Go Creative! Podcast #2: Being Creative Versus Going Creative

In this episode, Orna Ross dives more deeply into the mind state that induces creative flow—what she calls the create-state, a chosen way of understanding and processing life—and the difference between being creative (a quality shared by all human beings) and going creative (a mind-state consciously chosen by some).

ORNA SAYS: There’s a great difference between being creative and going creative. Being creative is not a choice, it’s something that comes with being human. All of science, every branch of psychology, all the philosophies, eastern and western, have confirmed that the creative impulse and process is constantly at work in the human brain and physiology. Much of this happens unconsciously and, left to our own devices, our brain and physiology switch in and out of creative and conventional mind-states. Going creative is consciously choosing the create-state, and the creative process, more often. Creatives and creativists see going creative as the best way to live a good, happy and fulfilling life. 

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Read the Transcript to Go Creative! Podcast #2: Being Creative Versus Going Creative

Orna Ross: Hello and welcome, creatives and creativists to the second episode of the Go Creative podcast.

Today, I'd like to talk about the difference, go a little bit more deeply into the difference, between being creative versus going creative. As I mentioned last time, in this understanding of the world, we're all creating all the time, both consciously and unconsciously, but our understanding of the creative process and our confidence in it has not been encouraged. In fact, it's been suppressed, and it's been undermined by our social, and educational, and parental, and other systems, and indeed by our own inner workings. All of that I'll look at again in more detail another time.

Today though, I want to go more deeply into this idea of creative consciousness, and how it's best understood as a mind state, and not only that, a mind state that can be ignited at will, consciously ignited.

So, in the Go Creative books and here in the podcast, I refer to this mind state as the create state, and as I mentioned last time, it's not a talent it's not a skill as much as it's a way of seeing and relating to the world; a chosen way of seeing and relating.

One of my favourite descriptions of what it feels to be in this state was captured by a young poet who went on to be a very famous and well-known poet in England, Alfred Lord Tennyson. In his very first poem, Armageddon, he described how when he entered the create state, ” my mind seemed winged with knowledge and the strength of holy musings and immense ideas even to infinitude, all sense of time and being and place was swallowed up and lost.”

And many other writers and artists and sages have described the create state, the flow state, in similar fashion. There's also always talk of how thoughts seem to break their bonds and how the mind expands and there is an awakening of creative consciousness that's often felt throughout the body as well as in the mind.

So, in addition to the writers and sages, we now have also investigations from psychology and science looking more closely at this whole topic of creative flow. I'd like to quote here also from the psychologist, who in his book called Flow, kicked off a swathe, decades now, of research into this topic that had got very little attention before him, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, also known as Dr. Mike.

Here is Dr. Mike's description of how it feels to be in Flow, “Instead of being buffeted by anonymous forces, we feel in control of our actions, masters of our own fate. We feel a sense of exhilaration, a deep sense of enjoyment that is long cherished and that becomes a landmark in memory for what life should be like.”

In interviews with his research subjects, Dr. Mike and his team confirmed over and again that this feeling of energised focus, being fully involved in the creative process, is not just something felt by artists making art, but is actually felt by people who are engaged in lots of different kinds of activity.

To quote him again, he says, “it is what the sailor holding a tight course feels when the wind whips through her hair, when the boat lunges through the waves like a colt. Sails, hull, wind and sea humming a harmony that vibrates in the sailor's veins. It is what a painter feels when the colours on the canvas begin to set up a magnetic tension with each other and a new thing, a living form, takes shape in front of the astonished creator. Or it is the feeling a father has when his child, for the first time, responds to his smile.”

The point that's being made, I think, is that it's not the activity that makes something creative, it's the state itself. It's all about the how, not the what. About the process, not the product. It's how you feel, how we all feel, when we move from being creative, which we all are, all the time, to going creative, which is something that only some of us choose, consciously choose, some of the time.

You've surely seen a picture, probably in school, where two black faces look at each other and, in the middle, there is a white candlestick. So, it's one picture, but as your perception switches back and forth, what changes? Faces candlestick, faces.

It's very like that when we think about going creative. As we go about our day, we're constantly shifting between these two broad perspectives that I call the conventional and the creative, and you, like every human being that's ever lived, you have these two different ways of receiving and interpreting and processing all the information that's coming at you through sensory streams; and those streams are both internal and external. So, you're interpreting information from the outside through the outer senses; sight, taste, touch, sound, smell. That's processed by your conventional conceptual intelligence. I call that con state. I'll explain in a few minutes why.

