This is part-2 on the three part series on how to be relentlessly creative. You can read part 1 here.
If you like the ideas in this post, please leave me a comment below or send me a message about your unique creative challenges and how you overcome them.
Moving on right alone to the next idea!
Idea 8: Defy Tradition And Creative Norms But Understand The Rules
“Creativity is an act of defiance. You’re challenging the status quo. You’re questioning accepted truths and principles. You’re asking three universal questions that mock conventional wisdom:
Why do I have to obey the rules?
Why can’t I be different?
Why can’t I do it my way?
These are impulses that guide all creative people whether they admit it or not. Every act of creation is also and act of destruction or abandonment. Something has to be cast aside to make way for the new.”― Twyla Tharp
The major purpose and point of being relentlessly creative is to use the knowledge and wisdom that you currently have within you and use it to create novel pieces of work. Think about work that can enrich and enliven your life and that of other people.
This idea of reaching out in your creative process into the unknown is inherently contradictory. This is because all creativity happens within the confines of a framework, or within a set of rules.
But once you are on the path of mastery of those rules, you need to be able to defy them and try out your own style.
And you have to step into new patterns and ideas constantly to be highly creative.
You are asked to learn formally and then you are required to develop a style of your own.
You have to recognize and bring form to the novel idea from a formless set of patterns and connections.
As Tharp rightly points out, this is an act of defiance from the established norm. This is your inner rebel saying that you have had enough with the status quo.
You are not just willing to step outside the box as the cliché says but to create new boxes. But as Tharp says, we need to begin with the box to get past it.
I have been listening to a wonderful audiobook on the human brain called Your Best Brain by long time brain researcher John Medina. In the audiobook, Medina says that there are two forms of intelligence.
The first form acquired by formal training and knowledge is termed crystallized intelligence. The other creative form of intelligence called fluid intelligence involves improvisation. It involves the stepping out of the established norms.
He gives the example of Miles Davis, one of the greatest Jazz musicians of all time. The legendary Davis attributed his extraordinary improvisation skills to the famous dance and music school Julliard.
“Miles is considered one of the great improvisers of music, many people don’t know thet he first studied in Julliard. In his autobiography, Miles claimed Julliard gave him a long lasting gift, a solid grounding in formal music theory. He said his knowledge would later prove valuable in this later career. One of the greatest jazz improvisers of all time actually lists formal music theory as a reason for his success. We have in Miles Davis twin ideas: unbelievable instints for improvisation amd memorized grounding in a discipline”
Formal Training and Practice + Improvisation and Spontaneity + a Dash of the creative rebel = Great new work
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” ― Pablo Picasso
Idea 9: Leave Time And Room For The Gaps
“Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.”- Nikola Tesla
If you thought creativity was all about action and moving forward, you may need to rethink the idea. Before I go asking you to search your creative habits, I confess to making the same mistake of not allowing enough gaps and silence time. I still do it sometimes.
But now I have better awareness to catch it and I hope to think that I now know some other ways and methods to facilitate silence. What I am talking about is getting so caught up in action that you have no time for incubation of new ideas.
The creative stages might look like this even though the order might differ:
- Absorption or scratching as Twyla Tharp calls it
- Incubation or infusion where you are letting things settle.
- Action or being creative with the new insights
- Launch or putting it out there within a meaningful context for people to enjoy.
Of course, the one stage that suffers most is the incubation stage.
You may want immediate creative action and you do not have the time to wait any longer. After all, you have a deadline.
We have been conditioned to operate within deadlines and constraints and that can be a great thing for the creative process.
But excessive pushing might result in using the same material over and over again. You may have to allow breaks and silences to work their magic in the creative process.
What will CREATIVITY be without the breaks?
“True intelligence operates silently. Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found” – Eckhart Tolle
- What will be a canvas be without the white spaces?
- What will music be without the pauses?
- What will writing be without periods and punctuations?
- What will a room be with no empty spaces?
- What will life be without reflection and rest?
Brain research has shown the plasticity of the brain to improve and even enhance by good quality sleep and exercise.
Silence or alone time is a wonderful way to get creatively charged and super fired.
Disengaging with the problem and taking a shower or taking a walk is great for the creative process. Any relaxing change in environment and context like taking a bus ride also assists with creative rebooting. The result: enhanced creativity.
“Creativity – like human life itself – begins in darkness.” ― Julia Cameron
Idea 10: Time, Tide and Creativity Wait for none: Creative Triggers
“Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.” ― Henry David Thoreau
The relentlessly creative work at a furious rate and do not wait for the opportune moment. They do not wait for the stars to line up before working on their skills.
The time is now and the current moment is all we really have.
When you have that great idea, write it down and begin work on it immediately. If you wait for inspiration to strike you, you may have to wait for a long time.
Like the Chinese proverb says that the person who wants to eat roast duck and sits still is out of luck. If they expect a duck to fly into their mouth, they may have to wait a long time.
This is the reason why the super creative do not wait for the muses to strike them for inspiration.
They set up daily rituals and practices that force them to be creative and make them actively go after inspiration.
Relentlessly creative people understand the importance of:
A permissive and stimulating environment can make or break the creative process.
Creativity needs to be placed within the proper context.
Recognize the moods, settings, time, objects and people who inspire your creative process.
Ask: Why, what, where, when, how and who.
They create habits that center around their creativity.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation: Rewards
They understand the importance of getting internally and externally motivated.
“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club” – Jack London
Idea 11. Embrace Vulnerability, Uncertainty, Chaos and Anxiety
“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
One of the main reasons that we stop being relentlessly creative is because we fear being vulnerable and anxious.
