Notes on living creatively

(some notes written to myself that I hope are also useful to you)

Living creatively is a decision! Also a practice, but mainly a decision. Practice comes from that decision being taken over and over.

Creating is manifesting. It is taking something from the back of your mind, from the air, from something you read and was bouncing on your head at a particular angle and perhaps combined with something else. It is taking the subtle and making it a bit more tangible, without losing its essence along the way. Perhaps finding that as you make it more concrete, it also becomes deeper in unexpected ways.

Every challenge can be faced creatively; all it takes is enough presence of mind. All I aim for now is trying to remember this truth; especially in the face of fear.

It really helps me to turn my creativity towards the good of others. How is this thing I’m working on going to help others find their own creative vibe? Or a smile? Or something they can count on to make their lives vaster, calmer, safer, or more fun? How can I enable others with this thing I’m building? Perhaps indirectly, perhaps through resonance. How can I pass forward a little bit of all the good I’ve received so far and on which I squarely stand? How can this work make better the work of others?

Mental play is essential. MP is carrying around the creative process with you, without having to rely on a screen or paper – although you’ll rush to screen or paper sometimes to put things down that would be fleeting otherwise. It can be fully or partially focused and both are different and great – one is more prefrontal cortex, the other one is integrative. For MP to work, deep understanding is required, but that’s the path anyway.

Structure is also necessary. It lives in constant interaction and tension with creativity. I feel I need some structure, even for creative work itself; for example, the practice of writing down ideas lest I forget them. Putting in some focused time in front of the screen to make things concrete. On other levels, structure means systematically working out and doing work that is expected of me (perhaps a little bit later in the day sometimes, but still getting it done). When I’m creative, I always feel I’m falling behind with the structures I created. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing; and a good structure (the devising of which is also a truly creative process) can get a lot of the basics done, and be a fantastic support of your creative process. This falling behind, this tension, can be great fuel, provided that it is in the background and is not all-consuming. And, in any case, you’re probably better off sleeping, flossing, working, working out. In short: there should be space for structure too, and the tension between creativity and structure is the heartbeat of the day.

As for making money, perhaps this is to be faced creatively too. It’s something I haven’t figured out yet. But I’m sure it is to be taken creatively and as part of the equation, and not as a mere hindrance. Perhaps that endgame I’m looking for is simply a process, and already in front of me.

For me, creativity seems to require fearlessness, and releasing the attachment from deadlines driven by personal need or an artificial image of how I see myself or my work. Creativity seems to know much better than myself on where my work is going to go. Fear of not making money, fear of never being done, fear of being too old, fear of being too lazy. How real these fears can be! And how much of a paper tiger they seem (or they are) when the day is truly going creatively. If it is a choice between fear and creativity, the choice is clear; I just then hope for having enough presence of mind to make it correctly as much as I can.

Grinding is fine, but I think I have overrated it. Creativity-led grind seems to be much better. I can always tell the difference, and I think probably everyone can. Showing up is necessary, but then my work is to find the vibe, not crank out hack work. Easier said than done. But you never know which days turn out to be the best ones.

The result is an afterthought, an emergence. It is important as a driver of the creative process. But it is the process that matters. If the result is important, it is to the extent that, as a crystallization of creativity, it can help others day in and day out. That should be its only justification. As for what I’ll get out of it, better to pay almost no mind. Better to just focus on the flame.

Note: this article has been inspired by watching this interview to Rand Miller, the creator of Myst.