Being creative is as innate to being human as eating, talking, walking and thinking is. It has always been a process we naturally prioritize; our ancestors somehow found time to carve their images and stories on cave walls. But we’ve mistakenly grown to regard it as some form of luxury – you’re lucky if you have the means to express yourself.
In reality, it is a manner of education, communication, and ultimately, self-introspection, and we are in constant manifestation of it. The mediums have shifted from rock particles to pixels, but we can all still see that there is something inherently human about wanting to imprint, impress, craft, mold, form, paint, write and otherwise mold something abstract into that which is conceivable to someone else.
Unsurprisingly then, it seems that the most effective creative process is one that follows the art of zen – meditation, mindfulness, intuition, non-resistance, non-judgement, etc.
I did not begin writing because it was something I liked. It was how I figured my way out of pain. It didn’t take too long to realize that I didn’t want to spend my life creating or exacerbating problems only to think and feel my way out for the sake of a job. I wanted to be able to write and create just because. Just because I’m alive and breathing and can.
I had to learn that my expression did not need to be justified – it is valid because I am a valid human being, the same as you, and everybody else.
But in the meantime, I tried all the classic writing routines of the greats, the promised formulas for consistent, rhythmic creation. I tried to be structured, did anything to induce “flow,” intentionally probed at the deep dark untouched corners of myself, was routine even when I didn’t want to be, and found every bit of it to be dead-ended.
I was trying to create structure where structured need not be placed. It did little more than make the process stagnate.
The reason being, mostly, that we do not ebb and flow in and out of creation. It is an unseen constant, from the clothes we choose to the sentences we say to the way we arrange our desks at work.
It comes down to imagining writing (or painting, or singing, or whatever it is you do) as coming as naturally as breathing does: it’s an effortless process, it draws upon what is outside you and transforms it as it goes through you, and it is tensed, stressed, ebbed and made more difficult when we consciously try to do it.
In fact, anything creative tends to be most hampered by end goals. It is almost imperative that you are completely mindful of the moment, creating from a place of simply allowing whatever is going through you to flow out.
Because when you have a pre-prescribed path in mind, it means you are trying to align with somebody else’s. It means that the inspiration you have found is you creating your own version of somebody’s something else that made you tick and flow.
You’ll seldom be inspired by work that is coming from a core truth, and that’s because it shows you something about yourself. Not just something, the truest truth – that’s what makes the process so god damn unbearable.
And that’s why we reach for structure, that’s what makes us stopper the process. That’s why we want inspiration and validation and external support.
In the true essence of real zen, the most creativity can be fostered when you learn to do so without passing judgment: similar to how observing your thoughts and feelings objectively are the path to peace as well.
Some of what you write down you’ll want to share, or make consumable. Some you won’t. That’s okay too. It’s imperative to realize that even the greatest artists weren’t consistently prolific, especially not publicly. But considering that “inactivity” a lack, loss or failure is just attaching another ego-meaning to it all.
You cannot quantify your creativity, and though it is an extension and impression and expression of yourself, it does not define you.
You are free to keep the sacredness of your most inner self only within your own existence. The more you can express that, and live that, without judgment, and in the moment, the more you’ll feel free to be honest, and open up to yourself. The more you feel comfortable with that core self, the more you’ll feel able to create from a peaceful place. Just because. Whenever you want.