Curing the Curse of Creativity

Learn a few tricks to keep your creativity high and avoid the negativity that can arise when your ideas haven’t yet come to fruition.

Earlier today, my friend @cianna tweeted “Contemplating further revelations about potential negative effects of my constant business & big ideas: Erosion of confidence. Sadness.”

First, an introduction is in order. I’d like you to meet your best friend. A friend you’ve known all of your life, but that you’ve likely never knowingly had a conversation with. This friend has carefully watched everything that has ever happened to you and tirelessly looked out for your safety and happiness. That friend is your not-conscious mind. Say Howdy!

You see, there is a part of your mind that is reading this blog post, and perhaps you can even hear the words you are reading inside your head now. This part of your mind, the conscious mind, is very good at a few things. It is the home of logic, language, and short term memory.

We’ll come back to the conscious mind in a bit, but first let’s learn a bit about the not-conscious mind. This is all the parts of your mind that are, ahem, not the conscious mind 🙂 To understand it better I want you to imagine a short story.

So, take a deep breath, relaxxxx, and imagine for a moment that you are flying in a small plane over a remote and unexplored part of the world. As you look down outside the window you see a magnificent landscape and you are filled with the joy and wonder of being alive and discovering new things. Each moment bring new vistas to you that overwhelm you with their beauty and you imagine the joy people will feel when you bring back pictures and stories of the wonders you’re discovering.

A moment later you are shaken from your reverie as a the engine sputters, groans and stops suddenly. A lesser trained pilot might be worried, but not you. You react quickly and with precision. Just a moment ago you had seen a beautiful field filled with bright green grasses and wildflowers in every color of the rainbow. As you run down your checklist for an emergency landing you set your optimal glide path and execute a small turn. You couldn’t be better prepared to land in that field if you had been planning to go there all along.

After the bouncy landing you’ve learned to expect when touching down in an unprepared field you quickly roll to a stop and give thanks to the excellent training you’ve had over the years learning to fly.

Just as your heart starts to slow from the excitement a thought crosses your mind and a smile breaks out across your face as you think of the adventure within an adventure you are about to embark on. Something new to explore!

You quickly finish shutting down the plane, pop the door open, and leap out onto the field with a cry of Joy. The smell of wildflowers fills your nostrils as you breath deeply. With a mischievous smile you kneel down and kiss the earth giving it a hearty thanks for welcoming you back. Lifting your head back to the sky you spy a wondrous sight. Just a moment ago you were in an empty field with your plane, but now, right in front of you, is a small group of obviously primitive people. A bit wary, you stand back up and each of them kneels down to the earth, kisses it, utters a strange noise, and rises just as you did. Quickly your concern fades as you intuition tells you that these are an open and friendly people. An innocent people.

And thus, the game of mimicry begins. Over the days and weeks, try as you might, you are unable to form the sounds that make up their language and these people prove just as incapable of speaking yours. Nonetheless you learn to communicate by making signs and as you grow to know them better you learn that by putting emotion into your communication there is a depth and nuance that you know you had never achieved with the spoken word. These people live without a filter on their emotions and you are sometimes amazed at how much they say without saying anything at all. With time, and your natural ability to notice interesting details, you learn to read their emotions just as well as they naturally read yours.

You are welcomed into the village of The People, as you’ve come to think of them. You are fed, sheltered and taught to avoid the dangers of their beautiful, but often harsh world. You learn over time, that The People take the honor of being visited by a guest very seriously and though it sometimes makes you uncomfortable, each of them finds ways, some small and some large, to help you, protect you, and bring you joy.

You come to understand that The People seem strangely devoid of logic and live lives filled will emotion and, as time passes, you learn that the best way to repay their service, the only way that they recognize, is to thank them with a gratitude that comes deep from the heart. The happiness you give them with your thanks is a gift that they treasure more than any other.

Strangely, you find that they hold all emotions dear, negative and positive alike. While you never get used to this yourself, you do come to accept it as an integral part of who they are.

You have many adventures with The People. Adventures that you will cherish for the rest of your life, but eventually you manage to repair your plane and you know that it is time to return. A tinge of sadness strikes you as you think of leaving The People behind, but it is wiped out by the joy in knowing that, now that you found this magical place, you can return whenever you want to.

The time has finally come to return and as you lift off in your plane know that you’ve grown immensely in the time that you spent with The People and you are ready to help others learn the simple lessons you learned with them.

I trust you enjoyed my little story, and yes, there was a point. You see, The People are your not-conscious mind.

