the art of creative abundance

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–1–

If you don’t believe in your own abundance, you believe on some level that every act depletes you. That your talent is finite. That you only have so many ideas, and once they’re gone, they’re gone.

You’re coming from a place of scarcity and fear.

–2–

The problem with fear is that it freezes you up. It literally hijacks your brain so that you’re not capable of creative thinking (since all your mental resources focus on simple survival).

I’ve learned that fear is parasitic and deceptive. It’s like a creeping ivy that grows through your sense of self. You start confusing it with who you actually are.

(Because you are not your fear.)

It masquerades as any number of reasons why you don’t need to do the work today. You can put it off until tomorrow. And then the next day. And the day after that.

Steven Pressfield calls this The Resistance.

–3–

The Resistance is anything that prevents us from doing the work, including our tendency to prepare and prepare and prepare, or to keep putting off the work because we don’t feel prepared enough.

The way to deal with the problem of feeling underprepared is to skip right over it.

Make some rudimentary notes, advises Pressfield. The entire outline of your novel should take up one page.

And then begin.

Just begin.

Trust the soup.

–4–

I love that phrase – trust the soup – which is another way of saying, Let go of your need to control, to know everything in advance. Control, after all, is the flipside of fear: when we’re frightened of something we clamp down on it that much harder and try to dictate every aspect.

But we’re using such a small part of ourselves: the so-called rational, conscious part that wants to believe all progress is linear.

Creative intelligence is more mysterious and expansive than that. If you believe in Howard Gardner’s ‘multiple intelligences’ theory – and I do – than you know that intelligence exists on a number of different levels, both verbal and nonverbal. Creativity draws on these levels simultaneously, so that your work comes to you in feelings and hunches as well as words and images, through your body as well as your mind. It’s an all-inclusive affair.

–5–

Elizabeth Gilbert gave an excellent TED speech in which she suggested that maybe the ancient Greeks were onto something. They believed that creativity flowed through you from an external source. You didn’t own it – or control it – you were just borrowing it for a while, or maybe letting it borrow you. Your job was to keep those avenues as open and inviting as possible.

You did this just by showing up.

And then getting down to it.

Sometimes the Muse came, and touched you with brilliance, and sometimes it didn’t. No worries. You just kept on with it, day after day after day, and did your part.

–6–

Trust the soup reminds me of that. In this case we’re not calling on the gods but the power of our own psyche, while acknowledging how mysterious the process is – and in some sense beyond our control.

You could think of the soup as having different layers to it:

Your unconscious. That great underground storehouse of memory and dream and the things you don’t know you know. The world bombards us with millions of bits of stimuli every moment, and in order to keep sane the conscious mind can only filter a fraction of a fraction of that. Everything else goes underground. That part of your mind mulls things over and dreams on them and evaluates them and arrives at its own conclusions, which it then floats up to your conscious mind in the form of a ‘decision’ that your conscious mind believes that it made (and makes up some reasons why).

The collective unconscious. This is the deep primal strata of myth and archetype, “the software of the mind”. This is a Jungian thing that I won’t go into here, but the basic idea is that we’re all encoded with the same ancient memories, which is why different versions of the same stories show up in cultures throughout the world.

Your conscious mind considers itself an isolated entity.

Your unconscious mind knows better.

Neuroscience is beginning to show us how deeply we wire into each other through empathy, “mirror neurons”, and networks of influence. Even when we don’t think we’re connected, we’re connected: you are currently being influenced by someone you’ve never even met, but has influenced someone who is influencing you in ways you don’t even realize.

As David Brooks writes in THE SOCIAL ANIMAL:

If the study of the conscious mind highlights the importance of reason and analysis, study of the unconscious mind highlights the importance of passions and perception. If the outer mind highlights the power of the individual, the inner mind highlights the power of relationships and the invisible bonds between people. If the outer mind hungers for status, money, and applause, the inner mind hungers for harmony and connection – those moments when self-consciousness fades away and a person is lost in a challenge, a cause, the love of another or the love of God.

Or, as Pressfield might say, for the love of the soup. The irony is that when you travel inward, you draw from a level of consciousness that draws information from other minds as well as your own.

–8–

And the Soup is always there. You cannot deplete it. It will not run out.

In fact, it’s when you push yourself to the point of feeling completely drained and depleted that you come up with your best ideas.

This is known in brainstorming as the “third third”. Most people don’t brainstorm long or hard enough. It’s only when you empty your mind of every idea you think you have that the true thinking starts to take place.

The “third third” refers to that final segment of a brainstorming session in which you always get your greatest and most original ideas. It’s almost as if you have to pump the second-rate associations — all that is clichéd and hackneyed and familiar – from your head in order to create the vacuum that nature so famously abhors.

And then you can draw on The Soup.

So the more you give away, the richer your thinking becomes, the more original and interesting your ideas.

And when you feel empty and depleted, is the moment you are ready to begin.

May 2, 2011
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12 comments · Add Yours

Good set of guidelines. Thanks.

I also think that sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. Many of the thoughts above can puncture self-important balloons.

