I’ve been thinking and writing and talking an awful lot about creativity lately. Making up for an extended period of being creatively stuck myself!
At the core of getting unstuck was redefining what creation and creativity mean to me.
Ever since I’ve done that, I’ve started several new projects (including this website, a coffee blog, on top of my language-learning-related projects). I’m also writing a radionovela story for a Spanish language course. And I’m writing drafts for 1-2 new blog posts every day.
More importantly: it doesn’t feel like I’m working so hard. On the contrary: I’m relaxing much more. Everything feels easier. I feel freer, happier, and much more fulfilled.
Getting unstuck and redefining what creativity means can have the same powerful, liberating effect for you, too. And even if you think you don’t need it, creating more might yield incredible benefits in areas where you wouldn’t expect it.
So let’s start by redefining creativity, and then help you get unstuck and start creating more.
My expansive definition of creativity
At the moment, this is what creation (and creativity) means to me. I update this definition a lot, but this is it right now.
To me, creation is giving my perception of the outer world – and how I interpret it in my mind – a way back out.
Here’s another way of looking at it.
Stimuli from the world around you enter your brain through your senses. They interact with your thoughts, feelings, and past experiences until something new emerges: a creation. A creation that’s uniquely yours, because it emerged from your unique blend of experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
This is my current understanding, which might be similar or different from yours. You don’t have to agree–but doing so might make your life easier, more fulfilled… and yes, more creative.
Why creating is a natural completion of the “flow of conscious living”
If you’re creating, it means the inputs and experiences that enter your brain flow out again after you’ve interpreted and transformed them.
If you don’t let them flow out again, you’re blocking yourself halfway through that process.
Here’s a blocked flow of experience & creation:
Input from the world around you –> interpretation and interaction with your thoughts, feelings, body, past experiences –> BLOCK
That block leads to tension. More and more input builds, and even though you’re interpreting it, processing it, it has no way out… Until you can’t take it anymore, and something inside you overflows and breaks. (This leads to destruction instead of creation. We’ll talk about that in a second.)
On the other hand, if you remove that creation block (and you get unstuck), you’re completing the flow of conscious living.
Here’s an unblocked flow of experience & creating:
Input from the world around you –> interpretation and interaction with your thoughts, feelings, past experiences, your body –> a unique creation emerges.
There are no blocks here, no friction. No buildup of inputs, experiences, thoughts and emotions. It flows through and out. And that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Another metaphor: refraction in a prism
I imagine it as refraction in a prism (I’ll expand on this in a separate article). Warning: this is a metaphor, not a scientific explanation of refraction. I’m sure it’s not correct scientifically; the goal is to illustrate the process of creation.
Rays of light enter a prism and are then bent, changes direction many times. They bounce around, and emerge again on the other side.
So for you as a living being, sensory input enters your mind, where it starts bouncing around. You interpret it through unique pathways in your brain paved by your previous experiences, thoughts, feelings…
And by bouncing off each other and interacting, it gets transformed (refraction) and something new emerges. That’s your creation.
The decision you have to make: will you open your mind to that creation and let it emerge? Or will you prevent it from emerging at all, so it endlessly keeps bouncing around in your head?
What does a “creation” look like?
I can describe my current understanding of the process. But what emerges as the result of your creative process, I can’t tell.
But it’s NOT “art” in the sense most people think about it: something you can put in a museum or publish in a book. Although it can be that.
It’s everything that emerges inside you through living your life and (this is vital) that you put back in the world. Good and bad. Pretty or ugly, useful or useless.
You don’t even have to show it to anybody. You don’t even have to look at your creations yourself. You can create because it helps you process certain events. Or because you feel like it. Or for any other reason.
Here’s a random, mundane but valid list of creations:
- Having conversations with others
- Listening to someone, then taking what they say to heart
- Writing an email
- Performing routine tasks at work
- Drawing in the sand.
- Assembling a machine
- Anything you create at work
- Giving someone a hug
- Calling a friend
- A small note
- A sketch
- A grocery list
- Delivering a work project
- Building something
- Playing with your kids
Creations are created through action
You might’ve noticed these are all verbs. In other words, you create by taking conscious action to get things out of your head, into the world.
You can’t create by doing nothing, by getting input and not letting anything come out. Again, if you do that, you’re bound to reach a point where you can’t hold it in anymore, and you uncontrollably create something less desirable.
The things you create in a situation like that tend to be destructive. Think: an emotional outburst. Anger. Aggression.
So let’s call that creative destruction. I like to avoid that as much as possible. I can imagine you do too.
The path to getting unstuck and start creating
Quick recap. If you take the time every day to process all your experiences by consciously creating something… you’ll notice immediate relief. It’ll feel as if a huge barrier has been removed. Resistance is gone. You’ll better understand your emotions, your feelings, your patterns, and your thought processes. And you’ll be able to create more. Much more.
That’s what “getting unstuck” feels like.
If you have no idea how to start, here are four ways of getting unstuck that have worked for me and many others:
- Morning Pages (full article/how-to coming soon). Stream of Consciousness writing: the single best tool for getting unstuck, generating ideas, and working through a LOT of other things in your life. And writing the Morning Pages every day counts as creating every day. For best results, write them by hand, not on a computer. Don’t ask me why (I might looks into it, though). (Tip: don’t read them back. And don’t show them to anybody.)
- Long walks. The solitude, the physical movement, and the connection with your surroundings sparks new insights. This is not in itself creating, but it helps with getting insights, inspiration that can
- Meditation. An obvious one. It can take a while before you see the effects of this. It’s much more subtle than morning pages. And it’s no direct “creation”. But it can help you create something
- Answering ‘journaling prompts’. Same as Morning Pages: journaling, but more “guided”.
- For example, answer without thinking: “If it didn’t sound so stupid, today I would enjoy doing_________” Anything you answered here, do it today (or this week). I got this one from Julia Cameron (who popularized the Morning Pages). It works because you give yourself permission to do something silly. And sometimes, creating is silly 🙂
Once again: creating is taking action. So do these activities… And then take action. Put something out there. Talk to someone. Create something. Unblock yourself.
Taking it one step further: from conscious creation to creating value
Once you’re consciously creating every day, you can (but don’t have to) take it a step further. You can learn to guide your creative process towards “creating value”. That means: creating ideas, things, concepts that are considered valuable to others around you.
Here’s why this is a good thing: that value will inevitably flow back to you in form way or another… be it through friendships, gratitude, experiences… money… or anything else you personally value.
That way, apart from fulfillment, you could make a living by consciously creating and dedicate your life to what you like creating the most.
If this concept of “creating value for others” triggers something inside you, you’re not alone.
You (like most people, including me) might feel shame, guilt, or insecurity around creating. You might think you aren’t “good enough” to create. Or your creations will never be valuable. You might not trust yourself (more about that here
That’s why I added a “mundane” list of “creations” above: to remove the guilt or fear of shame around creation. To expand the definition to something we all do automatically. Everything is a creation. It’s the most natural way of living your life, and it’ll lead to a lot more satisfaction and fulfillment.
If you’re interested in taking the path of value creation in your life, I’ll have something for you soon. But first… get unstuck. You won’t be able to create value consistently if you’re stuck 🙂