The Secrets of Extreme Creativity (How to Unblock and then Nurture your Creativity Whilst Keeping it Real).

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If you find yourself suffering from creative ‘blocks’, lacking creative motivation, or wanting to reawaken a slumbering creative drive then this article is for you.

Perhaps you’re frustrated because your creative work has become stale? Or maybe it hasn’t become…anything because it simply hasn’t even got started?

Maybe you’re starting to doubt yourself and wonder if you’ve ‘lost’ whatever creative talent you might have had? Or maybe you’re just starting to get bored of your own work because it’s all the ‘same old, same old’ and nothing new ever seems to emerges (just the same old themes and patterns with a little variation here and there)?

Don’t worry! This is totally normal and is just what happens when your RELATIONSHIP WITH YOURSELF has stagnated and starts to reflect itself back at you in your relationship with your creative work (because your work is an EXTENSION of the thoughts and beliefs you carried when you first set out making it).

If you have this problem then what you need to do is: 1) Reframe your views of ‘creativity’ itself and, 2) learn how to understand the mechanics of how your relationship with yourself affects what’s creatively possible for you in one moment to the next.

If you improve your relationship with yourself so that it’s more closely aligned with REALITY and then ‘tweak’ your perspective on creativity a little then you’ll probably be fine.

This article will help you to get a fresh perspective on what creativity is and how you can change your relationship with yourself to ensure that you don’t prevent yourself from accessing your own natural creative drive because of false assumptions or BS that you’ve picked up somewhere down the line.

If you can understand what’s said here and – more importantly – make changes to your life and ACT on what you read, then the quality and quantity of your creative output will quite likely increase because you will have removed the main obstacle to both: YOURSELF.

Here’s what you need to know:

Anybody can be creative

Perhaps the first thing that you need to know about creativity is that EVERYBODY is creative when they’re being REAL.

Creativity is the natural state of a real human being because it’s the state that we evolved over millions of years to help us solve problems and to handle limitations.

If you find yourself telling yourself that “I’m just not a creative person” or anything similar then you need to put a STOP to that right now and realise that this is a self-limiting belief that you’ve picked up from outside of yourself somewhere (probably because you’re being outcome-dependent because the work you’ve done in the past didn’t get whatever results your ego needed).

We are ALL creative because we’re all human (I assume if you’re reading this). The ‘part’ or side of yourself that might be telling you that you’re not creative is actually just a false idea that you have picked up and identified with because of your unresolved emotional ‘stuff’ (shame, guilt, and/or trauma almost always).

The first step to unblocking your creativity is to start reframing and embracing creativity as something that’s natural and refusing to pay attention to any thoughts you have that tell you that creativity is somehow ‘beyond’ whatever it is that you think you are.

If you can’t do that then you’re always going to have creative blocks because you’re blocking your ‘self’ from doing what it needs to do as part of your nature.

Creativity and growing real are inherently linked

In the language that I use on this site and in my books, GROWING REAL just means going through the process of removing some of your illusions about yourself, the world, and reality and developing a healthier relationship that is aligned with REALITY (not just your ideas or assumptions about it).

A lot of people out there tend to believe that ‘reality’ is somehow a ‘bad’ thing but actually uncovering and working with reality is one of the best things that can ever happen to you because it gives you a solid foundation to build your life on and to get better RESULTS (because at the end of the day the only thing that ‘works’ is reality and so if you don’t align with it you can’t get any results at all which just leads to friction, frustration, and then misery).

From this point of view, growing real (i.e. becoming a more authentic human being) and the creative process are inherently linked.

This is because – just as in life – in the creative process, you can’t get the results you want without getting out of your head (in terms of our assumptions, limiting beliefs, or distortions, etc.) and allowing something REAL to emerge as your ideas about your creative projects are refined in the furnace of creativity itself (the process of moving beyond ideas and actually doing the work).

Perhaps the most interesting thing in both cases – life and creative work – is that the main thing that stops us going with the process and allowing reality to take us where we need to go is our relationship with ourselves: in particular, our underlying emotional ‘stuff’ in the form of shame, guilt, and/or trauma.

When we have this unresolved emotional ‘stuff’ then we end up creating a FALSE relationship with ourselves so that we can try and distance ourselves from these emotions and to live without facing them. This might work as a short-term ‘solution’ but in the long-run it causes us to become further and further distanced from reality (and, thus, stop ourselves from getting the results that we want in life, creativity, or anywhere else).

The creative process, then, doesn’t just show us what reality is as we allow it to take us on a process of exploration; it also shows us who WE are.

