The Secret to Unleashing Your Creative Genius
I always thought I was a creative person. I studied creative writing, I've been told I'm a right- brainer, I enjoy art, I can be curious and impulsive. But I never did anything about it. My creativity was staggered by a never-ending list of what-ifs. It would wait patiently for me, reserved with good intentions, like my reusable grocery bags that were never actually used when it really counted.
We don't always know how creativity manifests in us, though deep down, it's a romantic notion that we all like to think applies to us. Most of the time the thought of actually doing anything creative can be so overwhelming that it feels content to just think about it. I've always liked the idea of being a writer, but actually sitting myself down and doing the work? Much easier to fantasise about than do.
Recently I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Creative Curve by Allen Gannett, both of which talk about creativity as an innate quality we all have, but that few choose to take advantage of. Being creative for the sake of being creative and nothing more, as Elizabeth Gilbert wrote, intrigued me. Thinking about creativity as a tool that doesn't need to wait for that spontaneous strike of inspiration to use and that can be refined with deliberate practice as Allan Gannet proposed? Revolutionary.
Creativity is in everyone and can be the to key to not only unleashing your inner potential but also finding more fulfilment in your everyday.
The question then arises; how do you unlock your creativity?
Find your personal creative outlet.
Realise that while we're all creative, your version of creativity is very different from mine. You may have already caught glimpses of it, that something that sparks a deep curiosity within you, that separates the mundane from the extraordinary. It could have nothing to do with your profession or everything to do with it. The greatest part is that creativity knows no boundaries.
For me, I breathe storytelling. The process of creating a web of events, spun with emotion and language almost feels like a heightened sense of reality for me. For others, being creative means creating something from scratch, whether a cake, canoe or a crib. Follow what makes you curious. Give yourself a chance and explore until you find your personal creative outlet. It's worth the trouble.
Strip your creativity of expectations.
I have a destructive tendency. I like to take my creativity and flatten it under the weight of not only my own expectations but also the expectations of every person I've ever come across. Piled on top of that, I add a solid load of deadlines and a then a final layer of grand visions for how my creativity will propel me to stardom. In the end, the passion that I initially relished in is hardly recognisable under the pressure of everything I want it to amount to.
So you can imagine how it shook me when Elizabeth Gilbert explained:
You’re not required to save the world with your creativity. Your art not only doesn’t have to be original, in other words, it also doesn’t have to be important.
That video you're making doesn't have to be seen by thousands. That story you're writing doesn't have to please anyone but yourself. Give yourself permission to enjoy your creativity. In a world that parades efficiency and success, it's easy to feel guilty for being creative for it's own sake, but remember creativity does not have to be a means to an end. It can be the end in itself. Be creative because you want to be.
Honour your creativity by actually spending time with it.
Make your creativity a consistent practice. You can decide the time and place but don't let your creativity dwindle. For the longest time, my creativity would come in sudden bursts that would sputter to end almost as quickly as it began, leaving me aimlessly waiting for the next hit. The trick here is to make sure you control your creativity, not the other way around. The more you and your creativity become accustomed to each other, the easier it will be to work in tandem. As you include creative practices into your daily life, you'll find that you don't need to wait for that wonderful yet elusive lightbulb moment. Inspiration becomes a daily companion.
For me, I've realised that maintaining this blog is the ultimate way for me to cultivate a consistent practice of creativity. Even before I publish a post, my mind starts developing ideas for the next one, starts curating thoughts, continuing the process of inventing.
If you feel the burden of pressure rising as you place expectation upon expectation on your creativity, switch gears and be creative in a different way. Press pause on your project and go play an instrument, write some code or do a puzzle. You'll most likely arrive back in a refreshed state.
Enjoy the precious time you spend creating. It doesn't need to be painful. You don't have to be a tortured artist or an angsty writer. Get out there and celebrate your creativity.
Feed your creativity.
Want more 'aha moments'? More strokes of inspiration? Now that you've familiarised yourself with your creative outlet, how can you make the most of it? The common assumption is that creative genius is only reserved for certain people, that it's totally random and cannot be controlled. I hope you're as happy as I was to learn that this is totally wrong. Allan Gannet explains how inspiration can be a deliberate, scientific occurrence that is completely in your control.
Our culture has created a mythology around these "flashes of genius." The thing is, they're just a normal, if spectacular, function of our brains. And the best news is that they can be enhanced.
How, you ask?
As you work on a task, you feed your subconscious bits of information to mull over as you work. If you've been working on something long and deeply enough, your mind continues connecting the dots even after you've moved on to something else. While this is happening in the back of your mind, you move on and continue with the other pressing tasks of your day until you have a moment where your mind finally gets to quieten down. Like when you're in the shower, or driving, or right before you go to sleep. Sound familiar? As everything quietens down, your mind offers these seemingly sudden flashes of inspiration that it's been silently working on all the while.
At the end of the day, ‘aha’ moments, inspiration, flashes of genius, all these things are just mythical words we’ve added to this form of processing we do in our right hemisphere that just happens to be subconscious. It’s just biology, it’s not magic.
The trick is to keep feeding your creativity, to keep giving your mind bits of information to absorb and connect, so it, in turn, feeds you. Much of my inspiration for blog posts or stories comes after I've spent some time reading other peoples posts and stories. Read other novels as you write your own novel. Watch movies you want to make. Consume things that will help you create.
What you put into your brain is what will come out.
The books I mentioned:
What are your thoughts ? What are your personal creative outlets? Comment below!