You Have Nothing. You Have Everything.

She Wrote Three Lines, Three Lines Across The Sky
image: dancoachceative

Take a look around you, wherever you are right now.

It’s likely that, unless you’re somehow reading this whilst on a trek up the Andes or somewhere equally remote, you’re surrounding by stuff. Physical, material things stacked up and filling the room whichever way you look.

Most of us have been brought up to see this is a good thing, that the more we have, the more options we have, so the better life is.

More stuff = Better quality of life.

So we’re told.

More choice = Greater happiness.

Is what they’d have us believe.

I’m not about to go on an anti-consumerist rant, because this is a blog about helping you be more creative, and though the two may well have a direct correlation, I’ll leave that kind of post to others better informed.

What I would ask you to think about though is how this kind of thinking and these beliefs relate to your creativity.

If you had a set of 32 of the most expensive and beautiful paintbrushes that money can buy, would it make you a better painter than if you had just three or four good quality brushes?

If you had the latest, fastest, smoothest laptop, with a choice of 17 different wordprocessors and text editors installed would it help you write better than on one machine with one text editor that simply does its job perfectly competently and without fuss?

The answer of course to both of these questions is no.

But it’s worse than that.

Having too much stuff around you, and having too many options when you come to create is worse than having very few, and can actually hinder your creativity.

You might think by going out and spending a small fortune on new art supplies that you’re investing in your creativity and giving yourself enough materials to be able to create absolutely anything you can think of. But really aren’t you just loading yourself up with even more expectation and pressure?

“These new canvases cost hundreds, I’d better make sure I don’t mess up or make any mistakes. Whatever I paint on them better be perfect, to justify the cost.”

What kind of environment is that to create in? One where you’re going to create in a relaxed, spontaneous and carefree way?

I don’t think so.

Contrary to what you might think (or have been programmed to think), when you have everything an artist could want in the way of materials and equipment, it’s more likely you’ll end up with absolutely nothing in the way of new art.

Fortunately, the opposite of this is true too.

When you have nothing, you have everything.

You have the complete freedom to start over again with just a handful of materials. Without that ridiculous burden of what’s amassed over the months and years into half an art store’s worth of supplies hanging over your every attempt to create. Too much pressure, too much expectation.

What do you really need to be creative?

What’s just one little step up from nothing?

For a writer, it might be a pencil and a piece of paper. Doesn’t really get much simpler. But it’s all you need to give life to those incredible words and ideas and stories in your head.

For a painter you might start with one canvas of piece of board, one brush and a simple palette of blue and white. It’s all you need to express yourself, and paint something soulful, something beautiful, something you.

When you start with so little, your creativity is given free reign to really come alive.

The same is true with time, not just materials.

You might bemoan that you never have a whole day free to create. But what if you did? Would you really spend it very productively, creating every last second? Or would you be overwhelmed by so much time, so many possibilities, and see your procrastination kick into overdrive like never before?

What if instead you decide to commit to just 15 minutes a day creating for the next two weeks?

That’s only 210 minutes in total, but I can guarantee you’ll get more done, and start to build strong creative habits that can last as long as you want them too. This 15 minutes a day is vastly more beneficial to your creativity than spending the same total of three and a half hours in one block one afternoon, and creating nothing for the other 13 and a three quarter days.

When you everything, you have nothing. No art, no joy.

When you have nothing, you have everything. You have freedom to create like never before.

And you will create like never before.

What can YOU do this week to get yourself closer to having nothing?


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3 thoughts on “You Have Nothing. You Have Everything.”

  1. Hey Dan—

    Its crazy how just 15 minutes over two weeks can add up to being so much time doing so much creative work.

    I think it would be a cool project if you had a google spreadsheet you shared with a bunch of bloggers who were “responsible” to themselves and the spreadsheet for filling in their 15 minutes of creative work everyday for 2 weeks. We could each be accountable to one another and end up focusing on something small and create something amazing….Just a thought.

    You can thank Courtney Carver for pointing me in this direction.

    David Damron


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