The Ups & Downs of Creativity

Katie Brennan
Nov 26, 2017 · 3 min read
Undulating Dry, gouache on paper. By Katie Brennan

Yesterday, I did nothing.

Well, no. That’s actually not true.

Yesterday, I played video games all day.

And you know what? It felt gosh darn wonderful. To revel in solitude, to hide away from the world.

And now, today, I feel shitty. Shitty because I wasted yesterday. I didn’t work. I’ve already forgotten how good yesterday felt and already started beating myself up for it.

So at the dawn of a new day, I’ve been sitting with this judgement.

You see, I’ve long had a pattern of ducking away from the world every 2–3 weeks for a day or two. Days where I don’t shower, don’t talk to anyone and fall into some kind of making or narrative (books, tv shows, movies) not my own.

And I’ve always judged myself for it — harshly.

But today I’m seeing it in a new light. Why do I judge it so?

When I work, I can produce things fast and furiously. So it’s not actually the end of the world for me; I will get the work done. Just not right now.

Yet I vilify myself over and over and over again.

Do you do this too?

When I catch this edge and take a breath to be kind to it, I see that I’m falling into a mindset that has never really worked for me; that one that says constant and steady productivity is good. And yet, I pick it up again and again and again every single time I get productive.

Look! I can do it, I say to myself. This time I’ve fixed it! I can go on steadily now. No more down days. Yeah for me!

And then, sometime later, or sometimes even, the very next day, I’m down again. And I curse myself all over again.

Recently, I’ve been reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Creativity. Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. He’s the one who coined the term Flow.

He writes: “the energy of creative people waxes and wanes; super focused, charged and busy to restful, quiet and still”. He goes on to explain that creative people must be able to go deeply inward, in solitude and share ideas, discuss, exchange ideas with others.

I fit this description to a tee.

I love getting out there, meeting with all kinds of people and exchanging ideas. I equally love coming home afterwards, getting quiet, mulling over what was said and seeing where it takes me.

For many years, I’ve attributed this to being an introvert — needing to come home and recharge after time amongst lots of people.

But now, maybe I need this, both the busy and the quiet, because I’m creative. I need input and inspiration and I need quiet and solitude. One just as necessary as the other.

So when you sit with the idea of ebb and flow, on and off, productivity and rest; what resonates with you? Do you have moments and spans of time when you’re on followed by those where you are not? And how do they come to you? How do you treat them? Are you like me and wrestle with them constantly? Or have you found some equilibrium?

Katie Brennan

Written by

Artist & Art Consultant working at the intersection of Art, Business, Spirituality, Creativity and the Power of Magical Thinking.

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