Harness Your Fleeting Creativity



It might go without saying, this article is from a creative impulse. 

It’s a bit cyclical and self-fulfilling, I’m aware of that. 

Yet even that observation might be my ego judging a deeper truth that needed to be expressed.

The destructor of creativity

Remembering back as a kid, there were things I was inherently interested in. They were things that gave me delights and pulled my focus.

I feel that this type of delight is very close to the fountain of creativity.

Carl Jung wrote in his Commentary on The Secret of the Golden Flower how our logical consciousness can quell those little creative whispers that come to us.

He writes (so, these things that we tell ourselves):

One cannot concentrate on it—it is too boring—what would it amount to— it is ‘nothing but’, et cetera. 

Carl Jung, Commentary on The Secret of the Gold Flower

He’s pointing at the things “we” say to ourselves against our creative impulses. Those creative impulses can be hints at much bigger things that ”need to be true”.

I can think of a few more objections, including “well who do you think you are??”.

My personal complexes

Looking back to my own childhood, it was the response of what I interpreted subjectively as a disinterested parent that killed my creative impulse. It took the wind out of my sails.

It would start like this: I would be delighted in something.

That source of delight could have been as simple as a blade of grass or an insect. Later on, it was delight at being able to manipulate computers, like getting a web page to flash different colours as it loaded.

When I didn’t get the parental response that I would interpret as encouragement – the response I needed in the moment – I internalised it as being told “that’s not interesting. It was like hearing “Why would you be interested in that, stop being delighted at nonsense.”

Finding new delight

In my adult life, I’ve had to work at finding things that delight me, and letting myself be delighted!

A recent example was that I was designing a leaflet for Bitesize Irish’s 1-Week Challenge in Adobe Illustrator. I wondered how I could make the text 3D on the leaftlet. 

Because I had been digging into what I loved as a child, I knew consciously that I loved making 3D lettering. 

(I also loved the idea of calligraphy, but that wasn’t to be because I was left-handed.)

So when I saw these 3D options in the software, I was in a mode of delight, and I let myself stay there. 

I damn loved making the leaflet. It was a very satisfying processes. 

The leaflet I ended up designing was perhaps “different” and not according to standard clear visual design, but it was a real expression of the process.

A younger adult version of myself would have harshly judged any sense of having fun in creating this leaflet. Indeed, looking at previous versions of the leaflet I had created, they are black and white and void of any fun.

I had gone so far as to internalise the idea that if I was enjoying doing something, that it wasn’t real work. “You should be delegating this work, who are you to be doing this?” – that’s the type of conversation I’d have with myself.

Let yourself find delight

From this learning, I can tell myself: 

  • Let yourself find delight.
  • Let yourself dream.
  • Let those dreams linger.

Letting creativity happen

From the quote from Jung above, he goes on to say:

The conscious mind raises prolific objections, in fact it often seems bent upon blotting out the spontaneous fantasy-activity in spite of real insight, even of firm determination on the part of the individual to allow the psychic processes to go forward without interference.

Try as was may to allow our creativity bubble up, we will end up judging it. 

The antidote to that is to be aware of the judgement, and let the dream happen, letting it linger, and perhaps letting it become an aspect of your life.

Jung spoke about his patients, and those who were able to psychologically develop to deal with whatever troubled them:

What did these people do in order to achieve the development that liberated them? As far as I could see they did nothing (wu wei) but let things happen.

He himself says that it’s not as easy as that. We really have to step aside and let things happen. He said:

After complete and faithful observation, free rein can be given to the impatience of the conscious mind; in fact it must be given, else obstructing resistances develop. But each time the fantasy material is to be produced, the activity of consciousness must again be put aside.

It’s the “complete and faithful observation” part that seems to be essential here. If you don’t respect your creative impulses enough to even observe them and give them the light of day, you’ll never get to the later more determined conscious stage of making it reality.

Harnessing what happens

I’ve therefore wondered, what does it meant to observe and harness that creative impulse.

Is it to write down the idea immediately, or sketch it out? I feel like that’s part of the process, yes

However I’ve seen the result of writing everything down too. I’ve tried that thing where you bring a little notebook around with you, and write down every little interesting idea that you have.

Guess what? You end up with a notebook of a vast array of ideas that get lost in the notebook, and then the notebook gets to sit on a shelf and taunt you.

No, I think sitting with a creative impulse can indeed be as simple as making a little note of it. Maybe adding a little sketch. Imagining that it was to become true. Prototype your creativity.

Let the creative impulse become a little more grounded in reality. Write out a page of what life could look like if you followed through.

Sketch what the idea might look like (or sound like, or whatever it is).

Make note of those creative impulses that keep coming back. I suspect that they want to become true, that they must be true.

If we can step aside and let creativity bubble up, and then give it at least the time of day that it deserves, then I think we’re doing well to let our creativity happen.

Until next time,

P.S. I don’t think Jung used the term creative impulse in the referenced book. I did later come across the term in “The Courage to Creat” by Rollo May.

The art in the feature image is my painting Blue Tunnel.

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