On Creativity: Left-Brained or Right-Brained, You Can
If two years ago we met, and you asked what my strengths were, I would never mention creativity. Not only that, I’d been in job interviews where I admitted creativity to be my weakness. Nowadays, I write thousands of words every day. In the past 4 months alone, my writing has reached almost 10,000 readers from all over the world. More than that, to engage in creative process every day has brought me enormous joy and fulfillment.
Writing has helped me to be sharper, more intuitive, present, courageous, and happy. I believe this is what any creative pursuit can do to us - maybe not the next Picasso, but definitely a more fulfilled human being.
Therefore, in this article I want to challenge some conventional perspectives about creativity, and invite you to begin your own creative journey in 2015. Whether it is singing, dancing, writing, starting a project, or creating a new business.
Enjoy this New Year gift.
Creativity is not just nature, creativity is nurture.
Assume that you have been always fascinated by painting, now I tell you to sit down and draw me a cat. I bet what will happen is: you will nervously sketch some lines on papers; you will probably look at it and goes “What is this crap? This isn’t a cat. This is a potato!”; then you will confess that you are hopelessly left-brained, and tell yourself to quit drawing altogether and go sell insurance instead.
Do you see what just happened? Many of us self-impose limit by repeating this story in our head: “I’m a left brain person.” This is self-fulfilling prophecy. When you think you are bad at drawing, you will not draw, thus not become better at it – this then reinforce your initial belief. You will become one of these people who shake their heads when someone ask if they’re taking up any creative hobby.
“I like ___(fill in the blank) but I’m not good at it.”
Let’s fix that. You was given at birth a brain with both left and right hemispheres. You has the right to experience the sheer joy of creating. You can learn how to access the right side of your brain. This brings me to the second point.
Creativity isn’t just an attribute. Creativity is a place you enter.
Most of us consider creativity a quality we either have or don’t have. I’d argue with that (and science would too). I’ve experienced and learned that creativity is a state that I can put myself in. Like a room, I can enter it if I have the key. The problem is that most of us has no idea that such room exists, or how to open it.
Imagine this: you sit down and create a power point presentation. You want to make it very creative and cool; so, with loads of expectations, you sit down – if you ever sit down at all. You write a sentence, look at it, think that it is crap and delete it. You write another one, it is still crap, deleted! Your phone beeps, there is new notification from your Close Friend on Facebook. You check quickly and resume the work. This time, you put together some shapes and lines for a different layout, that doesn’t look cool, deleted!. After 10 minutes, you conclude that you are not creative and better stick to the normal format everyone is using.
I will tell you now what is not the key of the creative room: distraction; judgment, especially self-judgment; perfectionism. You need self-love, presence, focus. You need to aim for quantity, and allow yourself to create the even worst junk in the world. That’s how you open the door. And the creative force will flow through you.
This doesn’t mean that you churn out only garbage - which leads to the third point.
Be a child when you create; Be a samurai when you edit.
This is important. This is the best advice on creativity I’ve ever received. Most of us, being critical and perfectionist, assume both roles in the process.
Creativity is messy. Once you are in that creative room, you need to have fun. You need to be wild and fearless. You need to reach deep and pull out whatever that is most original of you. There is no rule. Create, create a lot, junks or not. This is how to can pass through the superficial level of consciousness and reach something truly you. Shove a lot of dirt up and there will be gold. It is inevitable, you cannot fail.
And when you feel that if going more would mean going too far, stop. Walk out from the creative room and walk in the editorial room. Now be a samurai. Be mindful of your audience or your goal. Sharp blades, cold head; remove the dirt, polish the goal. However, don’t cut your stomach or chop off your head in the process, be a self-loved samurai.
There will be a gap between your vision and your creation. This is why we need practice. Love the dirt, love the gold, love the process, love your creation. Most of all, love yourself. It is love that keeps you going until you achieve mastery. Be it 5 years, 10 years or a lifetime. The longer the better, when you do what you love.
Sometimes people ask me why I write. I have many reasons for it. But the most legitimate reason is that I love to write. The creative energy flows through me to the page, and makes me more alive than ever.
It’s 6:50PM on 31 Dec 2014. I’m in my room – which was rearranged 4 months ago to be half bed room and half writing room. I’m next to 2 cups of coffee, 2 cups of tea, 3 bottles of water; all of them are empty. I’m writing these words to you. I want to remember this moment. Because there will be no moment like this. And because in this moment, I feel infinite.
May your 2015 be full of love and courage. I hope you hug your father, kiss the man or the woman you love, read some fine books and create something of your own – a song, a painting or a business. I hope you live the way only you can.
With good love,