We learn about the importance of routines and rituals. We develop processes that give us the best chance of getting into the right mood. We censor our environment in the hopes of persuading the Muse to visit us. We use this tool instead of that one as we think it’ll make it easier to access a flow state.
When I search Amazon for books on creativity, I get almost 40,000 results. When I google “how to be more creative” I get 521,000,000 results. There’s titles like “3 Ways To Train Yourself to Be More Creative” (Fast Company), “25 Ways To Be More Creative” (Huffington Post), and “How To Be Creative When You’re Not Naturally Creative” (HubSpot Blog).
What the majority of these books and articles assume is that creativity is a peak state, a temporary state of mind, a sense of being that we have to ascend to. They assume that it is a psychological status that we can spend only a limited amount of time in, and that our ability to access it—and maintain immersion in it—is fragile and liable to disruption by the interruptions of real life.
But what if it wasn’t? What if, instead of creativity being a peak state, it was the base state for human beings?
After reading Keith Johnstone’s Impro and some books about Zen Buddhism, I’ve begun to ask questions like this. Why do we struggle to attain a creative state? What if dropping into it was as easy as giving yourself permission?
It’s kind of like the difference between going to the store to buy milk and opening the fridge to see that it’s already there. Creativity isn’t something we have to attain because we already have it. In fact, what all these ideas and strategies and techniques really do isn’t increase our creativity, they merely unlock what is already latent. They help to give us permission to be creative. It’s as if by submitting ourselves to morning routines and daily rituals we somehow lower the barriers which fence in our capacity for creation.
We can think of it in terms of struggle. If creativity is a peak state, we must struggle to attain it, to ascend to it. But if creativity is a base state, there need be no struggle. It’s effortless. We have to expend no extra energy to become creative and original. We just have to stop thinking and over-analysing that which comes effortlessly. We just have to stop searching frantically for that which we already possess.