If we’re not prepared to face ourselves and our emotional ‘stuff’ (and grow real) then we’ll be incapable of riding those creative waves all the way to shore in the form of whatever results our work is trying to bring us.

This is why we can say that growing real and creativity are inherently linked: if you’re not prepared to let your work show you your own blind spots or to help you work through your ‘stuff’ then you’ll always be creatively blocked.

The solution is to see your work as a testing ground for your own relationship with yourself and to be committed to learning about – and facing – the sides of yourself that your work may bring to the surface. This is your unconscious becoming conscious and taking you home. Go with it, not against it. You want to be REAL and your creative work is helping you get there (but only if you ‘let’ it).

Don’t block your natural drive to wholeness (this is creative synthesis)

The main difference between a REAL and UNREAL approach to life and creativity is that the real approach will always lead you towards WHOLENESS and the unreal approach will always lead you towards FRAGMENTATION.

The simplest way of understanding this is that ‘wholeness’ just means being involved in the process of moving towards CONNECTION in yourself, the world, and reality, whereas ‘fragmentation’ means moving towards DISCONNECTION or separation.

In PRACTICAL terms this shows up in the following ways:

At the level of the SELF wholeness (connection) means that we’re making choices that allows us to face and accept as many parts of ourselves as possible (embracing our Shadow ‘stuff’ that we might have been conditioned to disown or label as ‘unacceptable’ and try to hide).

This means that we’re attempting to be as honest with ourselves as possible at all times, embrace the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ things about ourselves, and to refuse to hide behind the mask of EGO or false personality because we have internalised shame or allowed the world to make us feel guilty for being whatever it is that we are.

At the level of the WORLD, wholeness means that we’re making choices that allow us to use our lives and creative work to SERVE others in a way that also serves our growth and our highest values.

This means that we are open to asking the world what it WANTS or NEEDS in relation to what we can OFFER when we’re being real with ourselves instead of only asking the world to want from us what we want it to want so we can keep our EGO in place (and keep hiding from ourselves and reality).

At the level of REALITY, wholeness means that we embrace the truth of life and creativity which is that both are VEHICLES FOR CHANGE.  This means that we know we will go into a creative project or process as one thing and come out another. This is because ourselves and our work end up becoming a living system and we will GROW and learn from our work as we create it (if we’re being REAL about it and with it).

This process of change through the living system of creativity is called CREATIVE SYNTHESIS.  It’s a ‘synthesis’ because the process takes all of the FRAGMENTED parts of us that we have at the start of the project and unifies them through the ebb of tension and release as we work our way through the project and carry ourselves to the finished results (whatever it is that we’re creating: a book, a business, a service, a life, whatever).

The most common way this process unfolds is as follows:

-We go into a project with certain ideas of who we are and what the finished project will look like.

-We start the work and face certain challenges because we realise that our expectations and assumptions are different to the reality (this means we’re finding our creative EDGE).

-We either RESIST learning and adapting because we want to keep our EGO in place (because we’re not ready to face our emotional and shadow ‘stuff’) or we ACCEPT and change and grow with the work until we get the final product.

If we take the path of RESISTANCE then we just end up being more fragmented in ourselves or staying the same. If we take the path of ACCEPTANCE then we grow more real and become more WHOLE  (and our work is a reflection of this in the form of transmuting our emotional ‘stuff’ into insight and getting RESULTS).

Actually, this movement towards WHOLENESS is natural and we all have a constant drive towards wholeness unfolding inside ourselves at all times (because we are systems and all systems are constantly striving towards balance and HOMEOSTASIS).

The problem is that we put blocks in the way of this natural drive with unnatural fragmented thoughts and beliefs that we picked up or hypnotised ourselves with.

To allow your drive towards wholeness/creativity to take you where you need to go (so your unconscious and conscious minds can BALANCE out through Creative Synthesis) then you need to detach from your thoughts and expectations and let the WORK teach you what you need to learn about who you really are (“The truth will set you free (but first it will piss you off and make you miserable” – Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness).

Take yourself out of the equation.

In relation to what we’ve said so far, the biggest BLOCKAGE to letting the creative process take you where you need to go is your SELF-IMAGE or ideas about yourself.

If you’re suffering from creative  blocks or you’re not being as ‘open’ as you need to be in order to get results and move forward with whatever you’re working on then your self-image is probably causing you to be more FRAGMENTED than you need to be (thus CLOSING the system that exists between you and your work and causing it to break down – i.e. not get results).

This is because your self-image/ego/whatever causes you to try and CONTROL your work instead of to COLLABORATE with it and to learn and GROW REAL as a result of this collaborative relationship.

