Caught in a Musical Rut?

Cover of "The Artist's Way: Spiritual Pat...

Cover via Amazon

This post will be the first of many which relate to that nebulous and mystical thing: our creative self. Today, I want to take a look at the creative self and ways to ignite your creativity.  I have spent the better part of the last three years actively searching to spark my own creative fire after it had shut down from several years of  running it into the ground by overuse.  I started on this search to find my misplaced creativity, because I was feeling empty and void without the flood of creative ideas with which it had filled my mind my entire life. Some of the tips I discovered from various mentors and books (especially the amazing treatise on creativity The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron). Others I discovered through some serious soul-searching.

I believe that each of us have the capacity to be highly creative. Our brains can function in abstract and enormously complex ways! We only know of a fraction of our total brain capacity. So if you follow this train of thought with me, that our “computer” is working properly, then it follows that lack of creativity and imagination is a result from a lack of input for the brain to work with. In short– our flow of creativity has become blocked or dried up.

The computer analogy overly simplifies the complexities of being blocked or suffering from a drought of creativity. But take faith in the fact that there are many, many paths you can take to recovery.  I believe that the first step is acceptance. It takes bravery and courage to stop beating your head against the wall, or practicing etudes and technical exercises all day long, or spending countless hours wasted in the practice room. It takes bravery to say– it isn’t my technique, it isn’t my dedication, it is the creative spark which lights my fire that has burnt out and is causing me all this grief.

When you have realized this, then you can begin the process of becoming unblocked and healing. If you asked me what was the most dominant feeling I had when made this realization midway through my Master’s degree; I would say that it was the feeling of being starved. When I realized that I had not been feeding my creative soul for months and months on end, I felt well; sort of used up.

I dove into any and every book I could find about imagination and the creative process and this is when The Artist’s Way fell into my hands. It couldn’t have been more serendipitous. One of the main points that Julia Cameron makes in the book is that we must constantly be feeding our creative selves. I had literally starved my creativity to the point where it was beginning to shut down.

As I said before, there are many ways to restoring or improving the health of your personal creativity. I feel though that writing and seeking new experiences were the building blocks of my recovery.  The urge to try new things became overwhelming! I began writing poetry that started to pour out of me at random moments while laying in bed or while I was on the train. I was scribbling things down in a horrible chicken scratch just because I wanted to write everything down very fast, before the thought could leave me. I began sitting at the piano (which I don’t play) and somehow improvising large works which I would end up recording for myself because they were so spontaneous I could never hope to reproduce them. One of my good friends Erik Saras and I began tossing around the idea of co-composing a short ballet, and by November, it was being produced by Manhattan School of Music and with dancers from the Juilliard Department of Dance. My wife bought me watercolor classes at the New York Student Art League and as of this week, I will be showing my first watercolor in a public show in the East Village.  These experiences allowed me to absorb new techniques and skills, while allowing my brain to experience different thought processes than the ones I had used over and over leading up to my creative block.

Once I began to be aware of the needs of my creativity and fed it the new experiences it desired most– that is when my productivity skyrocketed.  When you have identified your need to rehabilitate your creativity, the most important thing you can do is listen to your creative self, bring it what it wants, and treat it with respect and the utmost care.

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