4 primary principles of creativity

1. You can’t go backwards.

If you think you’ve lost skill, or vision, or the ability to come up with ideas, you’re wrong. You haven’t. You can’t go backwards. Ever. No matter what.

It’s not up to you.

This is a pattern of creation: a cycle of birth, growth, death, rest, and then, regeneration. Birth again. A new creative birth.

It’s always forward movement.

There’s a place, however, that feels like going backwards.

You’ve been there before, and you’ll be there again.

It’s not creative death; that’s actually a relief. It’s the period right before the point of death. The period in which you’ve ceased to grow–but you haven’t yet reached the point of letting go–is full of pain. It feels like waste and wandering. It is the desert for 40 years. It is when you question yourself and hate everything you’ve done.

It won’t last.

You are creating, and you are being created.

Let the cycle continue as it will, and try not to believe the feelings before death. Let go and find yourself rebirthed.

You can’t go backward.

2. Nothing is wasted.

With each creative rebirth, you bring into being a new version of your self.

It is filled with and powered by all the skill, experience, and knowledge you have accumulated along the way. Every failure, every attempt, every moment you’re ashamed of has something to teach you. So does every victory. It has all taught you.

You may not be aware of the lesson yet. That’s okay. It won’t go away.

Moments drop into you without you knowing it.

They rest there until you need them. Some circumstance or idea or struggle in the creative process calls them forth. Then it seems like magic: this intuition, this knowingness, this genius.

It is a seed that has been growing all the time.

Every experience carries a seed. Sometimes, many seeds. None are lost. None are wasted.

3. You’re never not creating.

You can’t stop creating.

Even the most physical forms of creation are, at the core, internal struggles and challenges and triumphs.

The creating you do may be powered by your hands, feet, body, voice; the skills you use, however, are all mental before they are physical. You must see in your mind how to jump before you jump, hear in your mind how a note sounds before you can sing it.

Because the heart of all creative skill is internal, your creative work never stops. Even in sleep, you are processing, analyzing, connecting. You do some of your best work while you are sleeping.

This ongoing process of creation is amazing, but it can cause frustration if you quit creating in the daylight.

That is, if you’re dreaming, thinking, sleeping, observing, letting those unconscious and semi-conscious states of creation continue, but you’re not carrying out the active process of creation, you are blocking the flow. The result is internal pressure, anxiety, anger, and lots of other unpleasantness.

You can’t stop creating, but if you don’t actively participate in it, you’ll wish you could.

4. Everything is a partnership.

Originality is not the hallmark of creation. That idea probably came from an art critic, not an artist.

Every active creator knows that originality is pointless to pursue.

The idea of originality is the quicksand of the creative landscape. It will suck you in and you will be lost forever to real creativity. You will be swallowed whole by a malevolent force that is the opposite of creativity.

Creativity is connection.

Connection requires more than one. You and another, and another, and another.

You’ll always be borrowing, building upon, and using other people’s work. There’s no problem with that, unless you refuse to acknowledge the debt you owe to other creators. That’s foolish, because to ignore the contributions of others is to deny that you have made any connections at all. And to deny connection is to deny creativity.

We’re all in this together.

We see ourselves as individuals, and we are. In fact, these identities we have are essential. The separation we experience as finite individual beings is what enables us to observe, connect, and create uniquely. But we are also connected.

Creation is a group project, whether we recognize it as such or not.

My work contributes to your work, and your ideas make mine better.

Everyone can create. Everyone is creating. Our cumulative efforts build us a world.

If we don’t like the world we have, it’s up to us to apply the principles of creativity and make the next version better.