Creative Freedom and How to Defend It.
Vive la (R)evolution!
July is the month we celebrate Freedom, both here in the USA and in my other home country France. Yesterday was Bastille Day, the day in 1789 when an angry crowd of Parisians stormed the Bastille. Only seven prisoners were released that day, but Quatorze Juillet initiated the French Revolution and the end of the monarchy in France.
Freedom celebrations throughout the world are expressed with picnics and parades, fireworks and family. And it would be lovely to let it stop there, but for the wars being fought all around the globe to defend it.
What is creative freedom? And why does it matter that we defend it?
“Even science is art, when it flows pure and free - literature is art, when it flows pure and free - mathematics is art, when it flows pure and free. Any act of the mind that flows pure and free, is art, for freedom is the soul of art.”
― Abhijit Naskar
Freedom of Expression
In 2018 the European Journal Of Interdisciplinary Studies published a report on freedom of expression. It determined three interconnected elements that must be present for freedom of expression to exist.
- The freedom for each of us to examine, research, learn and obtain information in order to establish an opinion
- The freedom to choose and think through our thoughts in the process of forming our opinions and beliefs
- The freedom to declare and disseminate our thoughts, opinions and ideas without infringement via all means of expression to the world
There is freedom of expression at the political level, and freedom of personal expression. This is what I refer to as Creative Freedom.
"Dogmatism of all kinds--scientific, economic, moral, as well as political--are threatened by the creative freedom of the artist. This is necessarily and inevitably so. We cannot escape our anxiety over the fact that the artists together with creative persons of all sorts, are the possible destroyer of our nicely ordered systems." — Rollo May
Creative freedom too must be defended.
For most of you reading this, the enemies of your creative freedom are not “out there.” They are all the enemies within you… the thoughts, feelings, beliefs and opinions you may never express. They determine the quality of your life.
“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” — Sylvia Plath
Amen, sista. And there are others. So let’s talk about them.
When you think about the enemies of your creative freedom, what comes to mind?
You may have many more. When these enemies are left unchecked, your creative enemies eventually destroy your personal vision.
It happens step by step:
- You let yourself dream but never get started.
- You begin but then avoid doing the work.
- You do the work but never finish.
- You finish your work but never share it.
- You share your work but when “IT” doesn’t happen fast, you give up.
- You start and stop your work again and again forever.
Over time, you become desensitized. You begin to not to see what you see, feel what you feel, know what you know, and want what you want. This will cost you your life.
Each of these choices shows up at a different point in the creative process. And each can be found in the Wheel of Creativity.
The Four Enemies of your Vision and How to Overcome Them
I’d like to focus on four arch enemies that align with the four quarters of the Wheel of Creativity – the four major phases you have to navigate to complete the creative cycle and get your big vision project done. They show up in different ways depending on your situation, circumstances and where you are in the process. How and when they show up is unique to you.
These are the four quarters in The Wheel of Creativity and the enemies within them.
- The first quarter is Vision. This is the quarter of the Mind, thinking, and the idea stage of the creative process. When you decide to leave the status quo of your life, you’re bound to encounter Uncertainty, Vagueness, and Inertia as you develop the willingness (or desperation) to finally move. The enemy to conquer here is Paralysis.
- The second quarter is Exploration. This is the quarter of the Spirit, intuition, and the research stage in the creative process. When you let go of what you know to set sail into the unknown, you’re likely to move through some form of Burnout, Distraction and Overwhelm as the old forms of your life dissolve and you prepare for something new. Your enemy here is Despair.
- The third quarter is Incubation. This is the quarter of the Heart, emotions, and the prototype stage of the creative process. When you commit to your idea, to see it through, you surrender yourself to a process you don’t control. So you can expect to encounter your Expectations, Impatience, Perfectionism, as you move from the seed of an idea to something you can work with. Here you encounter Doubt.
- The fourth quarter is Cultivation. This is the quarter of the body, sensations, action. Here you do the hard work of realizing your idea, refining it into physical form. It is natural to encounter Pressure, Resistance and Exhaustion as you go through iteration after iteration until the work is finally complete. The enemy you'll face here is Fatigue.
Good news. Bad news.
