Naked Creativity: What It Is & How To Get It

This month on WordCarnival, we’re discussing CREATIVITY.
Lots of diverse and fun advice/opinion from dynamic small biz bloggers!


Mind map for this blog posti so didn’t want this post about creativity to be a superficial and already-done-a-million-times list of tips or strategies. So, i sat down to make a list – you know, a nice orderly, rational, square-peg-in-a-square-hole LIST of the various ways in which i could approach the topic. Fortunately, i never got past titling the page (although, yes, i titled the page): in the spirit of “the process is as important as the product” or “the means are the ends in the making”, i turned the page sideways and started making one of those bubbly stream-of-consciousness connector thingies…mind maps? Yeah, a mind map.

What i discovered were some great concepts describing what creativity IS, and that’ll be the structure of this post. They naturally leads to some tips and strategies, so hopefully that’s a bonus. :)

SO, WHAT IS CREATIVITY?

i came up with six descriptors or phrases that answer this question for me, and i’d like to share a couple at a time, along with some strategies that seem to address things to do if the descriptor is not being true for you. Some of them overlap a little, and i was surprised to discover that one or two of the strategies i’d come up with can really address ANY creativity block! Maybe you’ll be surprised too.

CREATIVITY IS…an intrinsic desire to do my best.
For this i was thinking mostly about being creative on my own personal projects, with no material gain or external approval attached. Whether i’m writing or painting or arranging furniture, i have a desire from within myself that i be proud of my own work; that it represent the best i can do at that moment. Not happening?

  • Start with something ELSE unrelated that you are either already great at OR that you ALSO want to do your best at, and do THAT for a little while. Small successes in other areas often encourage us toward the task we’re struggling with. (You can even do something that’s a guaranteed win, like putting together a puzzle!)

CREATIVITY IS…a state of fearlessness.
Whoa. Sit with that for a second if you need to, because that’s HUMONGOUS. i happen to believe fear to be at the root of most – if not all – of our world’s problems and evils, AND that the hierarchy of peace begins with self, so overcoming fears in our own personal lives is foundational and essential to EVERYTHING else being healthy order. i’m not overstating that. Where creativity is concerned, my fears might include rejection, skill deficit, exposure, deadline, judgment of my value by another, discomfort with my medium, etc. i’d further suggest that having lower-level needs unmet (in Maslow’s hierarchy) constitutes a type of fear. Therefore,

  • Eat, Drink, and Get Comfortable. Don’t let the basic needs of your body distract you. This involves being aware of your body’s needs and signals in the first place, but if we can assume your attunement to that: get enough rest, have a snack, stretch, go potty, sit or stand comfortably, and adjust your or the room’s temperature so that it’s comfortable.
  • Choose some lower-grade or easily-accessible fear you have and confront THAT to put yourself in the mode of fear-busting. (This might be as simple/monumental as walking one block and meeting the eyes of each person you pass with a hearty “Hello!”) PositivityBlog.com has a great article on overcoming fear.
  • Since a huge part of fear is mental, it may be helpful to find or develop a mantra or two that you can invest a few moments repeating to yourself when you’re stuck, such as affirming your skill, or that you have plenty of time for the task, or simply that you are comfortable and ready to create.
  • MEDITATE. Much of fear’s power also lies in irrational or inaccurate projects into the future and old beliefs about how you performed in the past. Meditation is hugely about being grounded in the present moment, which is the best space to be creative from.

CREATIVITY IS…clear-minded focus.
My life – and consequently my mind – is quite busy. To be my most creative, i need as few distractions as possible…or specific distractions (such as music) to temporarily quiet all of my other pressing concerns. Another great reason to

  • Get your body’s needs met.
  • MEDITATE. Most meditation practices begin with clearing the mind and focusing on the breath. This gives you practice at returning from distractions (because they constantly press in) to a state of focus, AND the physiological effects of deep, rhythmic breathing are well-documented and totally encouraging of creativity: calming of your nervous system, and increased blood flow to your brain.

CREATIVITY IS…sidestepping the ego, and empathizing with another’s needs.
i’ve seen the ego described as “the fearmonger”, and listed as responsible for projecting all our worries, insecurities, and wounds…as well as taking criticisms personally. So this one’s related to seeking fearlessness, and many of those strategies may work here too. In the case of creative work being done for someone else (like, i just remembered that this is supposed to be small business advice, right?), i find it helpful to

  • Review the client’s needs or desired outcome as often as necessary, to keep drawing myself back to their/my goal.
  • Make it MY solution. i am now the client, and i now intrinsically want my work to be the best i can make it, because i’m representing myself to the world.
  • You guessed it: MEDITATE. Maybe with a twist: rather than focusing on a clear mind, hone in on where you’re stuck and see if some specific attention there can ease past the blockage.

CREATIVITY IS…the language of UNhibition.
Of course being inhibited is also about distraction and fear…releasing those puts you in free-creativity mode. Sometimes inhibitions are simply about getting out of your own way, so strategies that might help here include

  • Go have coffee, and say “Hello” to one stranger. When you aren’t struck dead for the effort, a newfound confidence is yours!
  • Change your environment. Work outside, or in an empty conference room or common space, or at a coffeeshop…getting out of the familiar puts your senses on alert and breaks down some barriers without you having to actually DO anything.
  • Have a drink. i said A drink…and i know it’s not a strategy that works for everyone. The principle, of course, is to loosen up and get your mind out of its own way. To that end, a brief, brisk jog might do the trick.
  • Write a poem. Do it badly and in private, if you must. To paraphrase the late (great) Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, who said practicing any art is not a way to make a living, but a way to grow a soul:

    “Write a six-line, rhyming poem tonight…make it the best YOU can…don’t tell anyone you wrote it, and don’t memorize it. Tear it into pieces and put them each in separate trash cans. You will find that you will be richly rewarded for having DONE this! To hell with fame and money; this came out of you…you created something!”

    Naked painter

    i found this on glasstire.com, but can't find the artist's name

  • Sing. In the shower, in the car with windows down or up…it doesn’t matter so much as the breaking of the self-inhibiting “i can’t sing” or “i’m not allowed to sing” by just DOING IT…because yes you can, and yes you are.
  • Get naked. Ok, i work from home and spend the VAST majority of my time fully clothed, but i’m just sayin’ if you’re REALLY stuck and you need to lose an inhibition, strip on down. Draw naked! Write naked! Play music naked!
  • MEDITATE. Just cuz i hadn’t said it in a while. :)

SOME ASSORTED CREATIVITY STRATEGIES

  • Go on a walk.
  • Take a camera with you everywhere. Even having one with me puts me in a more observant and creative state.
  • Draw! Badly if you must!
  • Spend time with a child, or ask one for the solution to your problem.
  • Ask for help in general. i get some of my best professional advice from the good folks of Twitter (Follow me? i’ve also been posting creativity-boosters like “What does Melancholy Look Like?” on my Facebook Page)
  • Cultivate resources for inspiration. This might be a file of quotes, or the websites or books of artists you admire, or that special CD that always gets you going. Figure out what that stuff is, and keep it handy to be used intentionally as a tool!
  • People-watch.

TO SUM UP:

CREATIVITY IS…

  • an intrinsic desire to do my best,
  • a state of fearlessness,
  • clear-minded focus,
  • sidestepping the ego,
  • empathizing with another’s needs, and
  • the language of UNhibition.

You’ll notice that MEDITATION was a recurring theme, and while i’ve always had good meditative experiences, they’ve been admittedly brief, rare, and random. MY biggest takeaway from creating this post is an intention to meditate more frequently with an awareness of the specific benefits to my physical and creative health. Also, here are two of my favorite resources on this whole topic:
(click to get them from Amazon…no gain or connection to me whatsoever)

Caffeine for the Creative MindJack Kornfield - Meditation for Beginners

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31 Responses to Naked Creativity: What It Is & How To Get It

  1. Pingback: Creativity and Your Small Business | Word Carnivals

  2. Tea Silvestre says:

    Meditation IS a fab tool for altering your brain waves (alphas are the best for finding inspiration). A meditation tool that I love is Holosync by Centerpointe. It’s a special recording that helps you train your brain into different meditative states. You sh/ check em out.

    Nicely done, Sir!
    Tea Silvestre recently posted..Brainstorming 2.0: 15 Juicy Ways to Use the InternetMy Profile

  3. Julia Hayes says:

    Wow Evan, you’re becoming some kind of guru.
    I’ve been working better standing up [at least part of the day] for a month. NOW you shine the light on fear. Thank you. This was just great. It resonated perfectly. And yes, meditation is more important for brain health and creativity than anything else I’ve come across. The more I do it, the better life is. I asked my yoga teachers why they all were so pleasant calm and happy. They told me it was because of all the meditation, which took care of the daily irritations.

    • evan says:

      Julia, do gurus still blush? ;) i’m so excited for your positive experience, and glad to be on the journey with you!

  4. Maybe it’s time that I stopped thinking about meditating and actually did it. I love the idea of being fearless and focused with creativity – it’s a nice balance.
    Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..Creativity Alone is Not Enough!My Profile

  5. Eugene says:

    This was freaking awesome Evan. I love your take on it, and can’t agree with you more.

    And where’d you get that picture? That’s how I do my best work!
    Eugene recently posted..8 Steps to Writing Successful Content that Drives ActionMy Profile

    • evan says:

      Thanks Eugene! Better change your wireless password so i can’t steal any more self-portraits from you! ;) (As i mentioned in the photo’s caption, i found it several places online, but they all seemed to point to each other, none of which credited the photog/artist. i’d love to give credit, but i don’t know to where/whom!)

  6. I whole-heartedly agree with the “get naked” idea.

    You can’t do world-class thinking with pants on. Think about it, all of your great ideas – they’ve come while you’re working out (shorts), in the shower (woohoo!), or got your pants around your ankles.

    I love it. You’ve inspired my next blog post, Evan. Way to go!
    Nick Armstrong recently posted..Steal Like an ArtistMy Profile

  7. First of all..I love the word “naked”…the rest did not matter to me…I just love the word..I would have added “bucket naked”…sorry the perverted side came out. Great, great thoughts and I love the piece on meditation and reminded me of a habit I was using that I stopped…I was meditating every morning 1st thing and it did help stay focus, create, and put things into action…I am definitely going to start that again…1st thing in the morning!
    Michelle Church recently posted..Create Balance and Harmony Through CreativityMy Profile

  8. SandyMc says:

    Such strong points came through in this post Evan, fear is indeed the absolute antithesis of creativity. Would you agree meditation is in fact an excellent way of accessing the right brain?

    An aspect of meditating is the foreshortening of time. A 20 minute meditate (or mop of the floor,) seems but a second, when complete. Okay maybe not so much the mopping!

    Fear, especially when it’s in its ‘what if’ space (what if they don’t like it? what if they don’t pay? what if I can’t get it done? is really fantasising. You cannot KNOW for sure that any of the things you are worrying about will become the reality. Fear fantasising consume hours of what could otherwise be productive and creative time.

    So would the trick be to develop sufficient self awareness to alert yourself to the fear cycle and instantly determine, now I must meditate (or mop the floor!). Truly, you were about to waste precious time worrying about things that may never happen, so instead meditate. In 20 minutes you could have recaptured your creative genii and cast aside your fear all in one fell swoop. Brilliant tactic I think.

    Thank you so much Evan for alerting us to the two sides of this creative coin.
    SandyMc recently posted..The right brain, left brain thing and content curationMy Profile

    • evan austin says:

      Very nicely stated, Sandy…thanks for investing the time to do that! That “sufficient self awareness” strategy would be life-changing indeed (and in the broader context i alluded to in my article, nothing less than world-changing!).

  9. Nicole Fende says:

    The first thing that stood out to me in this post was defining creativity as fearlessness. I have a surprisingly high risk tolerance, and have friends tell me I rush in where angels fear to tread. As I read this post I realized that while I’m usually burbling with ideas, the few times I’m not is because I’m afraid. Usually of failure. Great insight!

    The second thing I noticed was meditation (LOL – really it was the second!). Although I don’t mop floors to meditate, I do go running. During a good run I put my body on automatic and let me mind relax. So if the whole naked meditation thing doesn’t work out for you, consider a good jun instead (but put your clothes on first!).
    Nicole Fende recently posted..Creative Finance That Won’t Get You ArrestedMy Profile

    • evan austin says:

      Great! i love that the insight worked for you. As i mentioned in the article, i learned a lot from creating this post, so even if nobody else ever saw it, even that initial mind map revealed a lot to me.

      i’m so glad you and others mentioned other activities that are diverse means to that meditative end…it doesn’t have to be sitting with eyes closed and candles lit! My list now reads
      1. naked meditation
      2. go for a run, with clothes on
      3. mop the floors, with or without clothes

      :)

  10. Pingback: Creative Showcase from Jobs4Creatives

  11. Clare Price says:

    I love mind maps! I also appreciate the reminder that creativity is as much about the body as the mind. Get your body’s needs met! Meditation is one great way and i also find that a good, hard mroning worksout can really impact my creativity for the day. Thanks Evan.

    • evan austin says:

      Me too, now! i think i’m going to use mind maps much more often, after this experience (and seeing them recommended in so many of the other WordCarnival posts this month!). Good call on the workout…anything that gets blood movin’ through that brain is a win!

  12. Nina Sparks says:

    As I read this post I realized that while I’m usually burbling with ideas, the few times I’m not is because I’m afraid. Would you agree meditation is in fact an excellent way of accessing the right brain? i’m so glad you and others mentioned other activities that are diverse means to that meditative end…it doesn’t have to be sitting with eyes closed and candles lit!
    Nina Sparks recently posted..Cancer TipsMy Profile

  13. “an intrinsic desire to do my best” with the emphasis on “my”. Anyone can follow along in someone else’s footsteps, but to do “my” best means being creative.
    David Leonhardt recently posted..Reputation Management: How Suze Orman Jeopardized HersMy Profile

    • evan says:

      David, thanks for your comment! i chose the i/me/my framing pretty carefully, and you’ve grabbed a subtle but powerful insight out of it.

  14. Poppy says:

    Your right about your body distracting you, it needs to be fed, watered and ready to go…. however, there is an occasion when i have been rushing to finish something as i was hungry and had to get to lunch but when I came back and looked at what I had knocked together in haste that I was really impressed with my work, I sometimes dont even really remeber doing it under such circumstances….. Its strange how the mind can work!

    Great post!
    Poppy recently posted..New driver insuranceMy Profile

  15. Cornelia Farmer says:

    Good call on the workout…anything that gets blood movin’ through that brain is a win! An aspect of meditating is the foreshortening of time.
    Cornelia Farmer recently posted..Many MopsMy Profile

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