'Creativity needs freedom – freedom from the mind, freedom from knowledge, freedom from prejudices.'
Osho, Creativity: Unleashing the Forces Within
In the previous post I explored the obstacles that prevent us from accessing or making full use of our creativity but there are also factors that help us to reengage with the flow of life and hence with creativity. In The Way of Story, Catherine Ann Jones defines the creative act as an 'act of liberation, the defeat of habit by originality', something which is echoed below in Osho's four keys to creativity:
Become a child again - A child sees the world in a special way. For a child everything has significance and wonder. Having children was a gift for me in many ways, one of which was the opportunity it brought to see the world once again through the fresh eyes of a child, something I explore in Passing Time, a non-fiction short story.
Be ready to learn - We need to let go of beliefs that stop us from learning more about the world and instead try to step outside of conditioning and ideology and trust in our own experience as a guide. In Osho's words, we must keep learning but never become knowledgeable.
Find Nirvana in the Ordinary - Look for the mystery and the magic in the every day world, then every form of work becomes a meditation from the heart.
Be a dreamer - Imagination is a vital part of creativity so we need to unleash it. Imagination is like the trickster gods of old. It is a liberating force, cutting through what has been established, making strange what is normal, allowing us to step into the shoes of another, to break free of what we know and to fly.
These four keys link closely to playfulness, something which many writers find difficult to access in the writing process and many of us find difficult to embrace in our lives. In archetypal terms perhaps we need to make friends once again with the wild child within ourselves, fearless and playful, intrigued by life and most importantly, not squashed by formula and conditioning. It's not an easy thing to do this because from early childhood onwards we are told the right and the wrong way of doing things, which is useful in some circumstances, but it can also make us close off our potential. At the age of nine my son was told by his teacher that his stories were wrong and so were his drawings. Over and again she made him redo them the 'right way' until he began to think himself stupid and became so anxious and depressed he was unable to go to school. It took us a year to convince him that his way was the right way, the way of discovery and creativity; a year to induce him to write and draw again, and a year for him to be ready to return to a school environment.
As Picasso said, 'every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up'. These days rote learning is valued more than creative thought. Formula more than imagination. We are taught to repeat and reproduce and in so doing we quickly lose our freshness of vision. We are told that this is the wrong way and that is the right way. We tell ourselves: 'I can't write' . . 'I'm no good at drawing' . . . 'My voice is terrible'. . . creating stories of dysfunction within our lives, stories that have often been triggered by people in authority: parents, older siblings, teachers, employers, religious leaders. . . I have heard the same story from many students over many years and I have carried my own stories with me too, allowing them to solidify into fact and become part of my identity. These are themes I have explored in Flight, as the protagonist, Fern, finds herself forced to rewrite her own life, gathering up the parts of herself that have been lost and rescinding those promises she has made that have weakened her.
As I see it, one part of the solution is to rediscover our playfulness, stop worrying about the consequences and realise that creativity is not an intellectual exercise. As Jung wrote, 'the creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity'. Creativity is about stepping over a line and taking risks. All my life I have had a sense of that line and the need to step over it, knowing that if I did I would be moving beyond my limitations and hence be capable of anything. After many years I've finally approached it and occasionally I get a glimpse of what it might be like on the other side. I'm beginning to unravel those stories that don't serve me, peel away the scar tissue from wounds that I didn't even know existed and in the process discover something more fundamental; an essential self that is not disfigured by experience.