"Creativity is a current that never stops.
We simply have to choose whether we
tap into it or not"
- Matt Steel, Metagramme
Issue 5 : Being stuck
Happy new year!
Yes, it is spring and with spring a new year is born in nature. We are natural beings. Spring explodes with organic new beginnings we can all celebrate.
New beginnings bring surges of creativity and ideas into our lives but sometimes as much as we would love to start creating we can feel stuck. Spring streams can swell with water, only to get backed up behind a block of ice still unmelted from winter. Sadly, it happens more than we would like. We want a natural flow of creativity and yet when we feel stuck we delay finishing projects we've started, we don’t start new projects, or we spin our wheels in a creative rut.
Last year, Noah Scalin invited me to write the forward to his book Unstuck: 52 Ways to Get (and Keep) Your Creativity Flowing at Home, at Work & in Your Studio. Writing the forward required me to think deeper about the factors that cause our creative blocks, what feeling “stuck” really means, and how to get past it. (Hint: if you’ve fallen out of the creative stream don’t push forward; you need to jump sideways to get back in the water). I love “un-sticking” my coaching clients. When that happens, miracles happens.
In this issue I celebrate the release of Unstuck and share with you an expended version of the forward that I wrote for the book.
I like to think that being stuck is actually a good place to be. As a creative person, stuck isn't where I want to spend all my time, but I've come to regard that stuck feeling as a friend, not an enemy. When I'm stuck I read it as a helpful warning sign that I'm not paying attention. Being stuck reminds me to be purposeful again in maintaining my creativity energy. Being stuck is a signal that I am not in a state of flow.
Being stuck, occasionally, is a natural part of being creative. It happens to the best of us. In every creative person's life we arrive occasionally at a place where creativity stops flowing. For a while we're happily riding a creative wave and then out of the blue-nothing. For a terrifying few hours (or days, or weeks), we think the next idea will never come. We become afraid that our ideas are not good enough, and probably never really were good enough. At worst, some of us just give up completely.
Often what gets us stuck is routine. We get too comfortable. We get pretty good at what we do and we produce good enough results. But good enough is not enough: not for me, and probably not for you either. As creative beings our natural desire is to grow, to invent and evolve. When routine becomes the character of our lives the stuck feeling takes over.
Stuck happens. Unfortunately with all our formal education and lifelong, on-the-job training, we seldom learn how to get unstuck from the stuck places we find ourselves in. Many times we don't even realize that we are stuck until all of a sudden the world around us starts to give us clues. Business isn't growing, new clients aren't coming, profits aren't increasing. Chances are you and your business are stuck. Chances are you are not in a creative flow.
Instead of thinking that you are stuck, think that you are not in a creative flow and get yourself back into it. Engage in creative activities that will wake up and steer your creative juices.
When a business owner tells me that their business is stuck, not growing or expanding that tells me that they are not in a creative flow. We immediately bring daily creative action into their lives and soon thereafter things start shifting for them.
What we crave in our creative lives, I believe, is to return to our natural state of creativity: a state of being where growth and progress exist naturally and abundantly. Our business wants that too. Creativity is a natural part of being. We were born creative. As kids, we're not afraid to create. We lived a freely creative life. But as we grow older we lose the necessary space in our lives for creativity to flow. We become occupied with the responsibilities of adulthood and we let our creativity get shoved to the side. We lose our flow.
Creativity is flow. Living in the flow is a spectacular place to live, a place that nourishes us and creates happiness and joy. There's nothing like it. I like to think that flow is always present and the stuck feeling comes from our stepping out of the flow, rather than the flow moving away from us.
Getting unstuck and back into a creative flow takes work. It takes presence and attention and often times the process can become difficult and challenging. But bringing activities into your life that can shake your patterns and spark new ideas will move you forward, break your rut and wake you up.
Creativity is always, by its nature, unknown territory. And for even the most adventuresome explorers of creativity the unknown can get scary. But recognizing that you are stuck and doing something about it will bring you big payoffs. Besides becoming more confident as you experience your creative genius returning, you will start noticing how other, unrelated areas in your life that were also stuck (perhaps some areas that you weren't paying much attention to) will start opening up and getting back into their flow as well. Once your flow is unstuck, you can't stop it or tell where else in your life it will have an effect. Just enjoy the ride.
So congratulations to you on feeling stuck. Lucky you. You've been handed a helpful sign that tells you something in your life and your business needs shaking up. Take the sign seriously but don't panic. There is plenty of support out there if only you choose to bring it into your life.
Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity
To keep creativity flowing and get unstuck we must nurture our creativity. This month's TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert dives to the heart of this idea. The author of Eat, Pray, Love shares with us what it takes to face the risks that we must take to keep our creativity flowing.
To be in a creative flow is to experience our genius. To be able to stay in this flow and bring our genius to every part of our lives we must work at keeping our flame lit. Watch this talk and maybe it will help remind you of your genius.
(PS - If you've seen this talk before, watch it again. It's good for you).