Creative Rehab: 7 Myths & Truths about Creativity.

Photo: Les Rebelles / Self-portrait, AB

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off… They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating.” ~ Pearl Buck

For a while now, I’ve been trying to exercise my creative muscles daily in order to learn to approach creativity in its purest essence – as a lifetime practice, modus operandi and a way of life, and as such, not only a quality reserved for those “born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive” (though that’s been quite a journey), but an intrinsic power and essential right of all people – and other living creations.

Through this renewed creative awareness, one of the aspects that struck me the most is how hard it is on most days to consciously practice the Art of Being Alive, from a creative paradigm.

Anyone can get inspired when the muse is in the house. But the bitch doesn’t show up every day – ask any serious creator, she’s capricious and unreliable. Most days are unedited, raw, moody, and they have messy hair, puffy eyes and almost no time to do the dishes, let alone do them “creatively.”

On those days, I would rather learn Esperanto, pick a fight with any inanimate object that hurts my toe, memorize all prime numbers, clean my house (and the neighbors’) – anything but have to open my tired eyes to the vibrant wonder all around me.

Cat taking pic

How do animals look at flowers, or at the rest of nature? – I wonder. How do they enjoy life?

Without a purpose, beauty for beauty’s sake. They drink it in, absorb the joy like a sponge and once it’s in their system, they can’t help but spread it everywhere they meow or bark.

Whenever I try to imitate them, I become suddenly (and dangerously) aware that there is so much beauty around me, it could kill me: things and people and plants and sky and wind and rocks and sun and animals and even objects and buildings and the breath of life aligned with this or that…All land is Holy Land.

Beauty has this way of hurting. A human chest can’t hold it in. Where was it all hiding all these years? Where was I?

With an increase in beauty comes an increase in possibilities. When you expand, all life expands. 
{Photo: Eliott Erwitt / Via Tumblr}

{Photo: Eliott Erwitt / Via Tumblr}

 

You’d think it’s innate – this ability to transcend the mundane and discover a second, more magnificent world within the one you’ve been taught to argue with. And it is true you come to Earth with superpowers but you lose them as your mind painfully conquers your heart, over time.

As you grow older, you change your name to Clark Kent and you truly believe you work at the Daily Planet, and maybe it’s a good job and a decent life. But damnit, you look so alive in tights and cape.

So why should we turn creativity into a habit, a modus operandi, a daily practice? Why can’t we just get visited from time to time by inspiration, by the muse, the genie, our higher unicorn selves vomiting rainbows in the pretty sky? Why won’t you just leave me (the fuck) alone? 

Because… (let me get a sip of water).

The status quo consists precisely in believing that there is one – that’s the big lie, the trick – that there is a given reality, an unmovable existing order of things and beliefs about life, and that’s that, and you’re free to argue, free to preach, free to pledge allegiance or not, free to raise your fist and call yourself a revolutionary – yet deep down, you’re not free to question, deconstruct and dismantle the very perception that makes you adopt the status quo as friend or enemy in the first place.

So I disagree with death. I disagree with everything that hinders you and me from being the gods we deep down know we are. I reject any notion that rejects abundant life. Not true. Who said it and why should we believe it?

Life is rooted in habit. Even your aloneness, your mediocrity, your shit-holes, your lack of inspiration, everything you consider “normal” is, at its root, a habit. Your dear life is nothing but a series of repetitive actions. You are a process, not a unit or a thing, but a compilation of hundreds of processes taking place right here and now. You are happening now, and now, and now… and until you leave this form of life. So whatever your repetitive thoughts are, they direct the course of your life.

Since all palpable reality is an extension of an impalpable yet powerful thought, the habits that rule our entire existence begin to develop in the subconscious headquarters of our mind.

Here is where it gets complicated. It is estimated that we have around 60,000 thoughts a day. Approximately 95% of our thoughts are the same as the day before and 85% of these thoughts are negative. Good morning, Doomsday, I didn’t know you lived inside my chest. 

Negativity doesn’t have to be about mood. In fact, the most destructive negativity is the type that pollutes the root of your deepest thoughts. A stagnant idea about life will suck your creativity dry and get you stuck in ways you won’t even be aware of – other than the fact that something is missing and that nothing (or no one) ever feels quite right.

