Sunday Read: Preview of The Psychology of Creative Success

Each time I teach a new class about conscious creation I have a moment of excited anticipation as the new students file in.

Already, though I haven’t met them yet, I know two important things about these people. They have a creative block of some kind, are, despite their best effort, unable to succeed at something that’s important to them. Secondly, and more importantly, they are willing to open up, to find out why and get moving.

Already I love them for that. The honesty that’s brought them here, the openness to change, the willingness to do understand more, to turn up, to do the work.

These three—honesty, openness, willingness—are the h.o.w. of creativity. Without these, conscious creation can’t happen.

As they enter, they’ll choose their places in the circle, leaving an empty chair beside others, where possible. They hold themselves with care. Someone may make a joke or engage with the group, but mostly not. They’ll nod hello, nervously smile, perhaps avoid our eyes.

Joking or silent, eye contact or avoidance, it’s all the same. That particular person’s coping strategy for dealing with the tension or discomfort that always arises when we publicly admit to a dream or desire or difficulty.

We’ll begin our class by introducing ourselves, sharing how we’re feeling (using the metaphor of the weather) and, in a sentence, what we’d like to get from the day or morning or week we’re about to spend together.

I go first. I could tell them about my current book, but instead, I’ll talk about something more personal, related to my publishing or creative business.

I’m not a teacher like in school, dispensing knowledge from on high. We sit in a circle, as equals and we’re all using the same tools and techniques to experiment and explore our individual situations, to change and grow in the direction we desire.

So, to open the space I’ll share whatever I’m finding most challenging for me at this time. I’ll go into a little detail about this creative challenge, how it connects to my personal life, and a little about how it doesn’t matter that I’ve done this a thousand times before.

How the process is always the same but also, always, different.

As the great Suzuki Roshi has said: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities but in the expert’s mind there are few.” With the creative process we’re always in beginner’s mind.

Then we go round the circle and the stories unfold into the room.

  • Janet, a legal secretary, wants to leave her job to make and sell jewelry but her boyfriend doesn’t agree.
  • Jack, a project assistant, wants to be a Project Director. He also wants to be fit. He always stops exercising after a few weeks and doesn’t know why.
  • Frank, a yoga instructor, needs to make more money so he can buy a flat but his timetable is full. He has no time to see friends or enjoy his family.
  • Jenna, a civil servant, wants to start an online business that will supplement her pension when she retires in seven years’ time but she can’t see that she has any transferable skills.
  • Don wants to finish writing a book but he works full-time with a long commute and two small children.
  • Lorna, another writer, is supposed to be finding a steady job and setting up home in London but now finds herself completely unexcited by that prospect. She wants to work out what she wants to do.
  • Patricia, a music teacher, needs more better-paying clients. She is 35 and wants to get married and have children “before it’s too late”.
  • Jim, a project supervisor, wants to change career but doesn’t know how to start. He doesn’t have any personal challenges he wants to work on.
  • Danni, a psychotherapist, isn’t managing to make her business work. She also has chronic health issues.
  • Pauline’s children have left home, and now she needs to do something—she has no idea what—that will give her a sense of meaning and purpose in her life.
  • Frieda wants to leave her marriage of fifteen years but doesn’t know if she can survive on her own.

If anybody is offhand or flippant or a little defensive at first, they’re encouraged to go deeper, to tell their truth.

And as truth takes hold in the room, the atmosphere changes. We see all these other people—attractive, intelligent, capable people—with similar challenges to our own. We realize we are not alone. Feelings of safety, warmth, and camaraderie arise. Uneasiness dissolves, smiles emerge. Our stories weave us together.

To create what we truly want, sometimes even to know what we truly want, we need first to break open a layer of self-protection. To do that, we need to feel safe.

This is a matter of creating the right conditions. For you, a group workshop might not be the right conditions, but you need to find your own way to the same place. And you need to know, also, that discomfort is part of the process.

Honesty, openness, willingness are always uncomfortable. To create something new, we need to find a way to break through the discomfort to the place beyond, where movement can flow.

Without that, creative success is likely to elude us.


creative entrepreneur: How to Create Anything One Day WorkshopIf you do like the sound of a group workshop, the next one’s in London on 25th November