The bad news is that there’s no quick or easy way through this. There's no magic system, or quick fix or blueprint. It is going through the process itself that transforms you… from the inside out… by the very act of creating. You just have to do the work.
The good news is that the antidotes to defeat all these enemies are also found in the process. It is through the daily practice of creativity that you come to save yourself from all the enemies you will face, starting with the four here today.
A Compass for the Journey
Using the Wheel of Creativity as your compass, you can determine where you are in the process and learn how to overcome each enemy on its own.
- Thoughts.. Without a clear vision, you can stay stuck in the safety of your head and never begin. So in Quarter 1, you learn to free your mindset, so you can finally leave the status quo of your life and find momentum in your actions.
- Intuition. In that frightening gap between what you once counted on and what can’t yet be seen, it’s easy to turn back to what you knew. In Quarter 2, you learn to ignite your imagination by exploring that unknown, so you can maintain your focus consistently over time, and cross the threshold to the creative part of the creative cycle.
- Emotion. When you doubt the potential of your vision, it can cost you your faith in life. In Quarter 3, you learn to channel your emotions, so you can navigate the inevitable silences and breakdowns in the creative process, to restore your faith in it.
- Action. Not finishing or sharing your work takes a toll over time. In Quarter 4, you learn to ground your actions in reality to give you the energy you need to go through the iterative process, refining your work until it’s ready to release.
I know every one of these places in the process. My creativity evolved through a jungle of self-judgment. Always afraid I would be judged by others, I judged myself first. The joy went out of my work and was replaced by fear, perfectionism and hiding out.
My creative freedom came when I realized the crucial distinction between the product and the process. When we judge our products and ourselves by our products, there’s no room for learning, for being a beginner, for getting better. Only perfectionism is left. Only when we understand that there is no product without the process can we stop judging ourselves.
The creative process is designed to challenge you and the way you perceive yourself to be, what you think you know yourself to be. We try things but we feel shame. Particularly if your vision is a big one… if other people glaze over when you talk about it… if you live in the paralysis of not knowing how or even IF you can achieve it… admitting that you want what you want makes you vulnerable.
But in fact it makes you human.
All you have to do is walk in Nature to recognize that Life takes a myriad of forms. Nature is Creative. And like it or not, remember it or not, we humans are a part of Nature. We are alive. And as living creatures we are here to flow Life, to express Life. In our bodies, we engage with life as i is. In our hearts, we feel, we connect, we love. In our spirits, we dream, we imagine, we reach. And in our minds, we create.
The act of creating, the act of reaching for the stars also sends you to your roots. What do you believe? What do you value? What do you wish were true?
You… your vision… your big vision project
Begin it. Or release it. Because putting it off until a better time — when all the bills are paid, when the children are off to college, when you finally retire, when you have that holiday — is putting off your life. And the longer you do this, the more the life drains from your body, your heart, your spirit and your mind.
The people who come to work with me, who join our creative community, come because they’ve been saying for years what they want to do and not doing it, or because they now have a project that feels bigger than they are. Every huge project starts small, with an idea. Perhaps it’s written down on a napkin in a rare quiet moment. But it is crying for your attention. It is the small, endangered animal on the TV screen in need of your contribution. It is Life coming to you, wanting to come through you, wanting to be expressed. And if you hear it calling, it is your own life asking you to express yourself.
Over time, the progress of our society and our planet depends on us veering off the straight and narrow in search of another way, a different solution, a grand and glorious failure even, on the shoulder of which might stand just what we need.
We need your big visions. We need your wild and crazy and impractical ideas, the visions you hold of another way of living, and the possibility of a solution at the end of a long and winding road.
So take a few minutes now to get quiet, go within and ask yourself these questions:
- How does creative freedom look and feel to you?
- What is your creative vision?
- Why does it matter to you?
- Which one of the four enemies are you most familiar with?
- Where in the process do you usually meet this enemy?
- What is it costing you to let yourself be defeated?
Sit with your answers. See how they feel. Then join me for The Visionista’s Gateway free training to dig a little deeper to free yourself. Make a new choice. Honor your vision once and for all. Storm the Bastille of the tyrant within you and create a (r)evolution with your own life.