While your conscious mind can only do one thing at a time (although it can switch what one thing it is doing very quickly) your not-conscious is capable of doing many things. While the research isn’t conclusive, studies show it is at least thousands of things at a time and it may be much higher. You have a whole village of workers inside your head!

Much like communicating with The People, you can’t understand their language and they can’t understand yours. Your only way of communicating with your not-conscious mind is through emotions, symbols, and vivid imagination.

Your not-conscious mind, just as The People, has clear goals. It constantly looks to keep you safe and make you happy. Unfortunately it does not have the benefit of logic and does this from a purely emotional perspective.

Your only real way to reward your not-conscious mind is with heartfelt thanks. Being able to say thank-you, and really mean it is a skill that you just might find useful elsewhere too.

You may be wondering just what all this has to do with creativity.

First of all, creative ideas are a gift from your not-conscious mind. Each time one of those ideas pops into your head is a good time to practice giving thanks. After all, it has provided you with so many great ideas over the years and it has protected you tirelessly. Doesn’t it deserve a thank-you?

You may have noticed that I treat my unconscious mind like a separate person living inside my head. Don’t worry, that is not one of the signs that I’m crazy. From the perspective of your conscious mind it really is a separate thing and I promise that your life will get better if you treat it as such. If not you can have 100% percent of your money back for this post 🙂

One of the reasons we experience negative emotions around our unfulfilled creativity is that your not-conscious mind, which has given you all of these great ideas, is upset that you haven’t done them all and that you didn’t even care enough to say thank-you. That’s not very nice! 🙁 Remember that it isn’t logical, so it doesn’t understand that you had good reasons for not go through with the ideas. Just thank it and it will be much happier with you. As a side benefit. When you not-conscious is happy with you you will experience greater creativity and better memory recall.

Did I forget to mention that your not-conscious is in charge of memory? One sure sign that your not-conscious is unhappy with you is forgetting things. Have you ever run into someone and struggled to remember their name, only to have it pop into your head immediately after you no longer need it? Yep, that was your not-conscious being a brat because you had upset it. As a side note, one of the quickest ways to upset your not-conscious mind is to not get enough sleep. Sleep is its play time and it likes to play!

Another reason negative emotions arise from unfulfilled creativity is that your conscious mind, has decided to make a purely logical judgement about what you’ve accomplished, sees all of these ideas that it would be awesome if you had completed and says, “that sucks!” One of the jobs of your conscious mind is to judge things. Good/bad, right/wrong, etc. Unfortunately this part of the conscious mind isn’t particularly well connected with the logic part. Just remember that you had a good reason (although perhaps not a logical one) why you made your decisions. It wouldn’t be logical to dwell on the past, so just get going with making good choices in the future.

Priorities and rules help keep the logical part of your mind happy. I try to never have more than one big important thing in progress at a time and I make sure to have scheduled time that I do not work on that big important thing. This allows focus, one of the most important keys to productivity, while still allowing room for playing with new ideas. I also feel free to decide that the big important thing is no longer important and cancel it. If I find I am canceling big important things too often it is time to make a commitment to not have any more big important things make my list for a pre-defined time period, usually one month. That forces me to either focus on the big important thing without canceling it or to relax for a bit and not have any big important things for a while.

I’ve got a lot more to say on this subject, but it’s time to get back to my current big important thing. If you found this helpful, I would appreciate a comment below and I’ll continue to post on the subject.

Thanks!

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5 Responses to Curing the Curse of Creativity

  1. Chris Shaw says:

    I found this both fun to read and instructive! Thank you for sharing. I am currently working on an important project and occasionally get hung up so will try your visualization to help me get back in touch with that creative part of me.

  2. Cianna says:

    Thank you for this! My frustration this morning is less about unfulfilled creativity and more that I am so much more comfortable with The People that I have a hard time staying with What I Have To Do. Your tip at the end about having just one big important thing is a good one – and one that I am not currently implementing. I think that’s the true genesis of my frustration.

    Time to think about that for a while.
    Thank you!

  3. Harish says:

    nice article , any suggested additional readings on this subject ?

    • Julias Shaw says:

      Most of this is from personal experience with hypnosis clients and experimenting inside my own head. Much of the foundation material is from Mark Cunningham’s The New Curriculum course which you can experience live (highly suggested) or in DVD form. That course is by far the best hypnosis training I know of.

  4. sriram says:

    Fascinating. Thank you. Your story reminded me of a book, Mutant Message Down Under. I could also relate to what you said about better memory recall. Got me thinking that religious baggage apart, habitual prayer (of thanks) serves to keep the not-conscious mind happy. Finally, here is a good TED talk that speaks of the creative self as a distinct entity http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html.

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