“CREATIVITY CANNOT BE FORCED”
I was in psychology class a few days ago and we were going around saying the worst things about our break. An art student raised her hand, she said to the class, “the worst thing about my break was that I turned in a project 4 months late.” she then went on to say “because you can’t force it.”
My psychology teacher kind of just went, “yeah…” and we moved on, but myself—having read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield—was taken aback at the absurdity of this statement.
In the book stated above, the creative process is laid out in such a way that reveals that “creative blocks” are complete bullshit excuses caused by our lazy monkey brains.
It goes like this:
Resistance/Monkey Mind: “I don’t feel like creating today, let’s take a day off.”
Higher self: *laughs at monkey mind “Quiet down. Let’s get the muse flowing.”
Resistance/Monkey Mind: “But we are tired, we already worked today, we aren’t even inspired!”
Higher self: *Recognizing it’s just resistance trying to stop creation, as it’s a force with no goal but to stop creation: “Time to sit down and begin despite all the lies you like to tell me.”
Basically, the process of creation, The War of Art, is a process in which resistance and the higher self continuously fight over one thing- beginning the act of creation.
What is required to conquer this resistance is a simple mindset shift- inspiration is not something outside of our control.
Random, spontaneous bouts of inspiration may come to us, but due to the fact that inspiration is perishable, we cannot rely on this spontaneity. We must take responsibility into our own hands to create inspiration. Every day, we must meet the conditions required to begin the process of inspiration, of flow.
We must have the strength to tell resistance to shut its mouth and begin.
We need to have the ability to brute force through this negative inner voice, because without this discipline, we will never create anything substantial.
Creativity Can be Forced Through Starting
The process of creativity is truly begun when one begins to create. The mind must be drained of self-doubt with a simple act of telling resistance to “fuck off.” Then, the next step is to sit down, to stand up, to open the laptop, to turn on the camera, to write that script, to open that PSD file, to brainstorm, to turn on the microphone. You must START the process of creativity, then the muse of creativity will guide you along.
Creativity begins with effort.
It is true that creativity can’t necessarily be forced, but the conditions that are required to cultivate creativity CAN be forced.
The truth is, you’re not creative because you’re lazy. Admit it. You just don’t have enough brainpower to get out of your monkey mind; and therefore, tell the monkey mind to “fuck off.”
Shutting the door on resistance is a skill, and that skill must be leveled up. Every day, the only thing you can do to start creating is to start creating despite the massive mental fog in your way. Once you start, once you push through the initial phase where you feel slow and uncreative, you will notice magic beginning to happen. What happens is, once you climb up the steep part of the mountain, to begin creating, you reach the top, where you no longer have to climb. You enter an effortless, magical flow of creativity, almost as a muse has possessed your mind and blessed it with the insights to create.
Again, this is a skill, one that must be leveled up. In order to reach bigger and greater flow states, you must practice breaking through resistance. You must learn to love and treat the magical flow as a friend. Get to know it. Get to know resistance too, but just politely (or impolitely) tell it to move aside each day. As you go through this process, you will move past resistance more and more until the amount of resistance in your way is minimal.
Let’s take the example of a writer in the process of conquering resistance.
The writer wakes up with resistance in mind. He understands that resistance will face him today, and he will do his best to conquer it. He completes his morning routine of meditation, gratitude journaling and a cup of chai tea. The thoughts begin to pour in. “You’re not good enough” “let’s take a day off” “Just quit this writing thing” The writer laughs in the face of these thoughts as he recognizes it as resistance, a familiar foe. He opens up his document and starts to type. The voice gets stronger, he messes up some words, his concision is off, but again, he pushed the self-doubt to the side. The writer keeps writing, and it all starts to click again. He is effortlessly typing every word, from mind to keyboard, he is like a stream of insight pouring into the document. The writer now smiles, because this is also familiar. This is the magical flow, the deep work, the muse, the friend who he relies upon to write what he loves to write. He writes for a few hours until he recognizes it’s a good time to stop and start again the next day. He finishes his day with healthy habits and routines to optimize his health and to win the battle against resistance the next day. As the writer falls asleep, he understands that he will face the enemy once again when he rises in the morning. And the next day, he understands that he will face it again. The writer goes on to create masterpieces due to his awareness, recognition, and constant strategic victory against resistance.
Visualize your greatest work. Your dream project, your creative vision that will change the world. For me, this could be a fantastic photoshop manipulation, or a 300-page book chock full of fresh insights, or a YouTube video that will change millions of lives.
Now what I want you to do is to visualize the amount of time it will take to create this masterpiece.
Inspiration is perishable, and if you rely on spontaneous inspiration, this masterpiece will never be created, and its impact on the world will never occur.
You must commit to creating inspiration.
To create inspiration, you must, like the writer, sit down every day and conquer resistance. You must begin, and you must work deeply without distraction.
You must trust in the principle to “do the hard work, especially when you don’t feel like it.”
Sit down and begin to create every single day. Fight through the mud. Conquer resistance. The magical flow will appear. It will possess your mind. Let it flow through you, let creation occur. Let the muse share her most beautiful work through you. Once she is done, (usually 1-5 hours of creativity) rest, and recharge.
Create the conditions to create creativity every day. If you’re a writer, begin writing, and don’t stop until you’ve been in the flow for at least an hour.
Read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield for a deeper exploration of this topic.
Stop starting, start finishing. Thanks for reading,
2 thoughts on “The Biggest Lie Ever Told to Creative People”
I love Pressfield’s work too, and as an ex-journalist, I can safely say that there’s no such thing as writer’s block. Sure, the other school of thought will be barging through my door any minute to yell at me how the creative mindset is sacred, but like you said, it can be forced (or coaxed out, if we want a better way of putting it). Anyway, thanks for this post!
Thanks for the comment! I highly agree. I think people use the idea that creativity cannot be forced as an excuse to not go out and achieve their goals because they’re actually afraid of success deep down. Cool to hear your thoughts on this as an ex-journalist!