Mastering the psychology and philosophy of creative expression

Have you allowed the things in your life to kill your creativity? We can all be sucked dry of our creative juices at times. Leaving us in a state of disempowerment where we feel that we are unable to create or produce anything worthwhile.

5 Things That Will Absolutely Kill Your Creativity

This post explores some psychological and philosophical ideas that can help you to overcome creative procrastination and other forms of hindrances to creativity and your creative work.

1. Rules and form

When you feel restricted by rules or you feel it necessary to strictly follow a form then your creativity can be oppressed. This doesn’t mean that you can’t at times be creative while following rules or forms, in fact, sometimes rules and forms can empower your creativity. Your creative gifts can be intensely focused on using a certain set of rules that reveal your creative genius.

But in this post, I am trying to make you aware of when rules or forms are restricting your creativity. Once you identify restrictions upon your creativity you can look for creative ways to transcend them.

One of the greatest martial artists, Bruce Lee, knew how to adapt and transcend various martial art styles and forms. Bruce Lee believed that the best martial artists would not restrict themselves to a particular form, but would know the forms very well, yet use the forms for his own expression.

The unrestrained pursuit of self-expression results in highly skilled people who are manifesting their full potential beyond rules and forms.

When Bruce Lee was asked in an interview about why people would want to learn at his martial arts school he sums up the essence of self-expression by saying, “All types of knowledge ultimately means self-knowledge. So, therefore, they’re coming in and asking me to teach them, not so much of how to defend themselves or how to do somebody in. Rather, they want to learn to express themselves through some movement. Be it anger, be it determination, or whatsoever. So in other words, what I’m saying, therefore, is he is paying me to show him, in combative form, the art of expressing the human body. They want to express themselves through movement.”

It’s the same with any creative endeavor where you want to express yourself through a particular form or style. Now, you can use rules and form to expand your capabilities for expression, but once mastered, you can transcend them and express yourself some more.

Break rules, not for the sake of breaking them, but for the sake of the creative genius who must express something beyond what the rules or form can handle. That genius is living on the inside of you. That genius can’t be restrained anymore. That genius must be set free to create, even if it means breaking some rules.


2. Creative perfectionism

I could write a lot on creative perfectionism because I believe we all suffer from an inability to fully express and manifest the creative perfection of our imagination.

We see and feel the greatness of this creative essence on the inside of us, and we don’t want to do it any injustice by trying to express it. We don’t want to end up with an imperfect representation of what we originally saw and felt.

But we have to reach a point where we are willing to give it a go, and we have to realize that that is all that is expected of us. Don’t wait until it’s perfect, or until the perfect time. When you feel the creative greatness wants to flow out through you, then make sure you make room for yourself to do so, and don’t feel guilty about how good of a job you do of capturing its essence. Your job is to show up and make room for your creative flow, and the true essence of the creative perfection within you will be revealed over time throughout your life’s work.

Finding an answer to creative perfectionism is something I’ve thought about a lot. I’ve come up with a two-prong solution. First, you must be willing to just give things a try and allow yourself to make mistakes and produce something imperfect (as I’ve outlined above). Second, you must identify the skills, micro-skills, and domains of understanding that you can improve on to further your personal ability to manifest your creative visions.

For example, if you are writing a book and you visualized a picture in your mind that sums up the essence of one of the paragraphs you have written, you might want to draw that exact picture in your mind so you can clearly communicate your ideas to your readers.

Let’s say that you aren’t very good at drawing, but you really feel that having the drawing will not only match your written explanation, but will actually enhance what you’ve written in such a way that it adds another layer of understanding for the reader. You feel it’s so important, yet you know you can’t do it yourself, so now you have to rely on getting an illustrator to draw it for you.

You try to communicate the visual picture in your mind to the illustrator but you just can’t quite grasp it through words, for if you could, the words in your book would suffice and you wouldn’t be in need of a visual representation. It seems that the very essence of the idea can only be visually communicated, so you fail to really describe what it looks like to your illustrator.

The illustrator does their best job but it’s just not resonating with what you feel inside. Just like Bruce Lee’s philosophy of learning many forms of martial arts and combining them together to be his own way of fighting, I’d encourage people to become mixed artists who can harness multiple skills like a polymath.

In simple terms, my first idea to curb creative perfectionism is to accept your imperfect work. My second idea to curb creative perfectionism is to perfect your creative skills so you are capable of actually doing greater work. This can also include being competent in multiple areas (or whatever area that is necessary to be improved) to enable you to more perfectly produce the creative ideas that you feel or see within yourself. A balance between these two ideas will see you improving your creative output in both quantity and quality.