On the inner side, your interpreting information from the inside through inner senses of emotion, memory, intuition, perception, imagination. These are all processed by your creative, imaginative intelligence in the create state.

So, con mind state, conventional mind state, its primary intent is to keep us safe. It believes in the survival of the fittest. It will always take the safest, most conservative, most tried and tested approach to any challenge or any problem.

When we're in this mindset, we want to preserve and conserve. We want to keep things the way they are. We try to make sense of things, we look for the logical, the reasonable answer. We respect convention, and we contend towards the conformist and conservative when we are in this mind state, and when it's strongly there, we tend to be full of conviction and that can lead us into confrontation or conflict even.

The quality of this mind state is that it's trying to control or sometimes even to conquer, and it is contrary. That's its most defining quality, I think. It opposes, it critiques, it judges. There are so many words there that begin the prefix con, convention, conformity, conservative, conviction, confrontation, conflict, control, conqueror, and contrary. That's why I call it the con state.

Also, because it's a bit of a con, it's not as in control as it likes to present itself as being, or as it likes to think it is, perhaps, is the way to consider it.

Create state is in many ways the opposite of con state, so it relies on the inner senses, as we said. It's less concerned with safety, its primary intent is to keep evolving. So, when we're in this mind state, we're open, we're willing to change, we want to make something new, something that hasn't been there before, either for us or maybe even ever before in the world.

In this state, we respect the unknown, we welcome it, we trust the process, we are content to employ our own individuality, our original ideas, original thought, to explore and experiment, to go out there, to put ourselves out there, and we become aware of an expanded, as described by Tennyson and by Dr. Mike in the earlier quotes, we become more aware of an expanded universe.

So, even though it's coming from the inside, our outer world is also expanding, as Tennyson said, to infinitude, and we become aware of that infinitude that exists outside of ourselves and within ourselves.

Science, again, is coming in to support this in terms of quantum physics at one level and the way in which the universe operates, consciousness within the universe, and also at the subatomic level where we see that we are composed, not of solid matter as our con mind feels and thinks when it's in rational mode, but actually of energy and information.

It's a very different way of looking at the world, and it's a place that if we want to hold it, if we want to hold that kind of consciousness and that kind of awareness, we have to actively choose it. Sometimes, occasionally it will choose us.

So, it might be looking at a sunset in nature, or looking into the eyes of a child, or just walking along, or sometimes if we're doing aerobic exercise, or coming in or out of the dream state, or when we are locked in a certain activity, and we haven't actually chosen it, but we find that we have fallen into flow.

It can happen, in other words, accidentally, but it can also happen consciously. The more it happens to us, the more it happens again.

What Dr. Mike said there about, when you've been in flow, holding that as a memory of how life should be lived and then choosing the conditions and choosing the way of being that allows it to happen far more often. That's what being a creativist is all about.

It might help, maybe to think of the two states of mind as two different kinds of eyeglasses. So, being in con state is like putting on sunglasses. We're looking through tinted lenses that shade out overload and the protect us from glare, and sometimes that's essential. Sometimes life is too much, and we need to be in that mode for sure. But over reliance on this frame of mind dims and dulls our connection to both to our own creative spirit and to the bright light of what's actually being created here and now when we're in the more expanded create state.

So, switching into create state is like taking off the sunglasses and putting on a pair of magnifying reading glasses; it makes the present moment stand out larger. We experience things and people and our environment and our experiences as if they were fresh and new. We regain with that sense of wonder and surprise, the kind of engagement with life that we had when we were children, and we now know that children spend the early years of their lives in theta brainwaves, which we experience less and less as we grow older. This induces a sort of an innocence of eye that artists often talk about, often reach for, and that spontaneous creative overflow that Dr. Mike described. So that, instead of judging and labelling, we're just being and going and enacting. Just observing and acting out the moment that we're in, and it can be any moment, it doesn't have to be a particular activity.

So, the challenge we face then as creativists, as creatives, it's not con state in itself, and very often it's demonized in creative circles as the ego, and seen as a bad thing, but actually, concepts, conclusions, conventions, these protect us, they protected us as an individual since we were born. They've protected our species since the beginning of humanity, and they have enabled us to create. So, con state is utterly necessary to a healthy, lived life and also to a thriving, creative being, but so is create state and the thing is that it has been suppressed in our highly conventional, highly disciplined worlds.

So, almost all of us who are living in post industrial democracies spend too much time in con state, and for some of us, it's a state of compulsive thinking; it's taken over. So, it's like the ability to think and reason and analyse and evaluate are not given their proper place. It's like they lead the world and as a result, few of us actually, ironically, are thinking well.

