One of the most common perceptions of non-artists about how creative people work is that seized by inspiration at the most unlikely times, they rush to their notebook, easel or computer and create furiously for hours until they’re burnt out, exhausted and unable to create anymore.
Then, after suffering an unpredictable and turbulent period of some form of creative block, suddenly the next day/ week/ month/ year their inspiration grips them once more and they again create manically. And so the pattern continues.
Indeed throughout history there are many examples of creative people who appeared to operate like this. But almost without exception this manic creativity is accompanied by its dark twin – long periods of debilitating anxiety, creative paralysis and depression.
The list of artists who created a handful of masterpieces – in whatever creative form – then took their lives at a young age to apparently escape their demons is tragically long.
What then is the alternative? If, as creative people, we are gripped by a sudden idea or flash of enlightenment, should we let it pass or ignore it? Of course not. Carrying around a notebook of some kind – and using it to jot down thoughts when they do appear – is an invaluable tool for anyone wishing to catch those precious ideas.
But instead of then simply going about the rest of our lives waiting powerlessly for that mysterious creative urge to strike again, we can gently encourage it, and develop the ease at which we’re able to create.
The idea of cumulative creativity – creating a little each day to add to your current projects – is an old and much trusted one, but something still overlooked by many of us who aspire to be more productive in our creative lives.
Maybe it’s a deep seated belief that “true” creativity equates to spontaneity and anything that is done by a ritual or under a disciplined regime is somehow not genuine or authentic?
This argument however quickly loses credibility when we consider the many benefits of developing ourselves in the ways of cumulative creativity. Here are some of the main ones –
1. You allow your creativity to flow in the natural way it was intended to. By giving your natural creativity permission to be free, and a daily forum in which it can express itself, it inevitably flows more easily. By being less of a perfectionist – creating something that is the best you can at any one time, rather than despairing that every line or brush stroke you make is not quite perfect – you allow your creativity to run forth without restriction and produce work that never before would have been possible.
2. You steadily build up a body of work. By creating consistently, however little each day, after weeks, months and years, you’ll develop a substantial body of work. Then when you come across the opportunities to show your work to the world in whatever form, you’ll not only have plenty to offer but you’ll also have the credibility of being a practising artist with a large and growing body of work, as well as being able to give your audience a greater representation of your work.
3. You develop discipline and gain momentum in all parts of your life. By creating regularly, by setting time aside each day to create, you develop discipline and strong creative habits. As well as allowing you to create more easily, and having your creative abilities more “on tap”, this also means you can begin to apply these traits to get more of what you want – and ultimately to bring more happiness – in all areas of your life.
4. It’s the only sure way to develop as an artist. The only way to learn about your creativity and to grow it in the ways that will serve you best is to keep using it. Want to learn how to best express yourself through painting? Find some pictures of paintings that appeal to you, buy some canvases and paints yourself and keep painting until you begin to feel that you’re getting closer to what you truly want to express. You WILL get closer, but only by creating over and over again, learning what works and what doesn’t, and each time creating your new work as a more mature and accomplished artist.
5. It’s less stressful! It’s actually more stressful to not be creating, and to fall into the negative patterns, doubts and mental turmoil that go with it. By creating regularly, whether it’s five lines of a story or a few scribbles on a page, you keep at bay the negative thoughts and increasing anxiety that comes from not creating, analysing why you’re not creating, then creating even less!
© Copyright 2006 Dan Goodwin.