Today’s Book Extract: From The Psychology of Creative Success

The field of creative studies is enjoying a huge upsurge, with research coming to new conclusions and confirming ancient wisdoms.

One finding is surfacing over and over, across a wide range of studies, including  anecdotal evidence, historical reports, the new neuroscience technologies, and our ability to map the world’s knowledge through digital archives and search engines.

Creative flow is not, as we used to think, an elite state, possessed only by a few, but  a mind state that we all experience many times a day.

Though writers and artists earn the appellation as a noun (“creatives”),  creative is more accurately understood as a state of mind (and heart).

A way of approaching and doing a task — or life itself.

Creativists bring a creative approach to the art of life.

We prefer doing to thinking, practice to plans, process to product. And we consciously induce the create-state in ourselves whenever we can.

Not even the most creative creativist stays in create-state all the time. To do so would make practical life impossible. Thinking, planning, products remain necessary. It’s a matter of balancing creative and conventional sides, of redressing the conventional bias that is all around us.

Conscious creation always gives us a price to pay.

And work to do.

Creative Work

I’ve had many a day job, from waiting tables to teaching teenagers, but writing has asked more of me than any other.

Not just the  physical, “applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair,” as novelist and teacher Mary Heaton Vorse advised a young Sinclair Lewis. Yes, the act of handwriting and typing through multiple drafts, clarifications, and corrections is demanding, but the real work is emotional and spiritual.

It’s the same whatever you’re creating, once you’re conscious of the process. You know that it asks for a particular kind of effort:

  • To dedicate ourselves to creative attention and action
  • To welcome challenge and failure for their part in the process.
  • To trust in that process and let go of attachment to outcomes.

For some of us, these paradoxical freedoms and responsibilities are too uncomfortable, even frightening.

Another fear is the people around us, who are — at least out front — operating from more logical and rational understandings of life. We worry they'll find our more creative selves strange. Eccentric. Perhaps even threatening.

And so, we resist, stifle and block our own creative spirit.

This is a mistake. A tragedy, actually. Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau said in Walden, his reflection on simple living in natural surroundings, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

This is why.

By re-educating body and brain, anyone can easily open the creative flow that is, always, a natural part of human life. We can all create what we truly want.

And we are all meant to.

If we don’t understand how the creative process works, however, or what it means to be in the create-state, or what sort of practices we need to sustain a creative perspective in a conventional world, confusion takes over.

We leak away a lot of creative energy into redundant emotions.