“Does creativity come from the known or the unknown?” I asked this question to the audience of a talk I was giving at a yoga studio about unlocking our hidden superpower of creativity. The room was split.
Half of the students thought that creativity comes from the known. After all, people study art, music and writing to get better at it. Isn’t that 10,000 hours of practice thing legit?
The other half of the group shyly raised their hands, guessing that the answer was from the unknown. I assured them that yes, creativity, innovation, and fresh ideas seem to come out of the blue, arising from the space before knowing.
Why do great ideas land in the shower, while running or walking the dog? That happens because when our mind is clear, there is space for new thoughts to come through. Fresh ideas occur to us from the space beyond our personal thinking. Pop!
So often we get stuck in projects because we have expectations or judgment around our creative pursuits. The dreaded Writer’s Block is just believing in the lofty expectations that our writing has to be perfect, meaningful, or transcendent. What feels like “no new ideas” is insecure thinking that has taken up solid space in our awareness. Like the kitchen drawer with too much junk in it, it keeps getting jammed.
When a thought like I am not talented/experienced/whatever enough, comes into our awareness, that thought seems meaningful. Since that thought feels significant, we spend more attention focusing on that thought. Pretty soon our nice clear mind is filled with thinking about our thinking. And there is no room for fresh ideas. Do I really need fifteen pairs of chopsticks in that drawer?
We think of artists as courageous. It takes courage to NOT know and to let it unfold. In fact, how many times has a musician or writer created a hit record or a best-selling book on their first try? That’s because they most likely did not possess a lot of thinking around whether they could achieve it or not. Then after their fluke, they struggled to repeat the success for the rest of their career. Vanilla Ice, anyone?
Tapping into our innate creativity is possible for everyone because it resides in a space beyond the intellectual mind, from a deeper mind, our inner wisdom. This operates the same for everyone, whether working in the arts, finance, athletics, or mechanical engineering. Whether it is your first time or 10,000th attempt.
When we are blocked by old thinking, it feels like stuckness. The stuckness alerts us to our old patterns of thinking. In any moment, we can drop the thought and come back to the space of openness, clarity, and insight.
We tend to resist the unknown. Yet that is the source of all creativity. We can’t force creativity. It is an unfolding. It is an opening up to what we don’t know yet.
Clear out the clutter drawer and start from empty. It is the best place to begin any creative endeavor.