You can put on any smileys you want. But if you’re dried up inside, your life will bear no fruit.

 

marilyn - nikon

 

So here are seven myths and truths about Creativity, to support your middle finger to the Lying Bastard Status Quo in the face of all the people, circumstances, limiting beliefs — that keep you from turning it into your official life extension, heart plugin, mind companion and official superpower.

 

1. It’s not reserved to certain people or not even specifically human—but one of nature’s original forces, present in every living organism. 

Look around you. Life will survive no matter what. If that’s not creativity, I don’t know what is. Our whole structure—as an ecosystem as well as our most basic individual level — operates by this principle. Our body finds a way as long as it can, and so does our mind.

Where there’s a will, there is life. And where there is life, there is Creativity.

***

2. It’s not inspiration or a state of mind.

It’s a muscle. Like any other habit, Creativity also grows with practice. Think of it like the invisible half of your heart. It can expand or shrink, get stronger or weaker. All life is muscle.

“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”

 

~ Steven Pressfield, The War of Art.

 

***

3. It has nothing to do with talent or ability.

Some people are incredibly talented. Others haven’t had a chance to develop half of all their latent talents. Some may not even know what they’re capable of, until they’re faced with it. There are over 6 billions of us. Nature understands and thrives on variety. Forget about what you have, what you don’t, what you could have or who has more or less than you.

The only thing that matters now is what you do with what you know. That’s where creativity comes in. I have a bucket filled with yellow paint (and snakes) ready to throw at people when they say: “Oh, but I’m not creative.” It’s like rejecting air because you think you haven’t been “blessed” with the ability to breathe.

You don’t need this blessing because it’s already installed in your hard-drive. You just didn’t know it. Nobody told you and you didn’t ask. And living creatively is ultimately just a matter of what version of this story you choose to believe.

***

4. It doesn’t have a time or a place. You give it that time and place.

Does your blood only flow on Tuesdays or past 5 p.m.? Do you only breathe at night? Well, if creativity is a modus operandi—a way vs. a thing—it is always present within you and it permeates through everything you think and do.

It’s not an event. You are the event. Let’s get our grammar straight. You are the subject in your life, before you become its object. You are the director of your movie, before you become the actor.

This is not to say you don’t need specific times set aside for creative work. But beyond that, your very breath is an act of creativity (and rebellion). You can always reach for it, grab it, use it, it’s yours for the taking and it never ends.

***

5. It isn’t Art. We are Art. You and me and a cup of herbal tea.

All other works of art you can make or admire are secondary. Art is a result – an expression, manifestation and interpretation of life – from its highest, most magnificent form (You) to its lowest, most inanimate state: your objects.

Creativity, on the other hand, is what fuels all Art (make that Life). It is a verb, not a noun, and a basic human need, which automatically turns it into an essential human right. Hey, UN, did you forget something in your Declaration?

***

6. It isn’t comfortable. It will ruin your one small and cozy life. 

Think of it as traveling to a country you’ve only dreamed of. At first, you won’t feel at home – not until you become fluent in the language you were born speaking but forgot along the way. It will make you shed old skin, expose your nakedness, shiver in the cold like an embarrassed reptilian until you grow new, thicker skin.

Creativity will force you to do the work and get your hands dirty. There’s no way out but through the fire.

***

7. It isn’t stagnant. It will change your perspective, open your eyes, renew, re-create and restore you. 

Life is constant change. When lived to its fullest – that is, creatively, you will stop resisting change and start embracing it, because every day is a new day, and every song is still being written and you’re not set in stone.

Creativity will turn you into a river. And you’ll be filled with fish and creatures. And people will have picnics right by you and some will swim in you and others drink out of you. And that’s the meaning of life.

And you will take off your shoes in awe, because when regaining your Creative sensitivity, every ground you step on is holy ground.

 

 ***

“‘You,’ he said, ‘are a terribly real thing in a terribly false world, and that, I believe, is why you are in so much pain.'” ~ Emily Autumn

And so are you, I said.