3. Self-doubt

I would say self-doubt can play a role in creative perfectionism but self-doubt seems to come from a different place. Where creative perfectionism is almost a holy reverence for the creative greatness within, self-doubt is a blockage where you temporarily see no greatness on the inside of yourself. You doubt that you can create anything creative at all.

But the reality is that self-doubt is a sick illusion. Of course you can be creative and contribute something of value, otherwise, you wouldn’t be the type of person to read a blog about creativity!

Also, don’t compare yourself to others, your ability is your ability, you have to start somewhere, and as you continue you’ll gain confidence in yourself and in your creative ambitions.

Sometimes self-doubt comes from an inner criticism that you repeat to yourself from an experience you’ve had while interacting with other people. For example, someone might have told you that you are no good at speaking and criticized you about it. You’ve latched onto that criticism and internalized it and now believe that you are no good at speaking.

But you failed to realize that the person criticizing you was actually just self-conscious about their own speaking and wanted to put you down to feel better about themselves. If you objectively looked at the situation, you’d probably find you were not so bad at speaking, maybe you could work on something here and there, but you didn’t deserve that criticism.

A lot of self-doubts comes from our own internal scripts that we play to ourselves over and over again. It sometimes takes an intervention to break those faulty beliefs and start to re-engineer our thoughts and feelings so that they empower us to see the greatness that we possess.

Let this blog post be your intervention. Allow yourself to see the creative greatness that you possess on the inside of you. Free from condemnation, free from limitation, free to create whatever you want to create.


4. Stress and mental fatigue

Everyday life can be stressful and is often very mentally straining. Work, university, family, friends, home, and all the rest of it. There is never enough time and life seems to always be busy, busy, and busy!

I personally feel that busyness takes a lot of energy away from my creative work. You’ve got to do this and then that and then when you finally do get some time, it’s not much, and you’ve got no energy because you’ve used it all on things you don’t value as much.

Do you know what happens when you spend all your energy on things that you don’t value? You self-destruct. You absolutely boycott yourself. Because deep down you know everything you are doing is absolutely worthless because you don’t value it at all.

If you spend a lot of energy on something, it should be so valuable to you, that it actually gives energy back to you. It lifts you up, it inspires you, and it actually makes you stronger. This is the same feeling I get once I finish writing a sentence that I feel resonates with my soul. It empowers me to keep on writing and keep on contributing my creative work.

I suggest you take adequate rests and actually switch off for a while. But you probably won’t be able to do this properly unless you are at least doing some of your creative work that fulfills you. Maybe you have to work somewhere that you don’t enjoy for money, and that’s fair enough, but try to reorganize your life so you can spend more time doing those creative things that you value.

Your energy levels will be revitalized and your rest periods will actually become rest periods. You will be able to allow yourself to rest properly because you know you’ve done something that’s in alignment with your values and who you are. When life is worth it, you have the energy to live. In my opinion, creative pursuits make it all worth it.


5. Happy distractions

I’d probably say happy distractions are the Trojan Horse that destroys the creative productivity of those who have creative ambitions. Don’t get me wrong, happy distractions can be sources of inspiration to awaken your creativity, but too often they turn into pleasure for pleasure’s sake.

To get into the creative flow, and get the most out when we are flowing, it’s important to block out all other distractions. Sometimes we need to purposefully dedicate our time and focus towards one creative task.

When I write, I love to go to the library where there is no noise and no people to talk to. I make sure I have everything I need, my pen and pad, my computer, water, and everything I need to feel comfortable so I don’t have to break my concentration. I give myself good chunks of time (usually 3 to 5 hours +) without distraction. I just sit and write and write and write till I can’t write anymore. I’ll take small breaks here and there to go to the toilet or fill up my water bottle, but I’ll be focused on my creative work, mentally rehearsing what I’m going to do next.

That’s just my process for getting away from happy distractions and it works for me. The library gives me that sense of purpose (I’ve come to the library to do something in particular), it gives me that focus (no one to talk to), and it gives me the comfortability I need (toilets, water, food, equipment) so I don’t need to be distracted by feeling hungry or something.

I’d suggest you find something that works for you. Your creative work might not involve writing so you’d find a space that works for you. But I have found that working away from home has boosted my focus and enabled me to resist happy distractions.


Survival of the most creative

So in this post, we’ve transcended rules and forms, dealt with creative perfectionism, overcome self-doubt, curbed stress and mental fatigue, and slapped happy distractions in their face. Hopefully, you’ve been equipped to conquer these 5 creativity killers and inspired to do more of your great work, creativity.


Question: What seems to be killing your creativity? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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