It’s far more likely you’re creatively malnourished than creatively constipated.
Every creativity workshop these days seems to include the word “unblocked” somewhere in the title or description. For most of us, getting creatively unblocked or unstuck isn’t actually relevant to our work or creative practice. Because we aren’t creatively blocked at all, we’re malnourished.
Now get ready, because this is where the poop analogy really gets moving.
Many of us have a deep desire to get our creative juices flowing more freely and we want a quick fix. We want our lack of sustained creativity to be as simple as a blockage. We want there to be some creative laxative, enema, or hell, even a creative colonic, and BAM! We’re flowing again. We’re creating big, fat, creative shit, all the damn time, on a regular basis, whenever we want!
Recently I’ve faced the uncomfortable truth that most of us who seek out these creativity workshops, blogs, and books don’t need a creative enema as much as we need creative nourishment.
Uncomfortable truth: Most of us don’t actually know what we like.
I can hear the browser windows closing in dismissal as I type this, but bear with me.
Do you really know what you like? Our tastes change faster than we realize. What you were stimulated and nourished by 10, 5, or even 1 year ago may no longer light you up.
Don’t make assumptions.
Creative work is about making something where there was nothing, or shaping something new out of what was already there. It’s generative. It’s important to really understand what lights you up, turns you on, and makes you most creatively nourished.
Don’t rely on the memory of past creative nutrition to keep you going. Though memory and nostalgia can be incredibly fertile territory if you’re really into that kind of thing. You can’t fake it though. Not everyone is inspired by 19th century French art, Art Deco architecture, or their grandparents’ letters from the war.
Which brings me to an essential point of creative fuel: Don’t judge what creatively nourishes you.
It can be tempting. We want to be nourished by Mozart and Rothko and other universally ‘inspiring’ things. But sometimes we aren’t. Sometimes we’re inspired by Marvel movies, cheese fries, and the red shoes.
I challenge you to make a commitment to investigate sources of creative nourishment. It’s important to learn your best creative conditions, and take small steps toward getting more of them into your creative diet.
It’s important to learn your best creative conditions, and take small steps toward getting more of them into your creative diet.
Real talk: You need creative fiber. It sucks, but even if you get all the creative nourishment in the world, without a routine, structure, or framework, you probably aren’t going to produce much substance.
Perhaps when you were younger you could eat whatever you wanted and create with ease! You binged on all the things that inspired you and never had to lend a single thought to things as boring as structure or routine. But for most of us, there comes a time when, like it or not, we need a framework. We need our creative fiber.
And learning what your creative fiber is can be a frustrating process of trial and error.
Do you write best in the morning?
Do you draw best when outside?
Do you synthesize data better when you structure your day in a certain way?
Do you need more time to be creative?
Are you carving out that time?
Without the creative fiber that is structure, routine, ritual, and rigor, it’s likely your work will lack substance. When you start to research the habits and daily routines of some of the worlds most Creative (capital C) minds throughout history, you start to see the rigor and structure that was behind the creative ‘genius.’
The internet is full of #inspo about the necessity of rigor. The Louis Pasteur quote “Chance favors the prepared mind” is only the tip of the digital iceberg. And I have to agree. Putting in the work and getting your creative fiber is essential for sustained creative practice.
Okay, okay, some of you reading this article are truly creatively constipated. You actually do need a creative enema. You are full to bursting with creative inspiration, have rigor and structure to spare, and are still finding yourself blocked.
If this is the case, I suggest doing something big and outside your comfort zone, or committing to a series of small changes over a set period of time. I also challenge you to question whether you really are leaving space in your life for creative expression.
Do you leave any time or space in your day to create? Or are you too busy consuming the creative output of others that you make lists of projects you may someday start, maybe, hopefully, when you have the time?
Do you say that creativity is a priority, but fill your day with the myriad tasks that need to be done, and keep you away from any truly vulnerable, generative time?
You may be genuinely creatively constipated. And to those of you who are, by all means, take a workshop or buy a book (Philippe Petit’s Creativity: The Perfect Crime is a personal favorite) and get unblocked. I truly can’t wait to see the epic pile of creative shite that is waiting on the other side of that block.
For the rest of us. How can you explore some new sources of creative nutrition, and where could you stand to add a bit more creative fiber to your day?