It’s Not Just You :: Secrets of the Creative Life

It's Not Just You

I am currently reading Secrets of a Creativity Coach by renowned creativity coach Eric Maisel, which is essentially a series of email correspondences between Eric and various creatives of all types. It’s fascinating on a human curiosity level as well as in terms of training to become a creativity coach, whether for self coaching or for helping others.

One thing I’ve noticed emerging repeatedly is the extraordinary level of detail at which it seems all creatives tend to operate. The intricate patterns of thought and feeling, the often painful twisting and wrestling of ideas and beliefs as they {we!} try to get comfortable with all the elements of the creative process, like a dog turning round and round in its basket before finally plopping down to rest.

I often fall into the trap of thinking it’s just me that gets tangled up like this! I’m guessing you might relate to the lifelong messages that you ‘overthink’ things, are ‘too intense’ or ‘too sensitive’ because you see the world in a detailed and complex way. Seeing the same experiences articulated by others in black and white is both comforting and intriguing. How do they resolve it? What advice does Eric give? Do they achieve their dreams?

I don’t have neat solutions, of course. There are at least as many solutions as there are people. But I know a few things to be true, first from my own experience as an artist and regularly creative person, and now having peeped into the secret, private realms of other creatives, from writers and painters to actors and musicians the world over.

~ You are never alone in your struggle. Every creative person, whatever their discipline, whatever their level of expertise, whether they practice their art as a sporadic hobby or full time career, struggles. It’s part of the process, not a reason to quit!

~ Sometimes all that’s required to move forward is the right question. And ‘why’ {‘why can’t I…’, ‘why is x so hard’, etc.} is almost never the right question! Eric shows what an art it is to ask the right questions, but taking the time to sit and ask yourself questions about your next steps and how to best help yourself can be very useful. One of my personal favourites is ‘what if I….’. Making it a game can help too.

~ Getting stuck is universal and surpassable. Again, it’s a part of the creative process; it happens to all of us. Without getting stuck sometimes we wouldn’t learn the deeper lessons, or have such euphoric aha moments. The creative process, from initial exciting idea through doubt and despair to ultimate triumph, is all valid and important. Just ask Joseph Campbell. :)

Creative struggle is inevitable, if you are dedicated to your cause.

Giving up at the first hurdle is always an option, but it is a characteristic of actively creative people that your creativity just won’t let you do that. And so you keep picking yourself up and trying again, because that’s where the meaning is, because you just have to.

When you embrace the difficult parts as not just a frustrating side effect, but a useful part of the process that can ultimately propel you forward, the whole game changes.

Have you experienced creative stuckness? The frustration and despair of not knowing what to do next, how to get past a certain block that keeps reappearing, or fearing that it’s all pointless? What do you do to move forward? What might you do today?

4 thoughts on “It’s Not Just You :: Secrets of the Creative Life

  1. When I feel stuck I usually try to either journal it out to see what’s blocking me or figure out my “next right action” and do it. Sometimes it takes longer than others for me to do that though. 😉

    I love Eric Maisel, but I haven’t read that particular book of his so I may have to check it out. Thank you for the resource!

    1. Love that ‘next right action’ Stephanie! It makes me think of something I try to practice – ‘allow the next thing to find you’. It’s a whole different energy to pushing and trying. And yes, sometimes it takes longer than I’d like too. :)

  2. It’s very comforting once you accept that it’s all part of the game. We get so involved and tied up! Working out what is the right question is a very good point. I find the more specific the better… if you can work out you are stuck because you’re getting bogged down in detail then it can help to go off and do some large expressive drawing. Or spend some time playing with colour… Just “feeling stuck” is too vague to be helpful.

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