So let’s take that pain (and sister beauty) and turn them into art, that is, into our messy everyday extraordinary Life. Let’s reclaim Creativity as our innate superpower, our royal right by birth, and add it to both, our dreaming and our doing. Let’s just experiment with truth and see what happens.

For Zeus’ sake, aren’t you hungry?

To get it started, I wrote William Hutchison Murray’s famous reminder, with lipstick on the mirror. It looks good on any face:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

 

A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

 

I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

Begin it now!’”

 

*****

 

*Edited on 11/30/2013 with an updated intro.

 

 

{Beginners}

 

 

 

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Andrea Balt
Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Rebelle Society, Wellness Alchemist at Rebelle Wellness & Professional Dream Chaser at Creative Rehab. Unfinished book with a love for greens, bikes and poetry; raised by wolves & adopted by people; not trying to make art but to Be Art. Holds a BA in Journalism & Mass Communication, an MFA in Creative Writing & a Holistic Health Coach degree from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition®. In her work she tries to reflect the wholeness of the human experience by combining Art & Health + Mind & Body + Darkness & Brilliance into a more alive, unabridged and unlimited edition of ourselves. She is also on a quest to reinstate Creativity as one of our essential Human Rights to (hopefully and soon) be included in the UN Declaration. Connect with her in the Social Media Jungle via Facebook, Twitter & Instagram and sign up for her FREE MuseLetter.