This might show up in a number of ways but the most common are:

-Not being able to get started because of PERFECTIONISTIC ideas about the work because of how you want to see yourself(and so you keep deleting and starting again instead of letting the work be good enough and then refining).

-Needing the work to REFLECT ON you in  a certain way (instead of being reflected IN your work) and so skewing or distorting the process in an attempt to uphold your ego (instead of helping you grow through it). The most obvious sign here is that your work seems PRETENTIOUS/too try hard to others.

-Your work being an attempt to JUSTIFY or uphold the points of view that you’ve created to keep hiding behind EGO (instead of being an exploration of these views so you can find out what’s actually true and GROW REAL). Work like this just ends up being a reflection of AGENDAS, not truth (because we’re attached to the premises those agendas are founded on because of ego ‘stuff’).

-Etc.

In all  cases like this, using your work as an EXTENSION or AUGMENTATION of your self-image instead of a way to understand and grow through your self-image is holding you back.

The solution is to reframe the way that you see your creative work and  the creative process so that it’s not about ‘You’ but about what you can BECOME if you stay on a REAL path by collaborating with the work instead of fruitlessly attempting to control it.

Learn to keep learning.

Like we’ve said, creativity is ultimately about GROWING REAL and you can’t grow real if you don’t keep LEARNING (because growing real means testing your assumptions (etc.) about yourself, your world, and reality in the light of TRUTH and you can’t do that if you think you already know everything).

If you find that your creativity is blocked, then it means that you have taken yourself out of the natural flow of learning by only ever acting on things that you already think you know or want to believe and not living in such a way where you’re constantly having new experiences and acquiring new INSIGHTS that help you to grow in yourself and have more to SHARE with your work.

What this means in practical terms is that you need to keep pushing through the EDGE of yourself (your ideas about what you already know) and to live in a way that constantly brings new insight into your life.

This might mean ‘learning’ in more traditional sense like reading, doing courses, picking up new skills and qualities, getting coaching and uncovering AWARENESS about yourself, etc. – or it might mean learning in an experiential sense where you get out of your COMFORT ZONE and STRETCH yourself every week and “LEARN BY DOING”: this might involve starting a new hobby, meeting new people, trying a new project in a totally new way,  etc. etc.

The POINT is that if you only stay in your intellectual, emotional, and experiential comfort zones then you will just be living in a way that reinforces the self-image you already have instead of allowing you to get new INSIGHTS and have more to say in the creative work that you’re doing.

Short-version: If you’re struggling to express yourself creatively then you need to EXPAND your horizons and learn from life more.

Understand the natural flow of tension and release.

Real life works in natural cycles of tension and release (for example, the ebb and flow of the oceans, night and day, stress and relaxation, etc. etc. etc.).

In relation to our creativity, the tension is added by our attachment to CONCEPTUAL KNOWLEDGE and IDEAS and release comes from EXPERIENTIAL UNDERSTANDING and ACTION.

This is clear in what we said earlier in this article about CREATIVE SYNTHESIS – our ideas about a project add the tension and this is released as we go through the creative process.  The end result is something new – or at least some RESULT – because these CYCLES of tension and release always end with something being CREATED.

That might sound a bit airy-fairy, but what it means in PRACTICAL terms for your own creative work is that if you’re struggling to get off-the-ground or you’re not getting results then your relationship with tension and release is out of balance.

Here’s what this can look like:

-If you find yourself being too TENSE then you just end up being a CONTROL FREAK who is caught up in Ego. This just leads to a lack of REAL action and the problems of perfectionism (etc.) mentioned above. You might also ACT a lot in this tense state but it’s not REAL ACTION, it’s just EGO ACTION that doesn’t take you through the process of CREATIVE SYNTHESIS (being ‘busy’ but not getting anywhere because you’re acting to AVOID or RESIST, no LEARN and face yourself and life).

-If you find yourself trying to rid your life of all tension and resistance then end up being not TENSE ENOUGH and being “so open minded your brains fall out”. In this state, you might have a lot of creative ideas but you never ACT on them (and so don’t get results in reality or you only act on the ideas that are in your COMFORT ZONE (and so don’t grow more REAL through creative tension).

When you’re being REAL, you have a balance of TENSION and RELEASE.

This means that you have a VISION for your creative work (or whatever else you’re using your creativity towards) and this adds a kind of TENSION as it directs where you’re going from one moment to the next. As you release this tension, you grow through your IDEAS about yourself and your expectations by taking consistent, focused ACTION towards the vision.

This combination of the TENSION between your future vision and where you are now, plus the RELEASE of creative ACTION allows you to build CREATIVE MOMENTUM that will allow you to grow real and to allow the project to emerge in a balanced way.

