Growing up, I always had the impression that creative people had this innate ability to perfectly envision what they wanted to create. These creative individuals would then simply go through the motions of creating what they envisioned, or so I thought. What I’ve come to realize is that creative people are those who are simply willing to commit themselves to the process.
As a musician, writer, and a beginner artist I’ve been discovering that creativity always requires movement. When I write a song, I rarely have any idea beforehand what the chords, melody, or lyrics will be. I just begin playing through some chord progressions, and testing out different melodies. I try to get a feel for what mood the music is creating. Then I try to get in touch with what it is that I want to say about myself or the world and allow the lyrics to emerge.
Keep Pulling That Thread
When I write I may only have a tiny thread of an idea. The idea comes into fruition when I actually sit down and start laying the words out on the page. I don’t really know how a sentence will end until I am mid way through it. I don’t always know the details of how a short story will unfold until I am in the midst of writing it. Somehow the act of writing itself is like pulling on a rope that is connected to a place that I cannot see yet.
I recently started learning to draw and paint, and I’ve been appreciating the fact that sometimes the lines take on a life of their own. I may not know ahead of time which way I am going to make the branches on a tree go. After drawing one line, however, I suddenly seem to know where the next one should go. Sometimes a misplaced line becomes an idea for a new shape or design.
Movement Creates the Flow
We are like pens full of ink and ready to flow, but nothing happens by default. The pen must be pressed to the paper and moved to invite the ink to flow and create a picture or tell a story.
So whenever you feel stuck, like you’re not good at anything, or like you have no original ideas; just pick up the your instrument and play a few notes.
See where it leads. If nowhere, just enjoy the moment for yourself.
Or sit down and write out your thoughts. Create a MindMap to help you connect your thoughts and ideas.
Pay attention to what is stirring in you as you write.
Pick up a pencil or brush and sketch something out on paper.
What does that simple act of intention reveal about what you desire in that moment?
You never know what sort of creative work these simple movements might spark. Even if they don’t lead to any major breakthrough, every experience builds on the last to create a life built upon creativity and movement.
A Life Made of Moments
In Barbara Sher’s book Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams she talks about keeping a scanner daybook to document your ideas, thoughts, sketches, and random musings (much like Leonardo da Vinci’s journals).
Most of Leonardo da Vinci’s his ideas and inventions were never fully formulated or built, but I don’t think anyone would argue that they were a waste of time as a result. Instead, they show that he was someone constantly working out his ideas. One sketch likely led to the development of another and likely gave him new insights into how to think about future problems.
I love Annie Dillard’s quote in The Writing Life,
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
In other words, we can be individuals who are constantly moving to create individual moments that are rich and meaningful, or we can hope that someday something interesting happens to us.
We can’t always think our way to creating something unique to ourselves. We really can’t consume our way into creativity. We have to wander, explore, and ultimately move to create something that testifies to our own spark of authenticity.