33 Comments

  • porkchop2 commented on April 26, 2013 Reply
    yes, i-am so very hungry, & your word(s) makes me much more so very-very…
  • Sheila Jaillet
    Sheila Jaillet commented on April 26, 2013 Reply
    Yes! To all of the above. Thank you.
    • Andrea Balt
      Andrea Balt commented on May 1, 2013 Reply
      Warning: creative rehab patient has escaped. Name: sheila jaillet. Order: create or capture.
  • Victoria Erickson commented on April 26, 2013 Reply
    “Creativity will turn you into a river. And you’ll be filled with fish and creatures. And people will have picnics right by you and some will swim in you and others drink out of you. And that’s the meaning of life.” I may print this entire article out and hang it on my door before I step outside every day. This is one of your best, Andrea! <3 <3
    • Andrea Balt
      Andrea Balt commented on May 1, 2013 Reply
      I like that quote better now that you quoted it. How’s that? :) Thank you so much!
  • SR Atchley
    SR commented on April 26, 2013 Reply
    Status Quo be damned. Busting out of “normal” reality does require effort and creativity, but results in a delicious realization of freedom that increases exponentially with each successive breath. Thank you, Professor.
    • Andrea Balt
      Andrea Balt commented on May 1, 2013 Reply
      Student more than anything. And yes, I can feel my lungs!
  • Tanya Lee Markul
    tanya lee markul commented on April 26, 2013 Reply
    You blew my mind with this! Totally radical! Love you!
    • Andrea Balt
      Andrea Balt commented on May 1, 2013 Reply
      Thanks & love, sweet partner in creative crime!
  • Kasparov commented on April 27, 2013 Reply
    Damn girl!!, you made me cry again…(tomorrow I will forget it all, of course :P). Your writing is like another Hollywood Movie to me. My fault!…But for those who really belive I just feel like singing…♫It’s raining creativity, ♪ hallelujah♫, it’s reaning creativity, ♪ Aaaamen!♫
  • Tracy Wisneski
    Tracy Wisneski commented on April 27, 2013 Reply
    “It’s not an event. You are the event. Let’s get our grammar straight. You are the subject in your life, before you become its object. You are the director of your movie, before you become the actor.” You never cease to amaze and excite me. I want to pledge allegiance to this!
    • Andrea Balt
      Andrea Balt commented on May 1, 2013 Reply
      Gracias amiga! Do we need an anthem or something? I think I’m hearing music.
  • Darla commented on May 5, 2013 Reply
    Loved this! Thank-you!
  • Layne commented on May 5, 2013 Reply
    Why is it, whenever I read something here that lights a fire in my heart, I find that you are responsible, Ms. Balt? Thank you!
    • Andrea Balt
      Andrea Balt commented on May 10, 2013 Reply
      It’s a mystery. :) Glad about that fire.
  • Felipe Adan Lerma commented on May 5, 2013 Reply
    so many lines of thought that appealed to me here (shared the fb link to this i’d seen via an artist friend; have to thank her again ;-) ) – have always thought along these lines, so nice to see the lines untangled and placed like gentle stone-steps along daily life’s sometimes slippery slope esp liked, “Creativity will turn you into a river. And you’ll be filled with fish and creatures. And people will have picnics right by you and some will swim in you and others drink out of you. And that’s the meaning of life…” – sounds good to me ;-) all the best wishes andrea ;-)
  • Suzi Banks Baum commented on May 6, 2013 Reply
    Yeah. It will ruin the cozies. Standing here in the mess wondering how to continue. Just a question I ask every day, of me, you and my herbal tea. Taking my right and loving this post. Will share generously. xo S
  • Mia commented on May 7, 2013 Reply
    You are so inspiring. I want to write.
  • danielwalldammit commented on May 7, 2013 Reply
    John Cleese had a great speech on creativity. Always thought it was worth the time it takes to watch it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9rtmxJrKwc
  • Andrea Balt
    Andrea Balt commented on May 10, 2013 Reply
    Thanks for all sweet comments, sharing & feedback. Forgot to add Myth #8: It’s not contagious. Creativity is, in fact, a life-giving virus.
  • Karen McDiarmid commented on July 28, 2013 Reply
    wonderful article. the quote at the end is from goethe, though.
    • Andrea Balt
      Andrea Balt commented on August 4, 2013 Reply
      Thanks Karen. According to my references, It’s a quote inside a quote. The quote by Goethe, inside William Hutchison Murray’s. He does mention Goethe in it. Double-checking in any case.
      • Andrea Balt
        Andrea Balt commented on August 4, 2013 Reply
        *There seems to be some general confusion as to how much of it is Goethe’s pure words and how much WH Murray’s…but I haven’t found any accredited source to fully confirm or deny either…
  • Jewels commented on July 28, 2013 Reply
    you just blew my shit WIDE open…. I’ve only recently discovered your blog but everyday I read, something, that takes my out of place of familiar to forward – where I should have been all along. amazing and so powerful and brilliant and thank you. thank you for shaking up my quite, retreated heart and making it want to aspire again.
    • Andrea Balt
      Andrea Balt commented on August 4, 2013 Reply
      Thank you so much Jewels. I’m so glad to read this. That’s he whole point of what we do. Sending you love & creative sparks :)
  • lisafitzhughmolokai commented on August 1, 2013 Reply
    Andrea, your piece is right on at so many levels. I heard you speaking my words and thoughts and aspirations and all with raw vitality. I teach and speak on creativity all the time, it’s my passion and my work in the world. I have shared this with a whole slew of people and gotten amazing feedback. I’ve got a short video on my website talking about why creativity especially in the workplace, it’s here: http://www.creativegroundhq.com/purpose/. Wow, perhaps our worlds will connect
    • Andrea Balt
      Andrea Balt commented on August 4, 2013 Reply
      WOW, Lisa! Thanks for sharing that. That’s incredible, yet another proof of Creativity as an innate ability. I’m amazed by how much our worlds resonate. Checking out Art Corps as well. I’m currently working on a parallel / related creativity-centered project that srpung from the above article and creative initiative, revolving around these same principles: creativity as a way of life and modus operandi rather than a “thing.” It’s so inspiring to find your work. Would love to connect.
  • Howard commented on October 26, 2013 Reply
    Beautifully, beautifully said. If I return to these thoughts tomorrow, well that’s okay.
  • Chris S commented on December 9, 2013 Reply
    You have an incredibly vibrant, and painfully beautiful writing style. Coupled with such eye-opening, jaw-dropping, epiphany-inducing content–I feel ravished (in a good way). Thank you, thank you.
  • Chris commented on February 21, 2014 Reply
    It all looks like a shell game to me, after 45 years of isolation and depression and medication, of decades of substance abuse, of being serially pimped out as an artist. Some things can make a person despise her own gifts and resent the fact that there are those who believe they’re entitled to whatever these gifts may create. I admire the cheer, but I just can’t be a cheerleader. I’m tired.

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