August 2, 2016
How would you feel if you knew that you have the creative power within you to vanquish creative block forever? Think about it for a moment. What would it feel like to know that every time you sat down to be creative, inspiration would be right beside you providing you with an endless supply of creative ideas?
If you’re a creative of any stripe, you will likely feel positively euphoric at the prospect. Well, guess what? You do have that power. What’s more, you have always had the power and have never been without the power for even one second, even when you felt creatively blocked or inspirationally stuck.
Creative ideas are everywhere present, all of the time. They are alive and zipping through the ether of the universe, always available to anyone who tunes in to them. The universe itself is a living, breathing symbol of perpetual creative activity. You are not only an effect of that creative activity, you are a co-creator of that activity.
If you are feeling creatively blocked, it is not because of the lack of creative ideas available. Rather, it is your misperception of the universal creative process and your relationship with it that is blocking you from seeing the omnipresence of creative principle. There is no lack of creative ideas in the universe…ever!
In truth, creative block is not even a real thing. It does not exist in reality, but is rather a figment of imagination. Still, to a creative person frustrated by a dearth of finished, creative output, it can seem real. However, more careful observation reveals the so called “block” to be more the result of not seeing correctly, rather than an actual lack of ideas. The good news is that vision can be corrected. Once corrected, seeing creative ideas everywhere becomes automatic.
So, if you are feeling creatively blocked and desire to become inspirationally unstuck, here are five strategies sure to ignite your creativity and banish creative block forever from your experience.
1) Stop thinking! Listen…
Creativity is a right brain activity. Thinking is a left brain activity. It is hard to be creative when you’re thinking all of the time. Chances are good that if you feel creatively blocked, you are likely thinking about creative block on a regular, recurring basis. We project what we think about to make it real in our experience. Stop thinking so much. Instead, actively listen to the activity of your own consciousness.
Be willing to be a neutral eavesdropper on your own thoughts. Do not try to think anything at all. Just simply listen to the thoughts that are automatically and habitually swirling about in your own consciousness.
Write down what you hear in the activity of your thoughts and feelings, also paying careful attention to the thoughts you think about the feelings that come up. Do not try to voice record your thoughts. Talking interrupts your ability to listen. Write them down instead.
As you continue the simple act of writing down what you hear, you will notice that your thinking activity slows down. As thinking slows, a connection is made to the right brain, the creative, intuitive part of you. When this connection is made, everything becomes a potential idea for creative expression. From this perspective, your biggest challenge will be deciding which idea you will follow.
If you are feeling stuck, it is a sure sign you are thinking too hard. Once again, don’t think about it. Listen! Your thoughts may sound chaotic to you at first. However, as you continue to listen, you will notice many ideas quickly fall away, others recede gently back into nothingness. As the pace of your thinking activity slows, the idea most fully formed and ready to be expressed will naturally assume prominence in your consciousness. When it does and you recognize it, simply be willing to follow its lead and write whatever it prompts you to do.
Creative history is replete with artist anecdotes about “taking dictation” from the muses of creativity. These anecdotes epitomize what it means to “stop thinking and listen.” With just this one strategy alone, you will profoundly and completely transform your creative process while saying goodbye to creative block forever. In the process, you will also transform your life.
2) Observe and document.
A corollary to the “stop thinking” strategy above is: stop telling potential listeners what to think. Doing so results in preachy or pedantic tones coming through in the expression. Focusing too hard on trying to convey a specific message is a thinking activity and will surely lead to experiencing creative block.
Instead, become willing to be the neutral observer. Then, simply document what you observe. Don’t make up anything to write about, document what you see, hear, smell, touch or even taste in your environment. The activity of the external world is stimulus to your inner world. In turn, the activity of your own inner world is your response to the external stimulus.
As you practice this, your experience will confirm the reality of as within, so without. As you mature, you will know that your inner life creates how you view the external world. The truth within you is greater than anything that is true in or about the world, and infinitely more interesting to express. Get good at articulating the details of your inner experience.
Even if you are writing a song, story or poem based on a past memory, or a historical event that you did not observe first-hand, focus on the sensory details. What happened? Where did it happen? When did it happen? Who was involved? What did they say or do?
Be specific on communicating details, but allow them to speak for themselves. Be as creative as possible in the way you observe, yet, be as clear as possible in communicating what you observe. Resist any instinct to draw conclusions and to tell your listener what they should think about your song, story or poem. In fact, resist telling your listeners what to think about anything.
Be transparent as a narrator, and simply provide the sensory details necessary to communicate the idea. A great example of a transparent narrator, neutrally observing and creatively documenting what he sees is “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles. In just over 2 short minutes, a judicious use of details creates lives for two lonely people that could easily be expanded into a novel or a movie.
Trust your audience. Simply observe and document. Allow them to decide what they think or feel for themselves. Following this strategy will help you to be faithful to the “stop thinking, listen” strategy above, and will also insure you avoid telling others what to think in the process, which is never an attractive quality for an artist.
3) Shut down your sight temporarily.
Sight is the gateway drug for the addicted thinker and a prime influencer of creative block. Thinkers rarely make great artists, because the focus is on the thinking, not the actual act of creating. Visual stimulus is everywhere in the external world and constantly triggering the activity of our thinking nature. By and large, we move through the world using our outer eyes to look at the virtually non-stop onslaught of physical and visual stimulus intersecting our experience. However, we usually fall way short of actually seeing what is in our view, especially as it may relate to our creative life.