You need to understand the mechanics of this so you can work with it, not against it.

Realise that originality just refers to anything that comes from within.

Sometimes, you might stop yourself from moving forward with the creative process because you want to create something that’s completely ‘new’ or that’s never been seen before.

This actually just ends up stopping you from moving forward in any way, shape, or form because it’s a form of EGO and perfectionism and is setting you up for a very difficult task.

As the old saying says: “There’s nothing new under the sun”

This is actually very true and just about everything that could’ve been said about life and the human experience has pretty much been said already.

On top of that, it’s quite hard to CREATE something new from scratch because most of the things that are ‘created’ are just various combinations of things that already exist in life or nature (and you can’t bring something new into being in that sense).

The solution here is to realise that TRUE ORIGINALITY isn’t about appeasing your ego but about taking yourself on the journey of REAL GROWTH and uncovering INTERNAL INSIGHT as a natural consequence of this process.

When you keep moving forward and pushing into your EDGE through your comfort zone then you will be able to uncover new INSIGHTS that are original to you.

They’re original to you because they came from within and this will allow you to put them in a context that nobody else can or to express them in a voice that belongs to YOU and you alone.

You need to understand this so you live for this kind of ORIGINALITY and  become the original source of your own WORK and whatever it’s expressing (or, more accurately, the JOURNEY you’re on as you grow real is the source because you got out of your own head and allowed reality to show you something REAL).

Creativity is about working with our limitations, not being limitless (this is why it’s a very ‘human’ thing).

Another pitfall that a lot of people make – because of the ‘EGO’ stuff – is thinking that creativity somehow makes them LIMITLESS.

Actually, because creativity is just something that we evolved to be able to handle the challenges and limitations that come with being a  human being on a FRAGMENTED PLANET, then having limitations is actually a way to make you MORE CREATIVE.

This is because having some kind of limits on what you’re doing prevents ‘Analysis Paralysis’ and FORCES your mind/brain to come up with new solutions that help you grow THROUGH the limits by using the limits as a way to get there (“What stands in the way becomes the way”, as Marcus Aurelius said).

As an example, imagine that somebody has got a gun to your head and they’re telling you to “write a book” – this is far too LIMITLESS of a command and your brain would probably struggle to know what to write. Bang! Now you’re dead!

Now imagine that somebody holds a gun to your head and tells you to “write a sci-fi/cowboy/comedy/self-help book”. Having those generic limitations in place would allow your brain to make CREATIVE DECISIONS much more quickly and to get better results because having a box to start with allows you to THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX (i.e. you can only do that if you have a box in the first place – the box adds TENSION that you can RELEASE).

It’s the same when you apply your creativity to your life and limit your choices to being aligned with your values and principles (for example).

What this means in a practical sense is that if you’re struggling to get off the ground with your creative work then you might not have enough (relevant) limitations that you’ve set to force your brain into action.  Find a way to add some and your brain will figure out the rest for you.

You need to be outcome-independent to allow your creativity to keep coming.

There are two ways to go about life and creativity (as an extension of living): either being outcome-dependent or outcome-independent.

In short, being outcome-dependent means that our levels of self-worth and self-acceptance are DEPENDENT on the outcome (or results) we get. For example, setting ourselves the creative goal of writing a bestselling novel and telling ourselves our work (and we, by extension) are worthless if we don’t achieve that goal.

Being outcome-dependent in this way is UNREAL because it stops us from moving forward  and adds UNNECESSARY friction or pressure to the creative process.

A better approach – in life and creativity – is to be outcome-independent. All this really means is that we know our own worth and accept ourselves regardless of whether or not we get certain results (so in the example given, we’d still feel AMAZING about ourselves and known we’d done our best work even if it wasn’t a bestseller).

Again, this goes back to our emotional ‘stuff’ and our relationships with ourselves: if we have a load of unresolved shame, guilt, and/or trauma then we’re more likely to be outcome-dependent and to outsource the good feelings we have about ourselves to the results we get.

This just means that the creative work we produce ends up being done in the service of the ego and not of our journey into GROWING REAL (which, ironically, means we’re more likely to produce work that less people relate to).

What you need to do to FREE and UNBLOCK yourself is to take an outcome-independent attitude to your work (and life).

In practical terms, this means that you have a general vision for where you’re going and what you’re trying to achieve but you allow yourself to EXPLORE and EXPERIMENT and  to learn what you can as you go about attaining the vision.

Essentially, you allow yourself to “DO YOUR BEST AND FORGET THE REST” which actually opens you up to be MORE CREATIVE because you increase the odds of allowing your work to help you grow real.