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I love that Elizabeth Gilbert TED speech. When I learned to just show up writing stopped being torturous and started being a pleasure.

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You know, it’s weird. I’d never heard of most of these (the one exception is the Greek Muse), but my WIP deals with a similar idea. It states that no idea is truly original, that we’re getting it from somewhere else–but we aren’t stealing it. It can be anything that resonates with others–an idea, an event, a story, etc.–strongly enough to leap a sort of psychic barrier (like the mental equivalent of quantum tunneling, if you know what that is). Once it’s done this, who can pick up on it depends on the strength of the resonation–sometimes they can be worlds away (fantasy genre).

It’s a lot of fun to explore, but it’s a bit of a chore to try and describe it succinctly…as I’m sure this comment has demonstrated. :P

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Just get down to it. I love that. I also love the idea of abundance. Our culture wants to cultivate scarcity, but if we can cleave to the idea of plenty, we will be happier and more creative. Thanks for the great post!

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This may not be the point of the post, but I find the last bit fascinating. Only when your conscious mind is depleted can you get to the real store of information. As if your conscious mind is hogging all your attention and your unconscious can get to you only after the conscious is tired.
Kind of like the ‘second wind’ thing runners get.
Thanks for the post.

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‘you are not your fear.’
If I could just get that one – really know it right through; my life would be transformed.
Thanks.

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Lunar — my therapist suggested I give my fear-voice a name — I call it Jena, after a childhood bestfriend/nemesis — it sounds kind of wacky but it actually drove home the point that the fear is something apart from me, not something I need to listen to. It doesn’t disappear, but you form a working relationship with it & you can use it as a guide — if you’re scared to do something, chances are that that thing is exactly what you need to do.

Jake — I think that’s it exactly — the conscious mind is a hog :)

Kim — but it’s hard to do, isn’t it? it goes against a lot of our programming!

Will — maybe there’s nothing original under the sun…but there are original ways we can apply ourselves to the not-so-original idea…maybe it’s not in the idea itself, but the execution

Lovelyn — yeah, I love that speech. my own writing comes more easily when I just ‘show up’ with a loosely held intention and move it forward

Kay — oh gods, yes. without humor and play, we’re nowhere.

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Wow Justine, you covered a lot of ground in this post! So many concepts to go after. I’ll explore just one.

“The problem with fear is that it freezes you up.”

What are we afraid of, especially when it comes to something we DO, especially creatively do. We’re afraid of failure. But what is failing? Failing, in part, is losing or not gaining the admiration, validation and respect of others. Will they like my book? Will they accept me as an accomplished author? Does anyone care about my ideas? Does anyone care about ME?

Why are these questions important to us? Because deep down inside, we all need to matter. We all need to have significance. We all need to be loved. And when we don’t CONNECT with those affirmations, we feel lost, depressed and alienated. Feeling that way IS being lost and alienated. And those feelings are generated by an illusion of separation, which throws so much anxiety into our psyche that we break down creatively. We disconnect even more to the Source of our Being and Ideas. We drift away from our Muse.

But here’s the greatest paradox of all: We need to dwell in the illusion of separation to think new thoughts! If we all existed completely connected to ALL THERE IS, in what is called Soul Consciousness, we all would be living in the Eternal NOW. We would “know” all potential creation as we merge with Consciousness everywhere, into the past and into the future. As a single and unified Consciousness, contract would cease to exist. All would be ONE, in harmony and balance. No need for change. No need for improvement. All IS, as it should be.

But that’s not how evolution works. Evolution, of which WE are the leading edge, is created by NEW THOUGHTS everywhere, all the time. And these new thoughts arise through exploration of the unknown, within the illusion of uncertainty which we, as a universe Consciousness, has agreed to manifest in the material plane. We have chosen to be human. And with that, comes pain, fear and the struggle to be more of who we are, and add to All There Is. This is life’s purpose: creation. And even FEAR does that!

Yeah…heavy… But intriguing.

Irv

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What is it about fear that we are -afraid- to admit we harbor it? It is so often the elephant in the room that we pretend doesn’t exist, yet we allow ourselves to be controlled by it — some to a greater extent than others.

Whoever said “procrastination is rooted in fear” nailed it. It is paralyzing if not confronted, but seemingly trivial when we do finally confront it. How often do we look back and wonder what on Earth we were afraid of? All the more reason to just show up and stare down the elephant He’ll go away if you look at him hard enough.

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Not only fearin scarcity, but also fearing making mistakes. We fear the “shitty first draft” (to quote Anne Lamott) where we need to get messy and just have fun with an idea.

I also find myself trying to force an idea to work. I tried for 2 weeks and 13,000 words to make an idea work. And it just wasn’t going to happen. Once I let the idea go, creative abundance flowed for my new project.

I love every idea on this blog, I want to immerse myself in the ideas and energy of it. But then I probably would get little else done, so I will stickto small doses. :)

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Shoshin or Beginner’s Mind. A state of open-minded emptiness. What a beautiful place to start.

Lovely post Justine.

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here’s another one for you.

you said, “Trust the soup.”

a friend says, “I can control only what’s inside my hula hoop.”

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