“Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” ~John Lennon
This is Part 1 of the 2-Part series on creative chaos and the art of stirring it up.
What drives the creativity engine?
Do you think it is order with structure or disorder with chaos?
Perhaps it is a mix of structure and chaos.
Creativity might be messy and does not always fall in the neat package that we might hope it does.
Often, we see the end product of a process that bordered on exciting, insane and just a bit out of control.
The end product is neat and amazing and evokes wonder and delight.
If you peek deeper into the creative process, you may collide with chaos and uncertainty and much discomfort.
Do you feel a bit out of control with your creativity?
Do you sometimes feel like you are a creative wreck? Do you feel discomfort and unease?
Do you feel intensely strong feelings that feel like huge waves hitting the shore?
Do you feel both unbridled joy and deep frustration associated with the creative process?
If the answer to the above questions is yes, read on because you are not the only one…
1. The Push and the Pull: The Comfort Zone Vs. The Discomfort Zone
“I have realized; it is during the times I am far outside my element that I experience myself the most.” ~ C. JoyBell C.
The problem with neatly packaged ideas and the way things are supposed to work out is that they often leave out the unappealing and difficult parts. If you ask someone about the creative process, they will mostly talk about inspiration and other amazing things like “a-ha” moments.
However, they are often at a loss of words to describe the difficulty, frustration and the suffering. Try it out for yourself. You will find that talking about appealing aspects of your creative process is easier and more comforting. However, the act of deeply feeling and verbalizing the discomfort is not easy.
Amidst the glory and the glitter, the constant frustration and staying at the edge of discomfort gets lost in translation.
Soon we may fall into a rut and begin doing the routine things, things that do not excite us or make us scared.
This zone of comfort is a neat place to place yourself and you go on living what you might consider a dream life. The question to ask is this: is this your creative best?
Creating something new repeatedly and launching it out there for everyone to enjoy and criticize is both intensely satisfying and painstakingly difficult at the same time.
This is the zone of discomfort where the territory is new and the map is unknown.
You do not even know if you will manage to get to your destination. Yet, on you go since you are a warrior of creativity.
Giving up is not an option. You have a deep desire and need to express your creativity!
The discomfort zone invokes extreme excitement and at the same time confronts us with our darkest nightmares.
In the popular movie from the classic books by J. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Lord Elrond advises Aragorn to give up the ranger and step into the role of the King.
Lord Elrond challenges Aragorn to save middle earth from the dangers that had befallen it by stepping into discomfort and embracing his rightful place as a powerful King. Aragorn has to step out of his own zone of comfort as a ranger and step into the unknown and immensely uncertain role as a King in a big crisis.
Lord Elrond says to Aragorn, “Put aside the Ranger. Become who you were born to be.” Lord Elrond also presents Aragorn with the reforged sword of Anduril, a symbol of vast power and past glory.
The story from The Lord of the Rings is a powerful reminder to us to cast aside our previous conditioning and step into the role of a creator of our genius work by embracing uncertainty and discomfort.
It is a call-to-action to embrace uncertainty and discomfort over certainty and comfort.
Much in the same way, staying on the edge of discovery and creativity calls for great excitement and invokes massive discomfort and fear. When we run away from the discomfort, we essentially run back into the trap of comfort, the zone we are so familiar with.
If we want to create something magnificent, We have to confront our discomfort and repeatedly push ourselves into it.
Take one small action today that puts you outside of your zone of comfort.
Begin with a small creative project that you have always wanted to complete and go through with it even though you might be terrified of the result.
After completion of your creative project, launch it out for others to enjoy and give their feedback on it.
You might need to embrace the unknown, re-navigate and sail into the big discomfort zone.
Do you feel intense fear and great excitement at the same time? If you are not, you are in your zone of comfort.
You may experience a pull into the zone of comfort and a push away from the zone of discomfort. Your task is to continually do the opposite: pull yourself into the zone of creative discomfort and push away from comfort.
2. The Astonishing Power of Unfavorable Situations
“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ~M. Scott Peck
Problems and impossible situations are opportunities in disguise. This is not self-help mumbo-jumbo but something that every creative person can immensely benefit from.
When confronted with the impossibility of a greatly unfavorable situation, it is very difficult to keep moving on. We have been trained to succeed but we do not get any formal training in confronting difficult situations.
For many people, unfavorable situations look like this: hide, run away and hope things get better. Deep within the failure of a book waiting to be written or a creative project gone awry lies the wisdom of what you might do better next time.
The evidence for embracing unfavorable situations and making the most of them as a path to success is overwhelming.