We're caught in knots of rumination and compulsive thoughts that are anything but creative. Thought that goes round and round without getting any closer to a resolution. Thoughts that start conflict.

This kind of thought, when it goes into that spiral, is very weakening. It drains us, it depresses us, it lowers our energy. So, all it does really well, is keep us thinking. It's taking us out of the present moment that we could be creating were we in the create state.

When we become aware of this, and I'll talk next time about the veil of consciousness, but when we become aware of this, we see the fallout from this creative imbalance everywhere we look.

So, we see how conventional consciousness is blocking creative consciousness in most of us, most of the time. As I said, that's blinding us to the opportunities that abound, and it's draining our energy into consumerism and conflict.

I contend that this over identification with our own con state, with this stream of thought that's passing through our heads, is actually the source of evil and badness, if you like, in the world. The over identification, and we all do it, but the over identification with our society, our nation, our gender, our race, our religion, all of that.

It's a very telling interview by Oprah Winfrey with the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle a while back, and he suggested, and this spoke to me, that this enactment is what's being described in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and I'm quoting him here.

“To me”, Tolle says, “that story is about the rise of the ability to think and make judgments. This is good, that is bad. By living through these mental definitions of who you are, you desensitize yourself to the deeper aliveness of who you are, truly are, beyond your thoughts. What arises then is a conceptual identity. I'm this, or I'm that. Once you're trapped in your own conceptual identity, which is based on thinking and image making in the mind, you do the same to others, you project. This is the beginning of pronouncing judgements on another person, and when you believe that judgement to be the truth, it's the beginning of desensitising yourself to who that human being truly is.”

I think it's important to say that we do this to ourselves as well as to others. None of this is new. Tolle's work, The Power of Now, is based on Buddhism, which codified a system that recognized overthinking and the overthinking mind 2,500 years ago, and the Vedas identified it 1,500 years before that, and before we have any record, no doubt, there were human beings who had seen it before that.

So, this is not something that has only happened in our time because of modern conditions. This is an inherent thing that our mind does. So, those belief systems have offered us tools, and again that's something we'll look at, but very clear, very powerful tools to dissolve excessive thought, and we've built on that all the way into our own time. Eastern thought has been brought into the West now by the yoga and mindfulness movements, and are mainstream you know, all over very easily accessed.

Back to this concept then of choosing create state. It's partly about using those tools because you cannot overcome the thinking mind with more thought. I'm here on the podcast putting some thoughts about thinking into your mind; that's not how you will switch into the create state. Because when you are in create state, opinion and critique and analysis and evaluation and judgment and duality and even words themselves cease, creative mind goes into silence.

What I would like to say is that the create state is larger than constate. So, both are important, and we do create out of con state, and many wonderful things have been created from there, but not consciously. The consciously creative state, conscious create state, encompasses constate and so that encompassing is the task and how we do that is the topic of another podcast.

But I would like to say just before finishing today is that we are now at a critical point in human evolution, and this bias that has favoured con state over create state, thinking over imagining, talking over creating, a rebalancing is necessary because of what we are actually creating in our societies and in our planet, and what we are doing to ourselves, to other people and to the planet.

The key to that evolution and realignment in our abundant and very fast paced society is recognizing that it is good to think and to talk, to surf the internet, to weigh, to measure, to connect with all the wonderful people and places and things in the outer world and the conceptual mind, but it is also good to be silent.

To switch off, to slip into the space between the words, to be alone, to connect with the imaginings and the insights and the intuition of our own inner world and our own creative mind.

It's only in spacious solitude that we can really hear the whispers of our true self and our true wants, and I'll talk about how true wants are the guiding force that lead us through what can be a very overwhelming and confusing prospect if we're just addressing it with the thinking mind.

But it's in following our desires and allowing the create state to unfold, that we get the clarity that we need to actually consciously create.

I think just before I leave, I would like to say that we feel it everywhere. This call to the wild and the naked, the free, creative. Even while we're dressing ourselves in corporate suits or in military armour, we know it's there. We feel it and we fear it, at the same time as we long for it, maybe the more we long, the more we fear. But we go after the surface. We are going after the surface in our lives, in our societies, and what we're yearning for is the depths.

To go creative is to dive into the depths. You can't help but be creative, but to go creative is to choose, to become conscious of what you are creating, and that means choosing a certain way of being.

That's what I'll talk about next time, the four cardinal creative virtues that we choose as conscious creatives, conscious creativists.

So, until next time, have a great week, and don't forget to go creative.

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