My husband, a neuroscientist, told me that few people realize that creativity requires dedication. It may not be easy to break through the mode of passive consumers. But once we step into the river of creative flow, we’d realize that nothing can substitute for our own creativity.
As an artist and writer, I have many rituals and habits to nurture my creativity: I cook, exercise, walk in nature, soak in an outdoor hot tub, walk the labyrinth, visit museums, meet good friends for coffee… Unplugging is essential. Through solitude and companions, we find the essence of creativity and live life in its purest form: creation.
Reading helps me unleash my creativity too. For me, reading is a dialogue as opposed to a monologue or an escape. I’d often read a couple of chapters from good-read, and then start writing on my own. This process feels like a virtual dialogue between myself and other wise souls, transcending space and time.
Without my virtual dialogues, reading can stay on an intellectual level for me. Grand, abstract concepts may sound impressive, but they alone are insufficient for unleashing a creative, satisfying live. We must experience creativity first-hand by giving it a form, through pens, paint brushes, or movement. Penetrating a specific form—“to know the cold or the warm of the water like fish,” —is to reach to the heart of creativity.
Muses demand sacrifices. I used to spend my vacations traveling afar for escape. Now I often choose to paint or write at my home studio during those blessedly large chunks of time. Stephen Covey, who wrote The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, said, “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.” Sadly, many of us live through our lives without discovering what our bigger “yes” might be.
Above all, releasing creativity requires space and time. A crowded mind and schedule are the worst enemies of creativity.
It’s because of time that a grain of sand becomes a pearl, new wood acquires its mellowed sheen, and a seed sprouts into a full tree. In the nurturing womb of time, we discover our creative rhythm, which is like seasonal cycles. It can’t be forced or measured by manmade clocks, but it can found in perseverance. I-Ching says: “Perseverance brings favorable results to those who are firm and unyielding.”
Similar to time, a physical space is another womb for creativity. The space doesn’t need to be large: a desk next to the window, a corner of the attic or the basement. The important thing is to infuse your energy into that physical space. When you step in it, you naturally perform the role of creator-- whether you’re painting, dancing, or writing. I took over our living room as my art studio because it’s easy to access and costs nothing extra. I can easily evaluate my work or pick up the brush after work.
Creativity is life affirming. Embracing our creativity is to embrace our lives. In a Buddhist myth, immediately after Shakyamuni Buddha was born, he walked seven steps and declared, “On heaven above and earth below, I am the One.” This story affirms our inherent wholesome nature, contrary to popular believe of our inherent sins. Creativity is a part of our wholesome nature. We can do better than outsourcing it entirely.