The Go Creative! project was born in a dentist’s waiting room. As I sat awaiting my turn, trying not to notice the drilling sound from the next room, I picked up a magazine and read the following sentence from one of the world’s best-known psychologists, Abraham Maslow.
“The key question isn’t, ‘What fosters creativity?’ Rather it is, ‘Why in God’s name isn’t everyone creative? Where was this human potential lost? How was it crippled’?”
I’d often pondered the same question. As a novelist and poet, I’d consciously worked with the creative process for years. Sometimes well, sometimes head-bangingly badly.
The process was mysterious and seemed capricious but somewhere along the way, I’d begun to realize it was me who let it down, not the other way round. And found myself becoming more and more interested in the workings of the process.
The Creative Process
By the time of my dental visit, I’d identified and named its seven stages — intention, incubation, investigation, formation, elaboration, clarification and completion — grouped into three phases: vision, formation, success.
I’d come to understand that the process I brought to making books was also what I drew on to create and then to run my writing and publishing business and the non-profit association for writers I also founded and ran.
More radically, that the same process made my marriage, made my house a home, made dinner.
It had made my children.
It made me.
Through me, it made everything I was experiencing in my life and when I tapped it, consciously or subconsciously, it was tapping into a process that was at work in the furthest flung corners of the cosmos and the deepest depths of the atomic sub-structures within my own cells.
I’d begun to use it with more intent in my life, and experienced its joys and challenges directly. And I’d begun to teach the process, not just to writers but to people in many varied circumstances and seen how it liberated them, just as it had me.
Like the great Dr Maslow, I’d begun to wonder: why had we not been taught about this process that was so universal and so fundamental to our achievement and happiness? Who had crippled us — and why?
The Creative Way
I’d chosen the creative way was my life path without understanding it and it had taken me some years of muddling through to appreciate how different — how much better — life was when I was consciously creating, compared to the drifting stabs at conformity that had characterized my university years and early 20s.
Writing and publishing articles made me feel great and so did applying the creative process at home, to my marriage, to raising my children, to building our home and enjoying our friends. The more I used it, and the more successfully I used it, the better it felt.
When we get into creative flow, it always feels great. You are actualizing a part of yourself, conscious of what you’re creating in the moment of its making. So that day, it felt as if the father of positive psychology, the man who’d popularized the very concept of self-actualization, was talking directly to me.
I travelled straight from the dentist’s drill to where you had to go, back in those dark, pre-Internet days, to answer such questions: the bookshop and library. Since that day, I’ve investigated creative questions in every possible way.
Beginning with Mr Maslow and his hierarchy of needs, I moved on to other psychologists; then philosophers; then yogis and saints, feminists and queer theorists, creative thinkers and facilitators; and, of course, the creatives themselves, the writers and artists and performers and innovators and inventors; all the while, writing novels and poems and teaching creative skills in a great variety of contexts.
The more I read and wrote, taught and learned, and the more I used the tools of conscious creation in my private life, the more I felt that reclaiming a wider definition and application of creativity was key to dissolving the unhappiness in the world.
You’re Not Crazy, You’re Creative
When human beings are cut off from their true wants and their creative powers, they first become discouraged, then disappointed, then disillusioned, then despairing and, ultimately, devastated.
The consequent symptoms — depression or anger, entropy or panic attacks, addiction or obesity — will then force them to engage with what’s happening inside them. They will seek help and be told they have a psychological problem. By then, that may well be true but if we enter the cycle earlier, it begins as an educational problem.
People aren’t taught how to access and use their own creative intelligence.
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So if you have unfulfilled longings drifting inside you, left untended or maybe even shunned; if you’ve made efforts to create something in the past, only to see your dreams dashed; if you’ve been setting resolutions or goals, or producing productivity charts, or chanting affirmations, yet continually failing to materialize the thing or experience you’re most longing for, know that it’s not your fault.
That since you were very young, you’ve been taught how to suppress your desires, or label them shameful. That you’ve been through schools where practical, rational and analytical skills are favored and creativity is confined to art, music and literature class. That your workplace too, will be denying your creative intelligence, or at best controlling and containing it. And probably your loved ones too.
That you’ve gone through your whole life, so far, with far too few people — maybe no-one ever — saying to you: “Actually, no, you are creative. Actually, you can make what you want to make. Actually, you already do.”
Yes, know that you have been, as Maslow put it, “crippled” by a world that insists on conventional, conditioned ways of thinking and being. That you have taken these messages and made them your own, so that your mind feeds you the same messages. And that you are not alone.
In 2010, market researchers Opinion Research Corp ran a poll that found 92% of people go about our daily lives failing to create what they most want. Whether the desire was physical (as, in their survey, 38% of the desires); or emotional (31%), or financial (34%) or, interestingly the biggest category in their sample, a self-improvement goal like writing a book, doing a degree or getting a better job (47%), people weren’t managing to make it.
We all know this. We make jokes each January about our failed resolutions, wincing at our lack of willpower, and when we’re alone, inside our own heads, beating ourselves up for our weakness, hating ourselves for our powerlessness.
In answer, there are those who will tell you that conscious creation is a question of asking, believing and receiving. Or a matter of following a formula. Or putting in a cosmic order. Or doing some spells to magic it up.
This series won’t do that.
Yes, you will be given steps to follow, but they are far from formulaic.Yes, you will need belief, but in yourself and in the process, not some force outside yourself. And yes, you will harness the mysterious and invisible creative energy that wizards and witches call magic, that science describes through quantum mechanics, that saints and sages name god, that artists and writers label inspiration. But you won’t need to call or describe, name or label it.
You’ll just employ it and enjoy it.
More accurately, enjoy being it.
Next Time (Saturday) Seven Steps To Conscious Creation