If you’re outcome-dependent, you will have invested your feelings about yourself in the work (and the desires and beliefs that come with these feelings) and so you probably won’t even get started because you’ve distorted your view of the work and DISTANCED yourself from it from the outset.

If you have writer’s block (or any other creative block) it’s usually because you haven’t done your research (and the greatest research is always living).

Essentially, what we’re talking about here is that if you have a creative block then you’re not LIVING in a REAL way.

The only way you can live in an unreal way is to act like you’ve got it all figured out, have experienced all there is to experience, and decide that the version of yourself that currently exists is the ‘final’ version (when in reality we’re all works in progress our whole lives long – you can always go deeper into the truth about life).

If you have block then it means that you haven’t done enough ‘research’ and therefore haven’t collected enough INSIGHT to be able to make the kind of connections you need to make intellectually, emotionally, and (even) spiritually about your life and what it’s showing you.

You need to learn to see life as a RESEARCH project:

-If you’re writing a novel, life will teach you the lessons that can serve as its creative themes.

-If you’re painting a painting, life will show you the metaphors that need to be expressed.

-If you’re designing a business, life will show you what people NEED and how you can solve their problems.

-If you’re writing a piece of music, life will teach you about the context of your own FEELINGS and how you can make them move (emotions are energy in motion as somebody once said).

The point is that if you have a BLOCK then you’re probably not seeing life in the realest possible way (usually because of that ‘ego’ thing).

Instead of acting like you’ve got it all figured out and then staring at a blank screen/canvas/whatever go out and find out – life will always give you SOMETHING that you can work with.

Don’t be scared to find your edge (that’s just your ego blocking your creative drives).

In short, the ‘secret’ of extreme creativity is about knowing where your EDGE is. This means doing some of the things that scare you by stretching yourself and PUTTING YOURSELF in situations that show you the edge of your comfort zone and help you to play with TENSION and RELEASE in the momentum you can build there.

If you’re reading this and you have some kind of creative block then there’s a very high chance that there’s something in your life that you’re NOT FACING. This may seem like some ‘external’ thing but actually you’re not facing it because of whatever is going on INSIDE you.

In these kind of situations, you need to ask yourself what QUALITIES in yourself are begging to come to the light of your consciousness – almost always, these qualities will be something that you’ve been forced to hide in the Shadow of yourself because it somehow got labelled as ‘unacceptable’ (by others and  then you).

Your EDGE is just the place where you’re close to finding and befriending these qualities again – your work is the perfect vessel for exploring them safely but your EGO won’t like it because what you learn in these explorations will change your ego forever.

Embrace this process and ride through the EDGE. There’s nothing to fear but it will help you to ride that natural drive towards wholeness and produce the work you need to produce in that moment.

Real creativity will always ‘change’ you by taking you deeper into yourself and life.

Essentially, what all of this boils down to is that REAL CREATIVITY WILL SHOW YOU YOUR REAL SELF AND WHAT REAL LIFE IS.

If you have consistent blocks that you just can’t seem to push through then you need to ask yourself what you’re RESISTING about who you really are and what life really is.

Your relationship to your own creativity is a microcosm of your relationship to LIFE as a whole.  The real question isn’t how creative are you but how ALIVE can you be if you let yourself?

Whatever blocks you have are within you and you can clear them out of the way by using your work to do two things (this applies in life too):

  1. Uncover the truth.
  2. Live the truth.

These two things are intertwined as part of the same process and the only thing stopping you from working it is: ‘YOU’.

Once your work is ‘out there’ it will still have things to teach you. Listen (that’s how you know where the next project will be found).

Finally, once your work is out in the world, you relationship with it will continue to deepen and to develop.

This will be most clear in the way that the INTERPRETATIONS that the world makes of what you’ve created are different to your own interpretations.

For example, maybe you’ll write a novel and think it ‘means’ a certain thing – what you’ll find is that other people will read your novel and think it means something totally different (for example).

When this kind of thing happens, you need to resist the urge to CLING to your own meaning and to allow new meaning to emerge between all of the COLLECTIVE interpretations of the work.

This is how you find out what your next project will be and where you need to go in yourself next (because in the gap between expectation and result is reality). Learn to listen and you will see that the process never ends and you can always go deeper.

That’s just ‘life’ and your creativity is your way into it.

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Hi, I'm Oli Anderson - a Transformational Coach for REALNESS and author who helps people to tap into their REALNESS by increasing Awareness of their real values and intentions, to Accept themselves and reality, and to take inspired ACTION that will change their lives forever and help them find purpose. Click here to read my story about how I died, lost it all, and then found reality.

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