Via The Good Men Project: How to get Creative When Your Juices are Dry as Dust
You were born creative.
You are an explorer, adventurer, dreamer, and poet. A visionary, musician and a scientist with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. You are a maker, a fixer, and a learner – just think of your energy and zest for life in your first few years. The burning of your desire for knowledge, your boundless energy, and emotion, the speed with which you learned a language and walking and how you literally soaked up every sensation, explored every nuance and looked to the stars in wonder.
Then, you went to school.
Slowly and methodically you were taught to conform. You learned on somebody else’s terms and, with a dawning realisation that what you created didn’t fit the mould, you gradually accepted that your self-expression wasn’t good enough. In a schooling system that was designed to produce unquestioning, authority-fearing, identical droids, blue collar workers, worker ants, production line people for whom thinking out of the box is wearing a brightly coloured tie – your creative soul was crushed.
You came to tell yourself that you “couldn’t draw a straight line”, that you are “tone deaf”, and that you aren’t creative or don’t have any imagination. In an act of self-preservation, you denied your creative soul.
“We spend our childhoods being taught the artificial skill of passing exams. We learn to give teachers what they expect. By the time we get into an industry, we have been conditioned to conform. We spend our days in meetings and talk about “thinking outside the box”. But rarely do we step outside it.” – Tham Khai Meng, co-chairman and worldwide chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather in the Guardian
Yet, deep inside, the creative you is screaming to be let out. Despite the fact that you keep slamming the door shut in fear of failure and ridicule, tapping into the childlike well of creativity is one of the most fundamental keys to long term happiness and contentment. Forget the idea of the tortured soul, the starving artist for a moment – there’s scientific proof that being creative (in whatever form that might take) makes us happier in the moment and can lead to more long term contentment in life. There’s even studies that prove that women are more attracted to men who are creative even if they aren’t particularly physically attractive!
But, it’s really hard, particularly as a man, to tap into your creativeness if you feel it is long gone. So, where do you start?
Get Over Yourself, Rambo
Firstly, being creative doesn’t mean that you can’t still be masculine. You don’t have to start doing crochet, or crying at poetry for example. Mending cars, using your hands, building things, fixing things and making things are all activities that will fulfil your inner creative. You might make models, build engines, play electric guitar, service your car or start gardening. Anything that means using your hands, creatively problem solving, being practical or making, mending or doing will serve a similar purpose.
Focus on the process, not the end result.
The actual process of “doing” and being creative is far more valuable than the end result. Men tend to be results-driven and like to be able to achieve quantifiable results. However, try to forget all this and focus on the here and now, the actual process of creation and the experience and sensation of doing.
It doesn’t matter how “good” your painting is, or how realistic your model is. The important thing is that you enjoy and benefit from the process of creating it. Try not to compare yourself with what others are doing, other people’s creative work can be a great inspiration but also, particularly today as we are bombarded with images of “perfect” outcomes and scenarios, it’s easy to become discouraged.
The only thing that matters is your creative journey and that you are making progress in yourself – compare yourself to the day before and look for progress in your personal journey – it’s the only thing that really matters.
It’s the process that counts – not the end result. This can be quite a mindshift but, once achieved, it’s completely liberating.
Get in the zone.
You need to find your creative “thing”. The creative process where you lose yourself, where time stands still, where you wish you could do it all day and you feel guilty for devoting so much of your time to it. This state is called “flow” and it’s one of the happiest and most fulfilling conditions the human brain can be in.
Interestingly, being “in flow’ or in the zone is generally when we are in a state where we are actively thinking, problem-solving, creating and manipulating data rather than relaxing and passively just absorbing information. You may well feel elation and satisfaction whilst in the state of flow but also, if you attain this state on a regular basis, it will help lead to long-term benefits in your thinking skills as well as a real sense of self-identity, self-value and deeper contentment with your life.
Finding your flow activity can help you find your true identity. Not as the father, the worker, the boss or the partner but the real you, the heart and soul of your being. It’s almost like finding out what you were really designed to do. If you know this, you have true contentment in knowing yourself and who you really are.
Play time – When did life get so damned serious?
Often, we are so busy putting pressure on ourselves to breadwinners, bosses, fathers, lovers, workers and all round leaders of the herd that we feel guilty about spending any time or resources actually looking after our own wellbeing. Maybe it feels like weakness to need time, to need care and to need nurture. It’s certainly not traditionally masculine anyway and putting aside any time for yourself to be creative might well feel like self indulgence and luxury.
However, creative time is mentally nourishing and vital to our balance and wellbeing. Think of it as play time, time for your brain to rejuvenate and time for you to reconnect with your purpose and who you really are. If you think of it in these terms then allowing yourself a break and being creative is an investment in your wellbeing. Let’s face it, you’re no use to anyone as a bored, burned out shell devoid of joy and imagination.
Get into the habit.
We’ve become a society of consumers rather than creators. Just think of the amount of passive TV watching, social media browsing, music consuming, film watching, game playing and media consuming we do during an average day. You need to break this habit and become a creator, a do – er, and a maker and in order to do this it needs to become a habit. Apparently, it’s possible to create an fairly much unbreakable habit in 66 days which means regularly scheduling creative time into your calendar.
Now, this is obviously easier said than done, particularly if your creative muse happens to be say stone masonry or welding. But, wherever possible several shorter “doses” of creativity a week will be better than doing one great weekend binge and you will see more benefit from regular creative activity.
It’s important that you schedule time, just as you would for a meeting or other commitment and that the time is put on your calendar and adhered to. Think of it as investment time, time in the bank of self improvement and prioritise it.
You might find this really hard for a start and even not feel any real benefit for a while but this is a marathon and not a sprint and gradually the cumulative effect of spending time with your creative self will start to build.
Gradually your confidence will grow, you’ll feel more attuned to yourself, more content, have more of a sense of perspective, gain an inner calm and strength and you will find that the mental processes involved in being regularly creative will spill over into other areas of your life as well.
Remember to be kind to yourself. Don’t judge the quality of the final result but work hard on the quality of the experience. Find what really flips your creative switch and lose yourself in it, indulge in it and reap the benefits. It’s what you were born to do.