Shame and guilt researcher Brené Brown calls vulnerability the birthplace of creativity. Yes, that is worth re-reading!
This was a difficult concept for me to understand and embrace. Like many other people, I was not too keen on showing my vulnerable side to the world.
Now I am aware that unless I allow myself to be authentic and vulnerable, it will be difficult to be uniquely creative.
While it is still difficult to get crushed by the opinion and criticism of others, authenticity opens the doors for creative purpose.
Anxiety and chaos are quite possibly great cues for the creative process for many people.
But here is the thing- you have to allow yourself to make some meaning out of the chaos and anxiety.
You have to hold the chaos inside of you while giving your creativity an expression to see the light of the day.
Creativity is messy. A lot of times it involves difficult feelings and emotions.
You can choose to avoid these feelings or allow them to express through your creativity.
One of the directors that I admire is Shekhar Kapur, the director of Elizabeth and Bandit Queen. In an enlightening TED talk, Kapur reveals his creative process.
“When I go out to direct a film, every day we prepare too much, we think too much. Knowledge becomes a weight upon wisdom. You know, simple words lost in the quicksand of experience. So I come up, and I say, What am I going to do today? I’m not going to do what I planned to do, and I put myself into absolute panic. It’s my one way of getting rid of my mind, getting rid of this mind that says, Hey, you know what you’re doing. You know exactly what you’re doing. You’re a director, you’ve done it for years. So I’ve got to get there and be in complete panic. It’s a symbolic gesture. I tear up the script, I go and I panic myself, I get scared. I’m doing it right now; you can watch me. I’m getting nervous, I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t want to go there.”
As Kapur prepares for a scene in his movie, he embraces the chaos and panic.
While the entire studio looks at him, they think that he is completely together. Inside, Kapur gets in touch with chaos by listening to classical music by the late maestro Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
He is hopeful that the chaos will allow the emergence of truth at the moment.
Everyone is looking up to him to make the next move and tell them the first thing that will happen. But Kapur is in a state of panic and accessing the universe for a source of creativity that comes from beyond the mind and from emptiness.
He says that this is like the source that Einstein used to access his famous equations.
Kanpur is literally looking for something to collide with him through his journey into chaos at the moment and from emptiness.
I believe that this requires a lot of trust and creative confidence.
He says of Cate Blanchett, the actress:
“So Cate says, Shekhar, what do you want me to do?
And I say, Cate, what do you want to do? You’re a great actor, and I like to give to my actors — why don’t you show me what you want to do? What am I doing? I’m trying to buy time. I’m trying to buy time.
So the first thing about storytelling that I learned, and I follow all the time is: Panic. Panic is the great access of creativity because that’s the only way to get rid of your mind. Get rid of your mind. Get out of it, get it out. And let’s go to the universe because there’s something out there that is more truthful than your mind, that is more truthful than your universe. I’m just repeating it because that’s what I follow constantly to find the shunyata somewhere, the emptiness. Out of the emptiness comes a moment of creativity. So that’s what I do.”
I believe this is a wonderfully accurate and hauntingly similar description of creativity that many experience.
And when you are uncertain or unwilling to access the chaos, your creativity remains trapped in the emptiness and does not come forth. So it is a matter of trusting and going along with the chaos of the process and hoping to create something novel from the emptiness.
“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” ― Erich Fromm
“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity” ― T.S. Eliot
Idea 12: Stretch The Muscle Of ImagineACTION
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” ― Albert Einstein
“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”― Albert Einstein
Imagination is a very powerful part of creativity and many times, like Bernard Shaw says we create what we imagine and desire.
The essential components of a strong imagination:
- The willingness to get carried away in your thoughts.
- The willingness to day dream and get into a favorable brain state for imagination to be facilitated.
- Having an endlessly curious mind and testing and getting a feel for things in your active imagination.
“Imagination is the golden-eyed monster that never sleeps. It must be fed; it cannot be ignored.” ― Patricia A. McKillip
Unfortunately, imagination has a poor reputation.
Have you heard the following:
- You are imagining things.
- Your imagination is too fertile.
- Be realistic and practical.
- You have a vivid imagination.
- You are letting your imagination run wild.
- Don’t build castles in the air.
In other words, we want people to be endlessly creative but do not give them the benefit of doubt of their vivid imagination. Too bad.
For that reason, you need to be conscious of placing your imagination in a context and framework where you can creatively succeed.
“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.”– George Bernard Shaw
Idea 13: Employ Your Feelings and Emotions
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, but must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller
Have you made the creative process into one that involves primarily the mind and the conscious thinking process?
As a society, we often place more emphasis on the cognitive processes. We have a tendency to brush aside strong emotions, feelings and intuition.
The gut or visceral feelings that can be critical to the creative process are eventually numbed down and discouraged. Often, we follow what is practical and makes cognitive sense and ignore our gut feelings and intuition.
So we plan and overplay and lay down everything in neat little cognitive boxes. When we produce the same mediocre stuff, we do not realize what the problem is?
Are you willing to defy the norm and create something new? And to do that we need to engage not only the cognitive abilities but also our deepest gut and visceral feelings.
Thinking + gut feeling + a dash of the creative rebel = Great new work
“The truth is that creative activity is one that involves the entire self – our emotions, our levels of energy, our characters, and our minds.” ― Robert Greene, Mastery
This is the end of part 2 of the post on being relentlessly creative.
Please stay tuned for the next part. Meanwhile, apply the ideas in this post and let me know in the comments below if any of these resonated with you.
What are the creative techniques that you use to stay relentlessly creative?