Cultivating One’s Own Creative Voice
Every individual has a creative impulse in them, albeit in varying degrees. However, everyone has also faced that little bit of hesitation in following their creative voices, either because there is another dissuading voice in the conscience that tells them, ‘What’s the point if you’re not going to make a career out of it, or its not going to get you money?’ Perhaps, many even have friends and family who have been that voice!
Podcast guru Srinivas Rao, in his An Audience Of One, reinforces the positive thought that creativity is a reward in itself and that there is no satisfaction in trying to please others. With excerpts from his own life and from stories of creative and artists, he shows the rewards one can gain by pursuing their own creative impulses and that it is all about embracing one’s own vision by following a process that involves being true to oneself.
He builds on the premise that creativity becomes stronger in a person the moment the person stops bothering about the potential audience. The moment creativity has an audience of one – essentially oneself – it blooms, becomes more personal and engaging, and thus has a higher potential of winning an audience of many.
You Don’t Need Extra Validation
With creativity, the dilemma of either appealing to what a wider audience wants or staying true to oneself always arises. However, when creativity is fuelled by the expectations of others, the creator is bound to be unhappy and dissatisfied with the creation.
Financial rewards, critical reviews, and audience accolades are all extrinsic motivators, or responses one has no control over. Whether others find the creative work boring or a masterpiece are personal opinions, which one can do nothing about. Thus by worrying over extrinsic motivators one only sets themselves up for disappointment.
Trying to make one’s creative work appealing to others always makes its way away from the originally intended vision one has for the creative work. Compromising on one’s own vision leads to regret, especially if the process of appealing to others doesn’t yield the desired results.
The true reward of creativity is the satisfaction one gets when they follow their own vision and it becomes reality. The creator thus has discretion and control over their own work.
David Bowie never created music to be famous. He in fact always stressed the importance of understanding why one feels the personal urge to be creative in the first place and aimed to create to-do something artistically important.
The final reward of creativity is when a person’s creation is received well enough to encourage the person to continue creating, to continue doing what they love, and revel in the satisfaction of the creative process itself.
The Myth Of ‘Making It’
Creativity that aims at monetary gains often leads to not only dissatisfying but also unsuccessful creations. This is because creativity with monetary pursuits lacks a strong personal vision. Thus, when one focuses on an audience of one – namely oneself – one ends up happier, with results that have a higher chance at garnering more fans.
The entire idea of ‘making it’, or reaching the final step of success (achieving fame and fortune), is a fickle friend. In today’s day and age, when attention spans are minimal, instant gratification is important and there are newer pursuits available to everyone at every nook and corner, the concept of ‘making it’ and resting on laurels is virtually impossible.
To hone creativity and reap its benefits, one has to remember that the reward lies in the process and not the final outcome.
Honing one’s own creativity takes time and requires patience for trial and error. Moreover, this experimentation should be done away from the public eye, as this process needs one to learn from mistakes and work on them to improve. For example, if a person has an eye for painting, without really trying a few times and refining techniques with practice, showcasing the first paintings to a large audience will definitely get harsh criticisms.
Hence, it is essential to create for oneself, fail and learn from repeated failings to get a final, polished and refined creative, rather than chase the idea of ‘making it’.
Embracing one’s creativity involves three main ways. These include three types of listening that will help in adding a more personal touch to the creative work and make it stronger. They are,
- Listening to oneself,
- Listening to one’s environment,
- Listening to others.
Listening to Oneself: Trust, Presence, And Solitude
Listening to oneself needs trust, presence, and solitude.
- Trust – Listening to oneself firstly involves trusting oneself and what one stands for. It means having confidence in one’s own values. To be sure of one’s own values, it is important to have answers to what makes one angry, excited, joyful, and what does one wants others to experience when they enter that world. One can also write a manifesto.
- Presence – The habit of thinking about the future takes on away from the present. One then tends to miss out on the profound moment when creative inspirations hit and misses out on the experiences that will work.
- Solitude – Cultivating solitude is another essential factor that helps to cultivate creativity. Often, when people indulge in self-judgment and criticism, they lost touch with the present. Criticism and creation did work together, and hence, it is vital to create a judgment-free headspace while cultivating solitude.
The moments that one spends ‘thinking’ are a great way to embrace solitude. However, it isn’t as easy to put into practice. Therefore, one must make a deliberate effort to embrace and cultivate solitude. Some methods include meditation to connect with one’s inner voice, or even using noise-canceling headphones.
Listening to Oneself: Listen To Your Body Too
Creativity equals productivity. And to be productive, one must focus on overall well-being and health. Additionally, a healthy mind and a healthy body go hand-in-hand, and these are vital prerequisites of listening to oneself.
For boosting one’s productivity and hence, one’s creativity, one needs to ensure that one gets a good amount of sleep. Additionally, it is proven that sleep in itself is productive. For example, dreams are long known to boost creativity. Thus, it helps to keep a dream journal, which can, in the long run, emerge as a source of inspiration and creative ideas.
Another example of enhancing productivity while sleeping is to ask oneself an important question before sleeping. It is surprising, but often the answer to these questions comes while one is asleep.
The next on the list of creativity-boosting essentials is maintaining a good diet. Foods that contain Omega 3’s and B vitamins are known to boost cognitive power, and thus help creativity. One can maintain productivity versus a diet chart to find what diet suits best. Take a note of the days when creative inspiration was highest and check what foods were consumed on those days.
The final pre-requisite is exercise. Exercise is proven to boost brain and brain energy by creating essential mitochondria. Additionally, exercise also makes way for solitude by giving one personal time and space for deep, meaningful thinking.
