they are physically incapable, it was just that they were told they were not good enough. The thing is, there’s no “good enough” in creativity.

When you want to express your creativity, don’t wait to be (or get) good enough. I waited for many years to be good enough to write a book. All it meant was that I was not writing my book. It didn’t mean that I was getting better at writing during that time. In actuality, I came to realize the all-too obvious fact that the act of writing would make me a better writer.

When listening to your creative impulse, the best thing to do is act.

snow photo by Sylwia Bartyzel

Holding off in stasis really doesn’t serve you. Emotionally, even if the end-result of creation is frustration, it is better to have done it. Holding off on your masterpiece to come together in your mind isn’t working towards manifesting it. You can learn a craft, like writing or drawing, while still listening and acting on your creative impulse. Don’t let the status of amateur or beginner deter you from creating.

The creative impulse doesn’t just belong to those who have made a career out of creativity. It belongs to everyone who wants to engage themselves in the creation of something. If you want to pick up a pen and draw, don’t listen to someone saying you aren’t good enough. Many times, the goal of creation is not even to start a revenue stream. Oftentimes, it’s meant just as a form of self-expression.

We live in a fast-paced time where we sometimes judge things to be worthwhile only if we are able to monetize them. Result and reward overshadow the primal need to beautify our world through creation. When I’ve focused on monetizing as the sole purpose of creative, I’ve found that it’s been stifling. It takes a toll on the art itself. Let’s more broadly apply the well-know French slogan, l’art pour l’art.

While the saying refers to the separation of art from practical and moral function, it is more appropriate now than ever to expand the usage of this to monetization.

Taming the Creative Drive

The creative drive often suffers at the restrictions of jobs and other responsibilities. Society functions on a different level than does the human soul. With so many constructs in place, many of us find little or no opportunity to release creative energy. Job descriptions throwing out “creative thinker” as a qualification mean it in the most restrictive sense. There is rule and there is instruction, and creativity comes last among a list of social and professional protocols. In reality, these types of thinkers are not what employers seek. The phrasing has just become a standard for differentiating companies from one another. But many of them end up sounding all too similar to one another.

You may have periods in your own life when you induce self-inflicted creative slumps. This is not to say that you mean to do this, but it happens. If you’re a fiery creative soul, as I believe all of us are deep down, the functions of this society may frustrate and even harm you. Having little or no command over your creativity can leave you feeling jilted, even if you can’t quite pinpoint why you feel that way. The creative soul doesn’t just exist in proclaimed artists, writer, and others in similar fields. It lives in all professions and all modes of human communication and expression.

Autumn photo by Jesse Gardner

So, what does this all amount to? Where you find confusion and suffering, you find taming of the creative drive. That creative part of your soul doesn’t go away, even if you try to repress it. The reason why creative thoughts may be so painful is that those who think them find no way of letting them out into the world. You’ve probably had an idea for something you wanted to create – whether it’s a cake, an algorithm, a friendship, or a book of poems. But it’s daunting to think of substantiating your impulsive urges to make something. You may stumble over negative self-talk or get caught up in the lack of equipment and money required to complete your idea.

That’s because we’ve set rigid criteria for creation. You’re told you can’t be a photographer because you don’t have the lighting and proper camera. Each creative sectors comes with a list of rights and wrongs, many of which serve against your creative impulses. You’re told you can’t build your own kitchen table because you’ve never done it before. At every turn, you need an expert, a professional, a mentor. Countless self-help books tell you to talk to someone, and seek out advice. But what if you could imagine for a minute that all of your answers lie in communion with yourself? Listening to those very creative urges could facilitate the communications that you have with yourself and bring you closer to your core.

The drive to create is fundamentally human. When we ignore it, we only do ourselves a disservice. And that’s exactly why we ignore it – it doesn’t suit how we are taught to think. We have a narrative of ideas, timelines, and other restrictions by which we are told we must live our lives. Our urges rest in direct opposition to society’s inclination towards dismantling those parts that could feasibly extend the joy and wholeness that humans feel. These drives are ingrained in us, and failing to address them brings discontent. As thinkers and creators, we stand to gain much more by refusing to tame the creative drive.

Creation in an Overwhelmed State

Austin Kleon poignantly says in his book Steal Like An Artist, “Creativity is subtraction.” I’ve previously talked about just how overwhelming stimulus is, particularly from news and social media outlets. And I’m always on-route to simplifying further. We’re cluttered – all of us. Not necessarily individually, but on a societal level. There are many versions of the same product, guaranteeing the same result. There are heavily clotted roads, congested parking structures, and complex driving courtesy dynamics. On top of that, we can’t seem to escape noise – from restaurants playing music so loud it sounds like a night club, to speakers in a parking garage, to construction.

I think many of us are sad. I see it in the faces around me when driving, walking, talking, and otherwise being out in the world. Earnestly, I believe that everyone is creative. Much of the sadness comes from lack of creative outlet. And on a base level, the amount of stimulus that we are subjected to every day does nothing to encourage us to create. We are creators. We believe in myths and traditions of creation. We have fundamentally created gods in the human image. Yet, we reserve creation to designated “professionals”, whom we deem more creative than the majority. On top of that, the professional creatives many times create within parameters of cultural structure and ethos of imagined targeted audiences.

We are sad because we cannot fathom creating. There is so much already out there. Much of it irrelevant to us, much of it is unnatural and inauthentic. All of us have innate hubs of creation carnally and sacredly intertwined into our carbon frames. Many may never realize their immense powers of creation – for art, for business, for positivity – because they tie themselves unquestionably to their imagined selves. An imagined self can see him or herself as a monetary entity, quantifiable, determined by a cost-value. This is not a true self. Humans think things. Humans make things. Humans create things. They are vastly more intricate than they are allowed to be by standards of normalcy and by societal value.

