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You might have experienced a flow of creativity in the past. Ideas were popping. Creativity was flowing. And then zilch. Just like that the river’s run dry. Does this mean you pack your bags and fly toward a new career?
Nope. Not quite.
Like anything else, creativity has its ups and downs. Just because you’re soaring on creativity Cloud Nine doesn’t mean you won’t end up in a valley somewhere. Similarly if you’re stuck in a creative rut, don’t give up just yet. You’ll eventually get back to the mountains.
The thing is we only ever hear about the triumph, the success stories, the grand accomplishments. We rarely hear about the failure, the surmounting challenges, being in the midst of defeat.
Most people want to glorify the former and forget about the latter. Either that or like labor, we forget about the pain it took to birth that beautiful baby.
In Jonah Lehrer’s new book Imagine: How Creativity Works he magically says the following. Yes I said magically. More on that later.
“Every creative journey begins with a problem. It starts with a feeling of frustration, the dull ache of not being able to find the answer. We have worked hard, but we’ve hit the wall…”
It’s a normal part of the journey. But as Lehrer points out. Here’s where the magic comes in.
“When we tell one another stories about creativity, we tend to leave out this phase of the creative process. We neglect to mention those days when we wanted to quit, when we believed that our problems were impossible to solve. Because such failures contradict the romantic version of events-there is nothing triumphant about a false start-we forget about them…Instead, we skip straight to the breakthroughs.”
The magical part is two-fold: 1) He reveals the truth no one likes to talk about-that all creative success involves failure. 2) It’s a natural step in the course of creativity.
The answer lies not in doing more work, forcing yourself to become creative or even giving up completely.
It’s in taking a break from finding out what’s next. It’s the unknown that holds your answer.
So the next time you feel frustrated and catch yourself in the midst of a difficult problem, don’t sweat it. The answers will come. Creativity will flow again.
Your biggest enemy toward your creativity isn’t outside yourself. It’s your own negative, critical thoughts and fears that hold you back.
When creativity stops, rest. And rest assure, the floodgates will eventually open again.