Tapping Into Your Creative Flow

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.

The Power of Belief

Belief is a powerful thing. It is one of the core aspects of my life that has changed it completely. The more that I believe in myself, the more that I find I can tackle larger and larger challenges that previously would have seemed insurmountable to me.

Like most of my life, my power of belief emerged playfully from my video game experiences online. While playing Counter-Strike, I curiously questioned what was possible within the game world by defining self-limits and seeing what I could achieve within those limits. My personal mantra for this is “Limit yourself to expand your possibilities.”

For example, I decided to consistently utilize the MP5 submachine gun so as to attain a mastery over it. For many within the game, the MP5 is a crap gun that has no penetration power. I, however, looked at its strengths (low cost, high stopping power) and maximized them to my advantage. At my peak, my mastery of the MP5 stunned many opponents as I had the capability of dropping them at long range with extreme accuracy, something that was normally reserved for an AK47.

The MP5 effectiveness was maximized at close range though so I continually practiced closing rapidly with an opponent. Again at my peak, I mastered the ability to use erratic maneuvers to out predict the targeting of many opponents. My favorite way of showing my effectiveness in this area was by closing with a sniper opponent who was continually firing me as I closed the distance with him and dropping him less than ten feet away.

The culmination of these abilities and the strength of my belief was in creating a maneuver which I named after my online character’s name, “Gentle Nova”. My goal wasn’t actually to drop an opponent but to “flow” and move through them so that I could hit their other teammates from behind after encircling the map. For this to work, it required a combination of techniques similar to jujutsu, whereby you’re using the opponents own firepower and crossfire to their disadvantage by “dancing” into the midst of them and through them.

Later in my life, I decided to take these same principles of belief and put them into practice within my work life. While doing freelance web design work utilizing the Squarespace web publishing system, I was severely frustrated by the lack of functionality of the system and continually blamed the company for its lack of vision. However, once I stopped blaming them and empowered myself into believing I could come up with a solution, it was as if walls starting dropping all around me and solutions starting revealing themselves almost overnight.

The greatest single use of belief in my life though was when I finally stopped looking at myself as being part of the problem (i.e. a victim of fate) and started looking at myself as part of the solution (i.e. a catalyst of change). You see, my entire life I had felt like I was out of place, an alien within a strange world. It wasn’t until I realized that in my youth I had felt normal and natural growing up within the countryside of Alberta that it dawned on me that I wasn’t the alien but the natural entity living within an unnatural societal system that sorely needed cultivating and balancing to bring it back to its roots of human nature.

All said and done, my advice to others in this area would be stop seeing yourself as a victim of fate, adrift on a chaotic sea with no sense of navigation or control. I realize this is extremely difficult to do within our world today especially with marketing and advertisements telling you that you aren’t a complete person unless you buy their product. You are naturally whole though. Everything you need for your journey is within you. Thus disregard the Sirens of Disempowerment and Distraction that continually call to you and believe in your self, your inner identity. Once you do, a momentum of belief and empowerment will build and emerge within your life like a great wave that you can ride upon.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Wikipedia