The creative way is never about straining or striving, driving yourself too hard or rigidly sticking to a fixed plan — but about returning, again and again, to your creative intention, as the inevitable challenges arise.
(They will arise. If it isn’t challenging to our con-mind, then it isn’t a true desire.)
But it’s equally about giving your intentions space to change. The defining quality of the creative way is that it is flexible, open to change. Sometimes, it’s about recognizing that you no longer want what you set out to create.
Whether you achieve your creative intention, take it all the way through the seven stages of the process, from desire to done, or drop it, the effect is the same. A new want comes in to fill its place.
To be alive is to want… something.
In this post, I look at a few ways to relate to desire.
- You hold the desire and keep coming back to it
- You drop it or it drops you
- You dissolve it deliberately
- You satisfy the essential want in a different way than you first imagined
You hold the desire and keep coming back to it
One of my creative models, Thich Nhat Hanh, the poet, peace activist and zen master who coined the term “engaged Buddhism”, was born in 1926 and at time of writing is 91. For more than 80 years, and through life-threatening persecution and exile, one true want has guided his life.
I was nine when I saw a picture of the Buddha on the cover of a magazine, sitting on the grass, like we [those who practice in his tradition] do now: very peaceful, very solid.
I just wanted to be like him, someone like him, with some solidity and peace, because I saw around me people were not very happy, not very relaxed. And it was not a decision. It was a kind of desire. And I saw that desire was in me, very clear, very strong.
These are the large desires, what I call “mashion”, a meeting of mission and passion that can be deep enough to propel us through a lifetime.
You Drop it or it Drops You
In her 20s, writer Lauren was seized by “baby fever”:
I read obsessively about parenting, devouring books and articles on birth and conception. I planned, in intricate detail, the first year of my fake-child’s life. Staring wide-eyed at pregnant women on the bus (sorry about that, lady in the red coat), I felt a trickle of disappointment as each month bled away. I felt gripped by a wave of unfamiliar fever.
I’d never really understood when other women spoke about baby fever, and was chagrined to realize I was seized by it. I dreamed away several years — the perfect birth, my ideal names, daycare arrangements, finances and a million other over-planned activities. And yet, deep inside, I knew we weren’t yet ready for a baby.
At times, I grew tired of being hijacked by these uninvited visitors. Other days, the excitement and dreaminess provided welcome refuge from the mundanity of daily life.
Then one day they simply vanished. Overnight, my captors snuck out of the house and disappeared, leaving little trace of their previously-constant existence.
I have no idea what happened. One minute, I was boiling with the need to have a baby, staring melty-eyed at little ones in the street. The next, …the desire had extinguished itself.
Not wanting a baby cleared space in Lauren’s life for other creations: a blog and a business.
You Deliberately Dissolve It
This one needs its own post and I’ll be returning to it soon. In the meantime, here’s Buddhist related advice from Leo Babauta:
“Just let go. Easier said than done. Any of us who have tried to let go of attachments knows that it’s not so easy in practice. When our minds are clinging tightly, we don’t want to let go. We really, really want things our way.
So what’s the answer, then?
In this short guide, The Zen Habits Guide to Letting Go of Attachments, we’ll look at a few practices to help with this.
You Satisfy The Essential Need In A Different Way
Another thing to look out for is the many ways that we can satisfy even our deepest and most essential wants. Thich Nhat Hanh again:
When I was twelve we climbed together as a school to a mountain in the northern part of Vietnam for a picnic. I was excited because I knew that there was a hermit living in the mountain and a hermit is someone who practices in order to become like a Buddha, so I was very excited about meeting him.
When I arrived at the mountain, the hermit was not there. I was disappointed, but I discovered a well on the mountain where I drunk very refreshing water and I was a completely satisfied because of that water.
I thought it was the hermit who transformed himself into a well so that I could have private audience with him. And the fact that I drunk some of this water was very important to me, because during the time of drinking I had the idea that it must be the best water in the world.
And if I think now more, I would say that the source of solidity, the source of peace and freedom, must be symbolized but that kind of water.
And although I did not meet the hermit in person I had the impression that my desire to meet the hermit was fulfilled, and it transferred into my desire to become a monk.
And at the age of 16, I was able to realize my dream to become a novice monk.
The essential want, the desire for solidity and peace, was satisfied by the water every bit as much as it would have been by the hermit.
Creative Workshop London, Nov 25th
My next event is a day workshop. If you are (or can be) in London on Nov 25th, and you’re the sort of person who wants to work at what you love, while also creating a positive impact in the world, I’d love you to join us.
It’s going to be a work and life transforming day.
You can find out more here: https://www.ornaross.com/workshop-day-london-2017