Quarter Article Club: The ebb and flow of creativity
Words, ideas and questions for the brain and the soul.
Article club 1: Creativity. A troublesome word when 6 weeks have passed and I’m yet to publish anything. The theme of the past two months has been consumption, a little of the cheese variety but mostly of the knowledge kind.
Every time a few hours have become available, I find myself on my couch opting for a book or listening to a podcast. At first, the stress of not writing was seeping into my brain. The word should often thought. It took some reflection and self-compassion to realise that hey, sometimes our creativity ebbs and flows. Not to mention I wasn’t sticking to a writing practise.
In the meantime, the voices and words of many other intelligent and giving people around me permeate my mind. Re-filling my brain with juicy knowledge and stories allows an undercurrent of slow thought to sit, waiting for the next burst of motivation. This is a frowned upon approach in some cases, as I’ve since discovered thanks to Nick Cave’s article below - but an approach that is fine for me, for now. And that’s all we can do.
A natural ebb and flow in the creative appetite is normal, whether it's in your day job or personal hobbies. It’s all part of the process. What we could do in times like these is employ a kindness towards ourself, to listen in to what we need and feed the soul with juicy inspiration, interesting ideas and let the tender hands of creators guide you.
Nick Cave has been one of those storytellers that makes me feel instantly at home when coming back to his work. Nick’s career, born from writing spans song, books, poems and visual art and now he’s taken to answering letters online. In September he published The Red Hand Files, answering letters from his fans sharing his insight, pain and in the same way he always has; using carefully crafted words to paint pictures. Nick shares that, like most of us mere mortals, he must sit at his desk waiting for the words to fall onto the page.
‘The creative impulse is simply the strategy used to catch ideas. Ideas are everywhere and forever available, provided you are prepared to accept them. I have rarely sat down at my desk with something to say, other than I am ready. The sitting comes first, turning up with a certain alertness to possibility.’
Initially clicking on this headline, the words coaxing creativity back had me excited and primed to receive strategies from one of the best on how to tap back into those creative muscles. What I found was a simple answer, one we’ve heard a thousand times over but can so easily be forgotten.
The sitting comes first. Make the time to sit, and the rest shall come.
This short meditation from one of my favourite knowledge workers Jocelyn K Glei made me tear up as I was dawdling to Gate 42, head already in the clouds on my way to see my longest friend in Sydney. Jocelyn asks, who are you without your ‘doing’. For someone like myself who is always doing, ticking, planning, it challenged the idea of using productivity and outputs to define who you are. Jocelyn introduced the idea of applying tender discipline to yourself whilst finding parts of your life you can allow to just ‘be’. From this, I’ve decided that learning to relax with yourself and appreciate doing certain things, without needing every action to be working towards a goal, is worth the effort.
Jocelyn’s podcast Hurry Slowly, focuses on how to be more productive, creative and resilient by slowing down. Hurry Slowly has been one of the top podcasts of the year and her wise words on messy work, attention, slow-motion multi tasking, our relationship with our phones and how we manage our day-to-day have been the perfect audio companion for a year of ideas, creating and slowing down.
It’s common knowledge that Swedish popstar Robyn’s song Dancing On My Own has always been an anthem of freedom. It reminds me of sweet summer air filled with neighbouring jasmine, light and sparkly young hands twirling belonging to women I love. Robyn’s long-awaited comeback had produced new songs that I can feel will hold just as strong memories over this upcoming summer.
What wasn’t as common knowledge is the deep personal growth and sheer volume of emotional work Robyn has put into not only her work, but herself in order to get to a place to produce a new album of Honey’s calibre. My favourite song, Honey, took Robyn over 6 months to work and finesse after a long battle with depression. The thought that allowed her to dive so deeply into her own creative vision, into a single song for months on end? “Realising that everyone’s just winging it.”