Listening To One’s Environment
The next type of listening is listening to one’s environment. This not only includes one’s immediate surroundings, but also the extended environment, including sights, sounds, and smells.
To begin with, focus on physical space. Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up discusses the process of decluttering the physical space in order to declutter the mind. How does one actually do it?
To decide whether an object needs to be discarded or not, one should simply ask, “Do I love this? How does this enrich my life?’ The answers to these questions will help one understand whether that object needs to be discarded or not. Objects that one does not ‘love’ add to the clutter in the physical space.
Additionally, it is found that natural spaces often do wonders for the psyche. A walk in the woods or near the ocean helps in gaining solitude and boosts deep thinking, as well as helps in keeping away from distractions such as technology and noise. Nature therapy has been linked to a reduction in the stress-causing hormone cortisol by 12%.
In addition to removing ‘noise’, it is also found that ‘white noise’ helps in boosting one’s capacity for concentration. Certain types of music, especially instrumental music or music that are not lyrics-heavy are beneficial. On the other hand, for visual art such as paintings, music with lyrics often boost creative ideas. So artists even find that cultivating a musical habit – listening to the same music while creating – is beneficial too.
Technology, especially smartphones are the biggest distractions today. Social media is built on the premise that users should be constantly logged on. The need to constantly check emails and messages can keep one from getting into the state of flow –or the state where one is completely immersed in their creation and enjoy it so much that they do not notice time flying by.
Eliminating Distractions From The Environment
Everyone knows how distracting smartphones are. But that doesn’t make people discard their phones and ignore emails. Therefore, what can be done to reduce distractions?
Firstly, it should be kept in mind that people control devices, and not vice-versa. Therefore, one can opt to turn off notifications that keep pinging for attention, unsubscribe from mailers that are not needed. In fact, one should unsubscribe from everything, and then start over with adding and subscribing to only those apps and mailers that add value. Services such as Unroll.Me, are good options to de-clutter your virtual space.
Another simpler way is to simply switch off the phone, or keep it in another room during the time of work. Scheduling an ‘unplugging time’ works wonders for creativity, whether one is currently working on a project or not. Tools such as RescueTime, Focus, or the Facebook News Feed Eradicator plug-in are helpful.
Apart from technology, distractions also come in the form of people. Sometimes, there are people in one’s life who drain positivity by bringing others down. While it could be a difficult task to eliminate such people instantaneously, once such individuals are cut off, life will seem lighter.
Distractions in one’s environment can be compared to food. In order to live a healthy life, one has to eliminate the junk that makes one feel insecure and bad.
Productivity-Boosting Good Habits
Cultivating creativity requires one to imbibe certain good habits. There are few methods one can inculcate good habits.
- Certainty Anchor – A certainty anchor is a habit that ‘anchors’ the mind to get into the work mode. Often, due to distractions or unavoidable chaos in ones surrounding, focussing becomes a problem. Let’s say a painter has a habit of brewing a cup of coffee just before he gets to his studio to paint. Such simple habits in the day-to-day routine can act as signals to the mind to start focussing on the work that lies ahead.
- Reduce decision Fatigue – The average human makes about 300 decisions in a day, ranging from what to eat to what to wear, cook, etc. The sheer number itself unknowingly causes cognitive fatigue. One can reduce the number of decisions in many ways to preserve energy for creativity. For example, Apple’s Steve Jobs had a set of clothes he always wore, thus reducing the time taken for deciding what to wear daily. Many creative people apply this method to reduce energy waste on non-creative thinking.
- Understanding the gradual process – Habit formation doesn’t happen in a day. It is a gradual process that sets itself with the passage of time. For example, if a writer aims to write a thousand words per day, trying to reach the goal in one day, could result in failure, and he could give up completely without even giving it a second shot. Goals, like habits, should be given time and increased gradually in order to succeed. For example, the writer could begin with a paragraph per day and continue for a week. Then he could increase the limit to say, 500 words in the second, and then 1000 in the third and fourth week.
Finally, one should keep in mind that it takes about an hour of focus to get into the state of flow. Therefore, one should make schedules accordingly. If the writer aims to write only for an hour, he could well be stopping his creative work just before the good stuff starts flowing in.
Hear Others Out, But Always Stay True To Oneself
The final listening type is listening to others. When it comes to creativity, listening to oneself is always on top of the list. However, it is important to hear out what others have to say too.
That said, one has to keep in mind that when it comes to other’s opinions, it is wiser to surround oneself with good influences, essentially, people who help one succeed, rather than weigh them down with negativity.
To do this, one can surround oneself with like-minded people, or join a community of creative individuals. Like-minded creative people not only provide inspiration and sound advice but also act as a safety net when one wishes to challenge oneself and take bolder steps. Forming a community or club can help streamline one’s network.
The concept of a ‘lone creator’ is a myth. Almost every creative endeavor is a product of collaboration, whether it’s a movie director who works with a huge crew or a writer who needs an editor. It is important to remember that every piece of art has influences or traces of artists that came before, and thus it is essential to view influence as positive.
At the same time, one has to take measured steps and be careful when it comes to influencing. Influence should always be positive and inspirational, else it often leads to plagiarism.
Finally, one can take inspiration from any direction for their work. It isn’t necessary that to write a blog, one must go through other blogs for inspiration. Maybe, singling out artists from another creative line, such as sculptors or painters can help in giving one’s creative work uniqueness.
Creativity needs to be cultivated. Whether it is to pursue a creative career or to simply polish one’s own creative instincts, one should always create for an audience of one.
Cultivating creativity involves listening first to oneself, followed by paying attention to one’s surroundings, and then lastly, listening to the opinions of others.
One should always remember that cultivating one’s own creative voice always begins by staying true to oneself because only the audience one can lead to an audience of many!