Consider the concept of being emotionally intelligent. The idea is that someone who is emotionally intelligent will be able to control his or her emotions. He or she will choose appropriate emotions for a given scenario. Consider though that those appropriate emotions are determined by cultural cues, overt and covert individualized interpretations, and context. All of these make emotional responses far more complex than we say they are. Our emotional responses are fabricated, at least in part. They are heavily reliant on consensus of appropriateness.

The combination of emotional intelligence and overstimulation perfectly renders a dramatically uncreative, monetized, and passive individual. What we call emotional intelligence is actually what’s forging internal dissonance between our true, legitimate feelings, and our outward appearance (eg. facial expressions). Now combine this sense of inauthentic self with the drive of stimulus in your surroundings. Overstimulation nests deep, weaving in thoughts that all that’s create-able is created, and all that’s worthy of creation is either already created, or will be created by a professional creative person.

The truth of creation is separated from stimulus and emotional intelligence. In reality, everyone is creative. We live in an overwhelming time, and we’re discouraged from authenticity. How do we reconcile the true nature of the human spirit – creation – with the culture we currently participate in?

Creative Progress Through Awareness

There is beauty in both creative process and progress; embracing the former encourages the latter. When working on a long-term goal, loving the process is vital to the daily carving away towards the goal. Take book writing for example. Without the love of writing, the book will be an arduous chore. With love, the process is a blossoming and unfolding of the creativity once entangled inside the writer. When working towards a goal, sometimes we think about the material emergence; sometimes we don’t think about the ties it will have to the rest of our lives. This is where awareness plays a very pertinent role in creation. These are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself throughout the progress towards my goal:

  1. Will I be proud of what I create? Throughout life, you have many opportunities to create. It’s important to be discerning about what you create, since you have a plethora of chances. Positive creations such as beautiful poems, tense prose, vivid paintings, and airtight code can emerge but so can disjointed comedic performance and chaos through lack of articulation. We’re creating every single day, even in social media posts. Putting thought into whether or not we’re proud of our creative expressions ensures that we are wholly being ourselves and that we are creating positive creations.
  2. Do I earnestly love this? Do you earnestly love what you’re creating? It’s a potent question. For months, I was performing improv comedy and it took me over half a year to realize that I wasn’t enjoying it. I wasn’t earnestly loving the moments I was doing it. When I began writing again, I felt this wholeness, this indescribable wholeness of being and of total peace. When I write, I feel as if the whole world is at a stand-still and I’m being totally and irrevocably myself. I am projecting an endless flow of love to humankind through my writing; that’s the feeling I want to generally have when I’m creating.
  3. Do I want to put my name on this product? Many times, I’ve begun writing novels and stopped. This is perhaps the life of the young writer. Only once I realized that I would have my real name on my book did I recognize the immense requirement that I needed to be willing to accept all authorship for what I write. This goes hand in hand with being proud of what you create; putting your name on your product is your final approval.
  4. Am I being ethical about my process? Again along with being proud of what you create, it’s also important to think about how other people are impacted by your process and how they will be impacted by your final product. Are you adding goodness to this world or bringing in more darkness? Are you propelling the rhetoric of hatred forward, or are you acknowledging your dark side, taking responsibility for your creations, and consciously propelling positivity?

All of us are capable of immense creation throughout our lives. Being conscious, loving, proud, and ethical throughout the process shows in your art and makes the world a more positive place.

Creative Outside Work

I’ve contemplated creativity throughout much of my adult life, and this contemplation is epitomized by a college thesis I wrote involving the topic. But here, I’ll address the misconception that I believe is present in the realm of the corporate world. My findings are that if one is not being paid for his or her craft, then he or she is not deemed creative. Further, these assumptions of creativity are very much limited to work with color and shapes, on a rudimentary level. That type of aesthetic work is indeed creative, but creativity is not limited to color-based or image-related aesthetic work.

  1. Your creativity is not limited to your paying job. Just because you don’t own a creative title at work doesn’t mean you’re not creative. Creativity is not reserved for those with the proper titles. Creativity is not something only an exclusive few have. Creativity is not restricted to specific standards; in fact, it’s the abhorrence and neglect of those very standards that begin creative revolutions.
  2. You are more than your career, your resume, your family, your friends. If you’ve endured relationships and jobs that depleted you emotionally, physically, and psychically, you are not defined by those periods of creative drought. Creativity is not taken away from you, it rests inside of you. It can lay dormant for days, weeks, months, and years, but it cannot be fully extracted from you. You always have potential for creativity.
  3. Your creativity cannot be taken from you. You may run out of steam, ideas, passion, money, but you will never run out of the endless pool of creativity that you are made of. All it takes is tapping into it. It’s not always evident that it’s there, and sometimes, you can think it’s entirely gone, but it isn’t. Trust yourself enough to open your own creativity up from the inside out.
  4. Creativity comes in a plethora of masks. You can be creative washing the dishes if you’re thinking about new ways to scrub, new ways to put soap on the sponge, new ways to set the dishes down for drying. Now this is an extreme example, but it’s meant to show that creativity is engaged even in the most seemingly mundane daily tasks. Creativity can be achieved, even in hostile or unforgiving environments, by living in the details and paying attention to those things that consume your time.

Creativity rests in all human beings; it is not something granted to a select few selected by society, by a degreed education, by monetary validation. Oftentimes, societal restrictions dictate who should be creative, but that’s just the false paradigm that we live in. Humans have innate creative potential, and power to create their own style of creative products.