I’ve just finished reading a little ebook by Mark Silver called Backwards, and it’s got me thinking about a few things. It’s a free download (you don’t even have to opt in!) so if the following piques your interest, head on over and grab yourself a copy!
The basic proposition seems to be that in terms of ‘getting what you want’ in life, or building a life you want to live, the popular Law Of Attraction / Manifestation concept might be putting the cart before the horse. Silver offers a ‘heart-centered’ Sufi perspective on how to go about it the other way around. I started thinking about how this might apply to creativity…
I’m not sure the book is for everyone, but I feel it’s a very sincere and powerful little document and well worth a read if you’re open-minded about such things. That said, if the notion that a mystical/gnostic tradition with roots in Islam might have something profound to offer to the modern world is upsetting to you or challenges your core beliefs in ways that make you uncomfortable, you should probably steer clear; then again, you might not be in the right place here, either…
Attraction in Action
Unlike Mark, I do not practice Sufism or profess Sufi beliefs per se – I don’t really subscribe to any particular religion or faith, in fact, at least not exclusively. However, I do have some background in mystical traditions, and the Sufis have always impressed me – I find the mix of philosophy and poetry, heady spiritual devotion and intoxication with the sensual world very attractive.
I should also confess that I maintain a bit of skepticism towards the whole Law Of Attraction concept, though I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on why. I tend to agree with Dave Navarro’s interpretation (as well as Sonia Simone’s slightly softer approach), which basically says that by thinking about something you want you allow psychological (rather than spiritual or Universal) factors to come into play that bring you closer to your goals, sometimes in ways that seem almost magical. But it’s action, not Attraction, that makes things happen.
However, I went into ‘Backwards’ in a receptive state of mind, and I was not disappointed. Without giving the whole game away – Mark lays out some background to the core argument that give it a bit more perspective – the basic message is that it’s not the results you need to focus on, it’s the relationship to the area of your life that generates those results. If your problems are principally financial, it’s tempting to focus on money since that’s the thing you think you need more of, but the real trick is to focus on the root cause, the underlying issues that define your relationship to money.
The Techniques Trap
How does this relate to creativity? In my ongoing survey of the existing literature on the subject, I have noticed that there is a preponderance of material on creative techniques. Much of it is excellent, and I’ll be digging into it with a series of reviews as things progress here, but it strikes me that perhaps this focus on the practical is perhaps falling into the same trap. Techniques are all well and good, but they are very results-oriented. As Mark says in the book,
“You do need to focus… but on the relationship with the aspect of your business or life you are struggling with, not on the results you think will solve your problems.”
So before diving into the try-this-trick-for-producing-new-ideas fray, I propose that we spend some time examining and considering our relationship to creativity – how do we feel about it? What aspects of it are working, which are more frustrating? How could we support the process more, be less judgmental, more enthusiastic? How much of our time and energy are we prepared to spend creating a space, whether physical or mental or spiritual, to create from?
Creating abundance by feeding the roots
For me, creativity is a journey – a lifelong adventure, not the production of one piece of art or music or literature. It’s not about generating ideas, it’s about cultivating, over a lifetime, a healthy and friendly relationship with our creative process (or our creative demons, or even our ‘genius’, as Elizabeth Gilbert describes it). It’s not about the art we make or the ideas we come up with, it’s about where that work or those ideas take us, and our audience. And it’s about the love we bring to the process, and the joy it brings to us, and to others.
Before we work through our ‘issues’ with creativity, our fears and anxieties about it, our self-judgment and self-sabotage, all the tips and techniques in the world will not make us truly creative or happy. If we keep our focus on growing and nurturing and exploring a relationship with creativity, the rest will flow more easily. Techniques can then serve our deeper creative vision, rather than being used to hide our limitations, imperfections and insecurities.
I’ll be delving deeper into this idea, and presenting my own roadmap for navigating the minefield of creative psychology, in the Cliffjump Manifesto… sign up for the mailing list to be notified when it is released! (Or use the handy new follow & subscribe buttons over there on the right!).
Meanwhile, what are your thoughts? Is creativity a lifelong journey or a means to an end?