The Creative Mind: A Series on Expressing Creativity.
This week’s readings dealt with a very debated topic – is creativity something you can control? For the longest time, I didn’t believe that it could be controlled. After all, that’s what movies and television shows have repeatedly told us. I remember a scene from RuPaul’s Drag Race, in season eleven, a contestant wasted quite a lot of time before preparing the outfit because they believed that the creativity would flow automatically and that they’d be able to put together something easily. Now, in this particular case – they were able to pull it together at the last possible moment, in quite a reality TV sense, and be safe for the round. But, when I start to think about such situations in my life, I realize that this kind of ‘end moment’ decision making makes for a game of Russian roulette. Highly unreliable and the pay-out may seem great but it’s slowly leading you to addiction.
So, when the idea that creativity and its flow are something that can be controlled was introduced to me, my skepticism took the driver’s seat. When in reality, I’ve been controlling my creativity for years now and using the myth that creativity has a mind of its own as a wall to hide behind when my ideas don’t live up to expectations. That said, not every idea can be the best and the goal is to try your best. The reading “How to Train Your Daimon” is something I discussed in the previous post as well. This is the reading that says in essence that you have the ability to train your creative center. The other piece that was introduced to us was “The Basic Tools”. This piece by Julia Cameron makes for an intriguing read. It argues that not only can you control your creativity, but there are also certain habits you can adopt to encourage your creative brain to become its best self.
This piece introduces creativity as your ‘child brain’. Someone who likes to play with things not for an outcome, but for the joy. This description sticks with me especially because it talks about the prioritization of your creative brain. Your logical brain has always been there to compare your work with masterpieces, your skills with pioneers of the field, but your creative expression will never prevail against those who have practices, controlled, and mastered their creativity for years. You could be a prodigy like Mozart, and yet it would take years before you are recognized for it. Using the basic tools as introduced by Cameron is a cursory introduction to honing your skills.
The Tools on Hand
She introduces two tools in particular: morning pages and the artist date. The first activity ‘Morning Pages’ is quite simple. It asks the person to write three pages every morning. Nothing specific to write, just write. To the end, if you feel empty and don’t know what to write – write exactly that. While I have made it a point to scroll through news while having breakfast every morning, the idea of morning pages initially seems pointless. After all, what is the benefit of writing pages that don’t add value to anything?
We discussed the relationship between value and creativity in the last piece, in case you were wondering why I talked about creativity.
The value is not derived from the work itself but from the effect, it has on your brain. Cameron describes morning pages as a “brain drain”, further explaining how starting the day with an empty mind can help you. And to me, it makes complete sense! Empty your brain, absorb the day to the fullest, take each moment as an opportunity for your creative inspiration, and utilize your time effectively. All this can be achieved through morning pages – according to me anyway.
The next activity from the piece is called Artist Date. This is the section of the prose where Cameron really describes what the ‘child brain’ is and why you need to take time to take yourself on dates. She describes the date to be something of a visual nature. Something that would make a child happy. Doing this helps to prioritize yourself in difficult situations. You actively inform your logical brain that you need to be nice to your child brain. You need to do things for being happy and that in itself has value. The next thing that Cameron asks readers to do is to practice these two exercises in tandem for maximum effect. I didn’t question this, and so, I am not going to explain it in this blog. If the two seemingly mundane exercises have value, Cameron must have some intuition that explains why these two work great together.
Finally, I want to go back to the Daimon piece for a bit. The piece introduces us to 5 good practices when trying to control your creativity that I think can be aptly placed in Cameron’s piece. From these five, I want to take up one that got stuck in my brain for a few days and is still occupying some memory in it. It says, make an entrance and exit to your creative place. Make sure to either literally or figuratively shut the door on your creativity or else you’d burn out. The words sort of clash with the idea that “If you are passionate about something, your work won’t feel like work”. To me, shutting the door equated to saying that I don’t want to do any more work – but what happens when work isn’t really a chore anymore. What I have realized in a week of sleeping with this thought is these two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive. Just because I love what I do, does not have to mean that I can deny myself more of it at the end of the day. I’ve started to think about it like chocolate cake. I love it, but just because I love it doesn’t mean that I will eat the entire cake in one sitting. I don’t have to do everything in a moment’s time. I don’t have to take on the entire world in one challenge. I take something I love like chocolate cake and still cut a slice into it, why does it have to be different for something I spend 40 to 50 hours a week doing.
Controlling your creativity may feel like an alien concept, especially if you work in an industry that doesn’t talk about being creative or how to deal with creative blocks. Introducing exercises and routines in your life are a good method to make creative sense of a chaotic process. Dipping your toes into the pool every morning will definitely alleviate fear of water.