Whether we are an entrepreneur, a writer, or a documentary filmmaker, these titles can seem the very badge of honor that we aspire to with our work. Yes, aiming high can help us apply ourselves to our chosen art, but there is a shadowy side to going for such specific targets and being motivated by bestowed prestige. And it’s probably not what you think. I’d like to share with you three keys that contribute to sustainable creativity and, in due course, success.
KEY 1: BEING IN YOUR RIGHT MIND
I’ve written before about writing drunk and editing sober; writing fully intoxicated with our ideas as they fill up our senses and then soberly editing them in the cool light of day to refine them. These are two distinct parts of the active creative process and, I would say, something for which we use two very different parts of our mind.
The cool, critical mind allows us to select and choose and change our work in order to improve it. It is vital and plays an important role in us producing our creative work to a high standard. Unfortunately, it’s good friends with Ego. It is also pretty obsessed with order, full of its own self-importance, and focuses on the product, rather than the process, as the defining criteria in order to assign value to our work.
Quotes such as, “We are instruments, more than authors, of our work,” from the beautiful soul of Julia Cameron, will cause it to start to sweat and hyperventilate. Control and quantifiable productivity are its preferred modus operandi.
The artist-mind is a very different landscape. In the quantum space of the subconscious mind, ideas collide and spark. It is the land of questions and curiosity, of experience and connection. The spiced aroma of adventure can be scented on the breeze. The game is afoot. There is order, as in all areas of creation, but there are also organic growth and surprises. In this creative mind-scape, work happens. Just read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic or The War of Art by Steven Pressfield to learn more about that.
But the work is different. Stripped of obligation and pressure, the work takes on the dynamic of applied forward-moving energy. There is discipline, but there is also expansion, there is synergy. Julia Cameron, once again, puts it beautifully: “Focused on our process, our creative life retains a sense of adventure. Focused on the product, the same creative life can feel foolish and barren.”
I would go further to say that fixing our focus purely on our product is a sure way to create undue stress in our lives. Add to that working under the criteria of external merit, in the form of a bestseller or prestige awarded by others, and the pressure of that will crush our creative space. In response, we will cease to work from our creative minds and could move solely into the rational mind, which isn’t designed in the same way for creative output.
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