Why Being Creative Is About So Much More Than Making Stuff
If you’re anything like I am, I expect that for virtually every minute you spend creating, you want something tangible, measurable and substantial to show for it.
It’s as if at any moment you’re about to be held up in court for crimes against the good name of productivity, and unless you have physical art exhibits A through to H (at least!) to show for that 15 minutes you just spent creating, you’re going to get thrown in jail for life.
Worse than that, you fear you’ll be cast out heavy with shame and stigma from the secret (imaginary) elite artist’s circle where only highly talented, incredibly prolific, “real” artists are allowed that exclusive membership, and permitted the right to call themselves artists.
Hmm. Is this starting to sound familiar? For me, talking to you about this is like visiting a confessional booth.
So what if you are called up for these apparent crimes and you don’t have anything to show for your creative time, no epic masterpieces conjured up in your lunch break that redefine the entire media you’re creating in?
What you – and me, and most of us as artists – are completely overlooking and undervaluing is the irreplaceable and iridescent beauty of all your invisible art.
What I mean by your invisible art is the constant creative outpourings and whirrings of your mind that can’t be simply measured by a number or any other material dimension.
For example, when you read a novel, you might think it’s a fairly passive experience, and the only creativity involved was that of the original author when they wrote the book.
But when you read, there’s an ever evolving series of images in your mind. The novel doesn’t remain there just as black type on a white page, it comes alive as a spectacular audio visual world in your imagination.
However laden with description the novel is, when we read, each of us will be playing different movies of it in our heads, each of them uniquely creative.
How do we measure this highly creative activity? Most of the time we don’t. Along with the hundreds of other ways we constantly create invisible art, and barely give ourselves any credit or acknowledgment.
One specific type of this invisible art was named “moodling” by Brenda Ueland in her book “If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit” back in 1938.
She wrote: “So you see, imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”
Fortunately for her, Brenda realised the importance of this time when it feels like you’re not creating but in fact your mind is given the freedom to create whatever it wishes, at its own pace.
Most ideas that come to us aren’t fully formed and ready to be popped out perfectly without adding or changing a single detail anyway.
Most ideas begin as a tiny fragment, or a seed, that lays in the fertile soil of your mind barely showing, until a little shoot peeps out above the surface one day.
As soon as you’re conscious of that seed – that initial fragment of an idea – your creative mind will go to work on expanding and developing it, and most of this work – this fruitful creativity – will occur at a deep, background level that’s virtually imperceptible to you.
And it’s activity at a level that’s certainly invisible to the judge and jury back in the High Court of Crimes Against Productivity.
SO much of our creating is done behind closed doors like this. So much goes ignored and uncredited, as we beat ourselves up about not being creative enough, not being proper artists.
Another essential point about our invisible art is that most artwork we create will take shape over hours, days, months, even years.
We need tiny, consistent steps to create anything.
We need regular routines and rituals to help us keep showing up at the page, or canvas, or lens, or stage, and adding a little more and a little more to our growing body of work.
Much of this again is invisible to the naked eye.
Spending 30 minutes a day committed to creating doesn’t have to mean you’re painting or writing furiously for every last second.
Creativity also comes in the spaces in between where we actually stop to let our creativity breathe again.
Sometimes the most creative thing we can do is close our eyes and lie in silence for 15 minutes, focus only on our breathing and let the thoughts and ideas settle as they will in our minds.
Sometimes this short period of quiet time will help us create more than hours slaving away in a state of high anxiety.
These are just a few examples of how creative we are when we have nothing physical to show for it, there are many others.
Your creative mind is switched on and active virtually every moment of the day, you can’t stop it. It’s constantly processing, making new connections and associations, creating and honing new ideas.
All of this art is invisible and all of it is utterly essential.
Whilst it’s important to look at and give yourself credit for the visible artwork you create, we can only give our best, and produce our best when we acknowledge and make space for all this other invisible creating as well.
How can you start recognising more of the beautiful invisible art you’re creating?
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