In those long moments when we’re waiting for inspiration to strike, for something to emerge out of nothing, it’s worth remembering that we don’t have to create. If we’re sat, patiently poised, and nothing comes, we shouldn’t worry because we can derive.
Consider this passage from Alan Watt’s Still the Mind:
“...deep listening. Very few people ever really listen, because instead of receiving the sound, they make comments on it all the time. They are thinking about it, and so the sound is never fully heard. You just have to let it take over you completely, and then you get into the samadhi state of becoming it.”
Watts’ point is that we’re exquisite at commentating on the inputs we receive. Every sound, every sight, every taste, every smell, every touch; they all have an accompanying soundtrack. So rather than trying to turn off this commentary, why don’t we use it?
If we’re finding it difficult to create something from nothing, why don’t we try creating something from something? Instead of going from zero to one, why don’t we try going from one to one-point-five?
Try it. Next time you’re stuck, pull out a book, look at a picture, watch something, listen, and allow yourself—don’t force yourself—to respond. Read a passage and observe the reaction that naturally occurs. There will be one. Don’t censor it. Don’t push it away. Instead, embrace it and use it as the object of your creative energy. What can you do with it? What are the implications of that response? Where does it lead you and what does it take you away from?
If you consider this as a legitimate form of creativity it becomes impossible to be blocked. You can never have nothing to say, you can never have no material to sculpt and shape and experiment with. We all have this ongoing, incessant commentary playing in our heads, which means we all have a limitless supply of base material.
Formulated as a directive, it reads like this: If you can’t create, derive.