Ever sat in front of a blank page and tried to think of a brilliant opening line? Or stared at an empty canvas wishing for a vision of a masterpiece to appear in your mind’s eye? Or my personal favorite: ever picked up an instrument and waited to hear a chord progression or melody that would last a lifetime?
We all know how daunting those moments can be and in many instances, the desired outcome always seems to be far out of reach. We begin writing and before we can even finish our first attempt at our first sentence, our ruthless inner critic is killing any semblance of a creative buzz with negative feedback. We begin to move our brush and put paint to the canvas and within a few strokes, we’re already over-analyzing our choices and second-guessing ourselves. We play or sing a few notes and decide it doesn’t sound great or if it does, that it must be something we’ve already heard before.
Like clockwork, every time we step up to create, we cut off our own legs with criticism and self-doubt. And so we’re doomed to fail before we’re even a few steps out of the gate.
Why does this happen?
The truth is that creating can be scary. And rightly so – the creative process has remained a mystery for as long as humans have endeavored to make art and to pull from thin air that which previously did not exist. As such, the blank page, the empty canvas, the camera, the stage, the podium, the room full of people – all represent the vast unknown and our brave attempts to venture there naturally stir up our inner worlds from the butterflies in our chests to the demons in our minds.
Thanks to the work of amazing artists and teachers such as Julia Cameron and Steven Pressfield, the psychology of self expression and what it takes to be creatively liberated and vibrant have been illuminated. Both Cameron and Pressfield have shed considerable light on the path to becoming a self-loving, vibrant artist and a true pro.
As an artist and songwriter with a passion for personal growth, since I began playing music, I have been extremely interested in the creative process. Given that I got in the music game later on in my life, I decided right away that I was going to study the art of making art, while also practicing my crafts to give myself a creative advantage. The Artist’s Way and Turning Pro were life changing for me and their teachings are indispensable to anyone on the creative path.
But there’s more…
After ten years of living and breathing creativity and self-expression, I recently discovered something that has been BLOWING MY MIND! Literally.
It was last summer and I’d just re-discovered my love of playing frisbee. Within a few weeks of picking up a new shiny disc, I was hooked and I couldn’t get enough. Luckily, one of my closest friends in Toronto and partners in musical crime, Brian MacMillan, was also a frisbee fan and so we’d have regular sessions of tossing the fris back and forth and then jamming on musical ideas. I began to notice that after a good frisbee session, our creative juices seemed to flow with ease.
Not long after that, I got tickets to see a music documentary about one of my biggest early musical influences and favorite artists of all time, Bob Marley. I’d seen lots of footage of Bob’s life and career, but there was one tidbit in the film that I’d never viewed before. It was mentioned that Bob used to LOVE playing soccer and that he’d often go “lively up himself” with an intense game of footy before heading into the studio to write.
At this point, I started to put the pieces together and then a few months later, the insight that had been brewing completely crystallized. I was at Marie Forleo’s amazing RHH Live event and I heard my broheim, Josh Pais, give a talk on creative invincibility. Josh is a badass actor and teaches a rad course on the subject called Committed Impulse.
Josh explained that oftentimes, the reason we freeze when we set out to express ourselves is because we’re “trying” to create something of epic proportions and we’re approaching our task in a very “heady” way. “Whenever you step up and put your ass on the line,” he explained, “the default voice in your head is always going to tell you something along the lines of ‘YOU SUCK!’” Josh also shared some of his most effective practical tools for remaining present in order to short-circuit this mental sabotage that is so common.
And that’s when it all hit me like a ton of bricks:
The key to creative freedom is to get OUT of our heads! It sounds so obvious and simple, but I got it on a whole other level in that moment and it’s been a game changer ever since. That’s why Bob used to play soccer before writing. That’s what was happening to Brian and me after our Frisbee sessions. When I play Frisbee, I get lost in it. I’m in my body and the movement gets my creative juices stirring. More importantly, I’m present and out of my head, which makes it possible for me to create from my heart and soul.
It didn’t take long before the list of examples attesting to this grew substantially. I found out Mozart was obsessed with billiards and would often compose on the billiard table, rolling the balls in geometric patterns while working. Jack Johnson and Eddie Vedder surf before crafting their songs. Michael Franti does yoga. Katy Perry gets in the flow by spinning and working out. There’s no coincidence here and the same pattern can be seen in the countless painters, playwrights and authors who listen to music and get a little groove going before they make art, or dancers who get their creative ju ju up by watching films and live theater.
True art, the kind that touches and moves people, the kind that is transcendent and that lasts a lifetime, comes from the heart and soul, not the mind. To experience infinite creativity and unbounded self-expression, to bring forth something magical and authentic, the simple secret is to get out of your head and into your body, into this moment, where you are most connected to your heart and your soul.
What’s an activity you can use to get out of your head and give your creativity a boost? What’s your secret weapon gonna be?
May the force be with you,
Published by The Daily Love (April 21st, 2013)