For example, the author of Help, Kathryn Stockett took five years to complete the book and was rejected 60 times before it got published. Let that sink in to our awareness for a few moments. It was rejected an incredible sixty times but the author did not give up.
The book has since sold more than 5 million copies and has stayed on best sellers lists for many weeks.
J. K. Rowling conceived of Harry Potter while on a delayed train journey. Over the next several years, she got divorced, lost her mother and battled poverty while keeping the dream alive for her books.
Not being able to take advantage of what life throws at you and act even if the conditions are unfavorable is a creative shortcoming.
Embrace unfavorable conditions and go do something groundbreaking with the lessons learnt. Take action with the lessons that you have learnt and go make the world a better place.
Embrace difficult situations and keep moving your creative dream forward.
Allow difficult situations to transform you and make you more flexible, more powerful and more resilient.
You cannot give up on your innate creativity and the creative projects that have resulted from that.
You have to go on and keep hoping, keep desiring, keep launching and keep taking small steps forward.
3. Fire, Fire Burning Bright: The Burning Desire Difference
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ― Jane Goodall
How great is your desire to make a difference in the life of others and in your own life? It is imperative to uncover the motivation and inspiration behind why you want your creative product to succeed.
If it is solely for making money and getting famous, then go ahead and let me know how it worked for you.
If you are fueled by a desire, a fire greater than ego related wishes…
If you are truly inspired to shake things up and make the world a better place as a result of that…
If you have the fire of passion burning brightly inside of you that is unwilling to get extinguished by inaction…
Now, you are on to something.
This fire is an intrinsic motivation, an inside job that radiates and expresses outwards in all directions and changes the world as a result. Often this type of burning desire is precipitated with a life event that shakes up your idea of reality.
A young lawyer in South Africa was confronted with prejudice because of his color where he was thrown out of a train when he refused to move from the first class compartment. This and other events of discrimination were the turning points in his life.
A revolution far greater than anyone could have imagined was set in motion. He developed a deep intrinsic desire to help others and created a peaceful movement of nonviolence that did not put up with injustice and transformed humanity forever.
The lawyer was Mahatma Gandhi and the rest is history.
Sometimes you are confronted with a life-changing event or you may change a “keystone habit” as described by Charles Duhigg in his inspiring book, The Power of Habit.
When such an event happens, you may develop a great fire of inspiration in your belly and the burning desire to make a difference in your life and the lives of others.
This burning desire cannot be verbalized or intellectualized very well. If you discover you have only a year to live, all the unnecessary clutter just falls apart. You will have no time to lose. You get to work on the most important things.
You will take action like you have never taken before. You will go for it with a fire in your belly.
Do have a burning desire to creatively inspire and make someone’s life better or something better?
Do you have a reason and a purpose that is so important that it fills you up with inspiration?
Mobilize that amazing fire in your belly to push forward in your creative ventures.
4. Nothing to lose, everything to gain: “Screw it, lets do it”
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”-Sir Richard Branson
If you want to stir things up in the world of creativity, you need to embrace Sir Richard Branson’s philosophy of “screw it, lets do it.”
You may rationalize not going for it because you feel like you have a lot to lose by chasing after your creative dream. The reality is that you may be right.
Unfortunately, great creative adventures are not for the faint of heart. There may be a lot to lose.
What you may discover is that the adventure of the journey and the possibility of fantastic destinations is priceless.
The relevant question to ask is whether staying put is eventually riskier than the immediate risk of going for it.
Now, I am not asking you to quit your day job and jump into a van and go on a creative extravaganza. Even though that sounds remarkably appealing!
What I am saying is that you need to put some more time and effort into your creative dreams.
Even if you work on your dream for an hour a day and take action as if you have nothing to lose, you are stepping into the ripe field of creative possibility. Just go for it. Let action and results speak for themselves.
Do not allow anything to hold your creative ventures back.
Are you hesitating to launch your creative product or venture or skill because you are not completely sure?
Ask yourself if staying stuck is more riskier in the long run when compared to going for your creative venture on a daily basis.
Now over to you! Please comment below and let me know if this post resonated with you and if you have creative chaos in your life and how do you go through with it?
Photo Credit: Mark Chadwick via Compfight
Raj H says
Harish, thanks for the inspiring article.
In chemistry, there is a term called “energy of activation.” It’s the minimum required energy to start a chemical reaction. The rough times in life give the energy of activation, and this article definitely gives the energy to maintain that reaction in a steady-state.
Harish Kumar says
Thanks a lot for your comment, Raj!
I completely agree. The rough times do give a massive energy of activation. I really like the comparison between chemistry and life!
Have a nice weekend!
[…] fact, I have written about the art of creative chaos and how to navigate it in your life here and […]