How To Get Creative
Or At Least How To Start Trying
There is no golden rule for creativity, but I deeply believe there are certain things that are absolutely necessary in order to obtain it.
We were born to survive, which is to create.
It is a Sunday morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone vibrates or someone knocks at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my brain. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone.
Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.
…You once said that you would like to sit beside me while I write. Listen, in that case I could not write at all. For writing means revealing oneself to excess; that utmost of self-revelation and surrender, in which a human being, when involved with others, would feel the way losing himself, and from which, therefore, he will always shrink as long as he is right in his mind.
That is why one can never be alone enough when one writes, why there can never be enough silence around one when one writes, why even night is not night enough.
No one yet has made a list of places where the extraordinary may happen and where it may not. Still, there are indications. Among crowds, in shopping centres, in drawing rooms, among easements and comforts and pleasures, it is seldom seen.
It likes the outdoors. It likes the concentrating mind. It likes solitude. It is more likely to stick to the risk-taker than the ticket-taker. It isn’t that it would disparage comforts or the set routines of the world, but that its concern is directed to another place.
But I always liked side-paths, little dark back-alleys behind the main road — there one finds adventures and surprises, and precious metal in the dirt.
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky
However, many times the interruption comes not from another but from yourself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone your parents, that you are out of shampoo, that your sister’s birthday is in two weeks. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of the idea have fled back into the mist.
Even when I lock myself at home and it seems like the last word in tranquility and seclusion, I’m tempted to watch a movie, a part of me is considering cleaning the apartment and another part tends to go for a walk.
Creativity is a combination of discipline and a childlike spirit.
I interrupt myself, even if my environment doesn’t interrupt me. And if ever I’m tempted to look at the stars, I think, oh no, there are a thousand things I have to do around the house or around the town. Or if I’m involved in a deep conversation, I think, oh, there is a salsa night tonight. I should do that. So one way or another, I always cut into my own clarity and concentration when I’m at home. That’s why sometimes people like me have to take conscious measures to step into the stillness and silence and be reminded of how it washes us clean, really.
We’re living at the speed of light, at a pace determined by machines and technology, and we’ve lost the ability to live at the speed of life.
Whoever you are, whether you’re a writer struggling to write or somebody going to the office, you know that you’re extracting the meaning only when you’re away from it. I sometimes think we’re living so close to our lives, we can’t make sense of them.
That’s why people like me travel alone to faraway places, or other people meditate or do yoga, or other people go for runs. Each person now has to take a conscious measure to separate herself from the overflow of information and experience just to be able to see things in perspective and understand what is going on in your life, what you really want and need. We have more and more time-saving devices but less and less time.
The only cure for distraction is attention. I go for my solitary travels and I go to the nature where nobody can find me because they are cathedrals of attention. They’re places where people like me can try to learn to slow down and to be present.
As Elizabeth Gilbert wonderfully said, you don’t need anyone’s permission to lead a creative life. However, you surely need your own permission and a healthy dose of effort to do it. But I am more than sure that if you are alive, you are a creative person.
Let inspiration lead you wherever it wants to lead you. Keep in mind that for most of history people just made things, and they didn’t make such a big freaking deal out of it.
We make art because that is what human beings do. I would like to finish with a wonderful quote from Kafka, because I usually start my creative journey with reading, and because I adore Kafka:
I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief.