Creativity and artistry are fascinating manifestations of where we notice holes in our idea of how the universe works. Whether it’s political theatre, a protest song, an eco-movie like Wall-E, or a painting of Gurnica, artists are the people who see past the theatre of belief to the underlying truth. In psychology or propaganda or politics they can see some glimmer of the subtle influences at work. Their artworks are expositions of their discoveries.
This is why artists really don’t have to worry about creative block. Because we’re not building these pieces out of nothing. It’s more like we’re excavating the idea we have stumbled upon. Maybe it’s an idea others have had before and we are retelling it, or maybe it is a new idea that will change the discourse of humanity. But it is not something our ego needs to be invested in. We are not creating beauty, we are exposing truth. (And yes, that truth can include the fact that sometimes frivolous beauty has its place.)
So the way to be creative is to carefully sift through every idea you can. Look at anything that in any way relates to your premise through some form of proximity, be that direct, chronological, or even metaphorical. Turn the idea over in your own imagination. Look for surprising things. Find ways to show us the magic of sharing in your discovery. That is what art is. Remove everything that is not the art and then assemble it in a logical structure that can be understood by others, even if the sensation is more feeling than concept. Connect people by exposing some of their barriers as false and ephemeral.
When you’re looking for ideas you don’t get snobby about where they come from. So throw every crazy idea you can at something and get a different part of your brain involved. And then when you feel like you’ve got it by the tail, start digging around where the central idea is buried. Eventually you’ll expose enough that the art will begin to take on shape and meaning to outside viewers. They will see it as your creation. You will see is as: you removed all the extraneous material from view and you thereby allowed creation itself to be visible. But that is what you do as an artist. You expose truths. You are philosophers. Without you, the world would never have moved forward.
Take great pride in your profession. There is a reason that you are the first people that despotic leaders lock up. You are dangerous with your original ideas. So don’t ever feel you are insignificant in this world. To the contrary, creativity is the only reason that mankind has moved forward at all. That’s about as important as it gets.
When you’re young you want first drafts to be as good as your hero’s work. That’s nuts. What you can’t see is that your heroes still do multiple drafts that you will never know existed. Those could be called failures. Or they could be called how you find your work. So relax. Throw anything at it. Follow impulses. See where they lead. You can always start again. But don’t try to create perfect work. You’ll drive yourself insane. Instead, try to love creating your work as much as possible. It doesn’t have to be happy work—it can be tragic. But it nevertheless needs to be passionate.
Be bold with your art and your choices. Let your creativity expand your life and our world. We welcome your input. Much love.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.