Creativity is like a river. And like a river, at certain times of the year its flow will be strong and at other times of the year its flow will be weak. To maximize the effectiveness of this river you need to realize its daily, if not hourly, cycles and take advantage of it when its flow is strong and also when it’s weak.
My awareness of this naturalness of creativity arose when I was reading an article a couple months back on Ze Frank in which he discussed his own creative process.
What’s your creative process look like, with that in mind?
I have a general workflow, which is, if I have an idea I try to execute it as quickly and faithfully as possible. That means that if I have a number of ideas all at once, I’m gonna bundle them together. I don’t like sitting on an idea and squeezing it till every little last drop comes out. I’d rather get it out there and move on to the next thing. I don’t want to get too philosophical, but in a sense you’re given this gift, this sort of creative force in you, and I think everyone has it, and it’s completely unique to you. And you as a person have a little bit of a responsibility as its shepherd, if you choose to incorporate that into your life. The other thing I learned is it’s really good to be undeniable. So if you want to get into the creative world, you have to just keep flogging away even when nobody’s paying attention. Because then when somebody finally does pay attention, it’s certainly a lot more interesting when you have a ton of stuff to show.
Two natural aspects of creativity he talks about in the paragraph above are the importance of flow and the awareness of blockages. In effect, when your creativity is flowing, you need to take advantage of it and reap its rewards as quickly as possible while its flowing because it won’t last that long before it subsides to regenerate itself. In addition, if you ignore this flow of creativity within you, especially when it feels like it is flowing, it will feel like a river hitting a dam, building up under pressure until it eventually overflows or bursts the dam itself. I’ve noticed both aspects of this within my own life.
In terms of blockages and buildup, I’ve noticed in the past that if I don’t try to release my creative energy or tension in a constructive way, eventually it builds up until I feel like I’m going to explode (which in turns makes me grumpy and aggravated). To relate to this, imagine moments of your life where you’ve felt like you’ve wanted to communicate something but didn’t feel like you had to words to express what you’ve felt. This in a sense is creative tension within you building up and wanting to be released. It is for this very reason that I have both a personal journal as well as a public journal. My personal journal allows me to communicate things to myself that only I can fully understand thus allowing me to release my creative tension and energy on a daily basis.
In terms of flow, I’ve recently noticed the amazing power of maximizing this creativity in the moment and to its fullest potential. Like Ze Frank said, when creative inspiration strikes, I try to utilize it and savour every last ounce of it before it fades, so as to create something sustainable with it before it disappears. The hard part though is that inspiration often strikes at unexpected times. Thus tapping into this energy requires you be ready for it when it strikes. Things like keeping a notebook with you are critical because trying to remember what you were thinking and more importantly feeling is extremely difficult to do, especially if you get distracted by other aspects of your life.
What I’m finding interesting though is that after releasing this creative energy and capturing it down in some form, it almost becomes like latent creative energy that I can tap into again to re-energize myself and open up that creative valve again. I find it’s never as powerful as an “original flow” though but it still allows me to continue a creative flow that I’ve started early. That’s why it’s always best to maximize that original flow of creativity in the moment it occurs though. If you can delay other aspects of your daily life at that moment and constructively utilize that creativity, you’ll find yourself far more productive. It’s one reason why I find getting up earlier in the mornings to be more effective for me because it allows me to creatively release and record so much of this energy before my day even begins that I feel far more positive and productive for the rest of my day.
Do what works best for you though. For example, besides my personal journal, I also tap my creative energy into visual form using iPad apps like Paper and Inkpad. But in the spur of the moment, even finding a scrap of paper to tap your thoughts into can be a boon to you, thus allowing you to release that creative flow later when you’re ready to do so.