Mastering the Creative Process: the Art of Make and Release
So we've talked about the creative process being a cycle of resistance, surrender, and release. We've acknowledged creative resistance, or "feeling blocked", as an essential and necessary part of the creative experience. Through persistent action, we can transcend resistant energy and are able to actually produce work.
But what happens when we slip in and out of periods of productivity? How do you restart, and maintain, your connection to creative flow?
How do you master the creative process instead of being slave to it?
One summer, I was at a joint birthday party for a couple of friends, who surprised everyone in attendance by getting married spontaneously in the backyard of their home. I and the mishmash of semi-acquainted mutual friends I'd collected over the (already pleasant) evening were suddenly smashed together in a riotous celebration of love that went well on into the night.
At some point past midnight, I was standing in the kitchen with a man, an actor I'd just met, who had somehow snuck the dreaded question on me:
"What do you do?"
Tipsy, sweaty from dancing and blissed out on everyone's excitement and joy, I fumbled over the usual slew of "this is what I do for work but this is what I love" and ended up interrupting myself, to state with some degree of confidence that I was a writer, but that I was "sitting on these ideas" (this is my favourite way to describe my resistance).
Within seconds it was clear he wasn't having any of my nonsense about what I was(n't) writing, and I'll never forget what he told me:
The Art of Make and Release
"Don't get so caught up in whatever you're writing that it becomes the only thing you ever write. There's more to write. Make and release. Make it and release it so you can move on to making the next thing, and the next, and the next. That's how you write."
And that, my friends, is how you create.
Those words cut through the noise of nuptial mayhem and pinged my pituitary gland. A part of my creative understanding opened up; it was as if I had been given a key.
Two, actually. I'm about to share them with you.
These keys are only useful because we've set up the framework for how to arrive at the point of creative freedom. The framework is your belief that creativity is an essential part of who you are as a human being.
1. To fully master the creative process, you must be willing to actually make everything you have ever had the idea to make.
Get up off the ideas you've been sitting on. Shake them out and give them a solid once-over. Discard the ones that no longer support your joy.
Look at everything you've ever wanted to do, from sewing a dress to recording an EP, and imagine all the little micro-experiences of creativity in each of those projects. Allow yourself to visualize different aspects of working on different tasks.
You'll realize very quickly that every minor action you take to complete one of these ideas is going to have resistance-surrender-release in it. So are you able to commit to the experience of creating? Of being in the creative cycle?
Are you willing to demonstrate that commitment to the Universe by turning resistant energy into persistent action? Yeah?
2. You have to prove your willingness to the Universe by releasing a "big idea" through a "small" project.
Sometimes I feel like I'm sitting on a creative or intellectual gold mine.
"Holy shit, this idea is so huge, so big, this is a blockbuster. People need to know about this. But they can't! This knowledge is so sacred and profound that I can't possibly put it out there right now. I should write about other stuff while I figure out how to communicate this as epically as possible.
*Four months later*
"Maybe I'm not actually qualified to talk about this. Oh man. Someone else started to write about this topic. Shit. Okay. That was a good article. But I see it differently! I need to get my voice out there. Goddamn it. I need to write this book. But I can't just announce the idea without any content..."
ENTER RESISTANCE STAGE.
Luckily, there's a way out of it. It's brutal. You ready?
Take your biggest and best idea, and share it as soon as possible on a platform that makes it seem insignificant to you. For example, a Tweet.
Because Your Ideas Aren't Special
Ideas don't belong to anyone. You sharing a quote from the film you're writing is not going to ruin your chances of winning an Oscar.
By making the big vision you've been hoarding into a smaller work, and releasing that smaller work NOW, you immediately inspire the Universe to match your commitment to manifesting your bigger vision around the same idea.
Why does this matter so much?
Seeing all creative ideas as possible frees your mind from the dangerous resistant pattern of pigeonholing your art as the only creative thing you do in your life. This, in turn, frees your art to become a facet of your creative expression – not the be-all and end-all of your contribution to society as an individual.
And Your Art Isn't That Serious
Speaking as someone who takes her art very seriously, you can’t take your art too seriously.
I learned that you have to be willing to see every massive creative enterprise as no more – or less – important than a five-year-old’s crayon drawing.
You have to see all your ideas as fair game – none as more or less achievable than the others. That's the secret to living effortlessly in creative flow, and to know how to handle your inner voice of resistance and doubt.
You have to be able to commit to all your creative visions as equally possible, probable, and certain.
Sure, the process of arriving at each "finished product" will have different challenges and timelines. (For example, building a house will require very different resources and tools than doing a pencil sketch.)
But the Universe doesn't see scale or cost as any reason not to take an idea and manifest that idea into a tangible thing. And neither can you. If you want to actually get shit done and turn any of your ideas into reality, you have to be able to commit to believing that none of your ideas are better or worse or more significant than the others.
Creativity is creativity. Make and release. Make and release. Make one thing for five years if that’s what it takes, and then release it.
And make again.