Maintaining exclusive focus on what is physically visible in the external world distracts creatives from tapping into the greater, inner world of imagination. Predominantly relying on sight can be a major distraction to focused creativity and can lead to chronic procrastination. Yes, the sense of sight is important in the creative process. Providing visual detail in the lyrics of a song, story or poem is virtually impossible without a sense of sight in play. However, like hearing, which runs a close second as a potential distractor, relying on sight alone will almost certainly keep you stuck in thinking mode.
There is a big difference between looking and seeing, just as there is a difference between hearing and listening. Looking and hearing are automatic responses to external stimuli. Seeing and listening require active engagement and take place in the inner realm of consciousness. Temporarily removing physical sight from the equation, allows our focus to go within where we can begin to observe the activity of our consciousness and to slow it down so that we may access the creative, intuitive part of our nature.
Close your eyes for a moment, temporarily closing off any visual stimulus from the outside world. There may still be sounds, smells and textures around you, do your best to simply be neutral about their presence. With eyes still closed, gently focus on connecting with the activity of your thoughts. As you do, hold a gentle intention for your thoughts to slow down the pace of their activity. Notice if you are attempting to direct the flow of your thoughts. If you are, stop. Attempting to direct your thoughts is a thinking activity.
Be interested in what you sense, not what you think about what you sense. The goal here is neutrality. When you feel connected and present with your inner self, open your eyes, then look around your environment again, this time with the intention of seeing things anew.
Write about what you see, what you hear when you are actively listening, what you smell, what textures you can touch or even what you might taste. Notice how you feel about those things, then write about it in vivid, creative detail. Remember, stop looking and see is the equivalent of stop thinking and listen.
4) Work with what’s available.
Perhaps the biggest stumbling block to creative expression is the myth of perfection. The idea is not perfect. My ability to express is not perfect. The time is not perfect. Therefore, we often swat away, or procrastinate away perfectly viable ideas, because we do not see the inherent perfection in almost anything as a viable creative idea. For this reason, always be willing to work with what’s available in the moment you sit down to create.
It may not seem so to you in the moment, but being willing to work with what’s available even if you don’t think it is worth the time, is always worth the time. It keeps the creative pump primed and insures that you continue to see and sense the never ending flow and availability of creative ideas.
Don’t worry about trying to create something brand new. Creative ideas that are wholly original are as rare as angels on the head of a pin. Instead, endeavor to communicate in a new and fresh way about something that has been around forever.
For example, somewhere over 80% of all “hit” songs are love songs. The idea of love songs is certainly not a new idea. However, the divine idea of “love” holds within it the potential for an infinite number of ways to express love in a song, a story or poem.
The same holds true for all divine creative ideas. Be willing to work with the one that shows up when you sit down to create. The one that makes itself available in the moment is the perfect idea for that moment. Don’t bat it away to look for another idea. Go with the one that shows up and do your best to creatively express it in the best possible way.
5) Forget your audience.
I know I said to “trust your audience” above and I mean it. In that sense, I said trust your audience to think for themselves. Do not tell them what to think. Now, I am saying forget your audience.
By this I mean, do not try to guess what your audience is thinking or wants. It is enough of a challenge for creatives to figure out what they want to express for themselves, much less trying to figure out what the audience may want. Besides, no one really knows for sure what anyone else may be thinking at any given time, or for that matter what they may want or need.
I spent parts of my creative career writing sales and marketing copy for a variety of companies. One of the secrets marketers know that many people do not know is the public does not know what it wants until they know what is available. The entire marketing and advertising industry is built on this idea.
Even more of a secret in the industry is that less than 3% of people who see an ad or receive a marketing solicitation even respond to it. Many times, if not most, the response is much less than 3%. This means that marketing or advertising efforts fail more than 97% of the time. So much for trying to figure out what the public wants or needs. You’d probably have better a success rate playing darts in the dark.
The best and most creatively productive, long term strategy is to determine what you most want to express for your own purposes, regardless of who you think your audience is or may be. Assume you are the only audience you will ever have and do your best to express your creative idea to your own self satisfaction. If you know what you respond to and do your best to creatively express yourself in a way that you respond to it, chances are others will respond to it as well.
Spend your creative time doing your best to get to know yourself and forget about what you think others may want. This is a sophisticated trap that too many times leads to creative block. Underpinning the notion of trying to figure out what the audience wants is the idea of what will sell. If you are creating for the express purpose of being commercially successful, chances are good that you are already off track and setting yourself up for some major creative block experiences.
All artists are mystics.
At the beginning and end of the day, creativity is the most direct way to experience the divine. To be actively creative is to be directly engaged with Creation itself. To be directly engaged with Creation itself is to be a mystic.
Whether you know it or not, all artists are mystics. If you have read this far, you are a mystic too. Mystics demand direct experience of the divine. To see a world that is ripe with an inexhaustible bounty of divine creative ideas is to know that you have a direct, internal connection to the divine supply of creative power within your own being. Once you know that you know this, you will never have cause to be creatively blocked ever again.