At least for me. At least for now. Ever since I read Linchpin last summer, I’ve been absolutely obsessed with this quote …
“Creativity is an instinct to produce.” - Seth Godin
Sometimes I pick quotes because of how beautiful I find the arrangement of words, but this one just resonated with me. When I first wrote it down, I wasn’t even sure if I agreed though. It was just so radically different from any of my previous conceptions of creativity that I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
Around the end of the summer when I started my 365 day challenge, I was starting to realize the importance of producing a large quantity of content (also thanks to Linchpin). Especially for people like me. I’m a huge planner and I would love to brainstorm and make flow charts and diagrams forever and never get anything done. I think this was part of my problem in the past with starting new projects because I would never get out of the planning stage. So that’s why, when I came up with the idea for my 365 day challenge, I knew I needed to start the very next day. And although I really do just enjoy the planning process, I think my perfectionist tendencies might be another reason I have trouble starting things. I just want everything to be planned out perfectly before I get started, which obviously can never happen. Once I realized this was the case, I decided that I need to just dive head-first into projects, trusting that I can iterate along the way.
So far, this has worked extremely well for me. I’ve been learning so much more than I was before and all I’m doing is creating a large quantity of content. When I try to think about why this might be the case, I can’t really come up with any specific reasons. Of course, there’s the tangible skills that I might pick up along the way, like how to format a blog post or edit a youtube video, but this isn’t where I feel like I’ve learned the most. It’s really in the style, voice, and the more “creative” components of what I’ve been working on where I’ve been pushing forward the most.
I find this interesting because growing up I never really considered myself a creative person. I was always focused on math and science, and even though I really loved books and reading, I always kind of dismissed these hobbies. I don’t really know why. I also loved making videos, but I never really stuck with that either. I also tried many types of dance, figure skating, painting, and other more “creative” hobbies, but for some reason I just never really felt like I was the “creative type”. Although I’m starting to think the idea that only a certain type of person can be creative might just be an illusion.
But anyways, back to the quote. When I first read it, I would have said, “I must not be creative because I don’t really feel an instinct to produce”. I always had an endless supply of ideas, but by that point I had already begun devaluing ideas in the grand scheme of things. I knew I wanted to create something, but as for an instinct, all I really felt was an “instinct to plan”. I don’t think this is the same thing at all. And yet now, 10 days into my attempt to write 1000 words a day, I feel such a strong instinct to produce. So how did I go from one end of the spectrum to the other?
I really do believe we’re all creative. Maybe not in the same things or in the same ways, but we all have that creative spirit embedded deep within us; it’s part of human nature. However, I think that many things, especially in modern society, get in the way of us connecting with and being able to express that creative side to our beings. For starters, I think as a society we have a tendency to numb ourselves. Whether that be through mindless scrolling on social media or avoidance of our feelings and emotions, we are unknowingly creating barriers between our current selves and our potential. And over time, this situation is just exacerbated because we just keep doing the same things over and over again. In doing so, we also end up feeling stuck quite often. At least that’s how I felt.
So how do we access the creative parts of our nature?
As I’m not an expert, I can only answer for myself and my strategy had 2 parts.
1. Start with the end.
This is essentially the “fake it ‘till you make it strategy”, which I actually believe has a lot of merit in certain situations like this one. There’s been some research showing that when you exhibit the physical characteristics associated with a mood or feeling, it can actually affect your mood. So, smiling can actually make you feel happier. So in a similar way, we can take the idea that “Creativity is an instinct to produce”, and decide that we will exhibit the behavior we’d expect from someone who had an “instinct to produce”: to produce. So instead of hiding behind fear and excuses or waiting for the perfect time and opportunity to start making strides on a project, just start making strides on a project. You can even do it today!
2. Work through those things you’re avoiding.
I know, I know… I don’t want to hear this any more than you do, but it really does make a big difference. We can’t expect to be able to just wall off or deny certain parts of ourselves, and walk away with the complete power and energy of our full potential. It is only in turning inwards and working through those hard things that we’d rather avoid, that we’re rewarded with a newfound closeness to our creative nature. I don’t think it particularly matters where specifically you decide to start, because each issue you work through will only add to your total progress and potential.
For me, the key to getting these strategies to work is doing them both simultaneously. Only creating content or only working through your internal world is not enough to find that creative mental space. You can almost think of step two as creating more energy and step one as finding novel ways to use it. Both are challenging at times, but ultimately so rewarding.
Today, as I write this and for the past month or so, I’ve felt absolutely flooded with creative energy. And this hasn’t been expressed in an intense desire to dress and act super differently or in a way that rejects norms; it has been expressed by a deep-felt desire to create. To work on projects. To not obsess over them. To start. To finish. And to do it all again.
So, as Seth Godin says, “Creativity is an instinct to produce.” It’s a place we can all find - all we have to do is figure out how to get there.