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David Chislett

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

But How?

A few people reacted to my last post, Just Be Creative (read it by clicking this) by saying, “Well OK, that sounds fine, but how? If you’ve been doing everything else but being creative your entire adult life, how do you get going?”

The biggest hurdle to this is being an adult. As an adult we are no longer used to not being able to do things. We have finished school, we have degrees, we have experience, much of which is transferable from one field of endeavour to another.

But making creative works is more like sport than business or work. Being creative requires specific ‘muscles’ that need to work unthinkingly and precisely to deliver the results of our adult expectation. Unfortunately, due to our neglect of these muscles, mostly what you will at first produce is most likely to not be very good to your adult expectation. This is when most adults go, “See? I am not creative.”

This response hides a profound and hidden arrogance. What this response claims is that, if I had talent I would immediately produce good, worthy, financially viable creative works. Because I am an adult, I am a professional, I have experience.” This is tantamount to walking onto a football field as a 35 or 40 year old and expecting to be able to play for your national side. It is fundamentally unrealistic. But as adults this is how we react to our own creative endeavours.

It is true that some of your adulthood WILL be helpful in this push. Ones experience, wisdom, observation and flexibility will help you grow faster than if you were a child. But you are still going to start at a level below that which you might expect. Accept this firstly.

Accepting this means that one has to put in the time to ‘get fit.’ Most artists express themselves without seeming effort when they write, paint, draw or play music. This may be because they are naturally gifted. But it is also because their creative muscles are well trained. They have been doing this for years. Their motor muscles can complete these tasks without thought while the mind is engaged with higher concepts.

To get to this place of unthinking muscle control, you need to put in hours of practice. Like golf pro working on their swing. This means a daily ritual of writing, drawing, singing, playing an instrument or what have you. Only after you have done this for more than 2 years can you say whether you are actually capable of being creative or not. You need to acquire the gross physical skills to unleash your creativity effectively.

During this time you need to be kind to yourself. You need to switch off that very adult expectation and the judgements and criticisms that come with it. You need to remind yourself that you are doing this not for the results, but for the joy of the thing itself. Most importantly, that by doing so you are releasing a part of yourself from its cage and becoming more you every time you improve these skills. You are changing the world, one small step at a time, every single day.

It will be very hard to acquire these skills if your sole motivation is financial. It takes time, there is no fast return. It is better if you are doing it for love of the craft, the thing itself. Then the financial rewards do not matter and they should not. A fulfilled life is better than a wealthy one. You can never lose fulfilment.

Make this creative discipline your every day routine. Let it be your meditation, your outlet, your dirty little secret, your own private intimacy with the world around you. Do not dread it nor put it off. Embrace it. Let yourself get better. Don’t freak out on the days when you don’t. It’s not a continuous upward graph. But above all else, most of all, just do it. I know, I hate the fact that they use that as their slogan. But it is a universal truism: JUST DO IT.

Read Just Be Creative here


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