How To Unlock Your Creative Genius

I was watching an interview with John Cleese recently and he said something that got me thinking. When asked about his creative process he said, “You cannot bully the subconscious. It simply doesn’t work.” He went on to say that his best work always happened spontaneously. 

He still had a process, it’s just that the muse didn’t always play ball. Often the work that resulted wasn’t very good. They’d have days where none of the material was used. 

He noted, it is usually when they weren’t trying to make something happen – when they were simply messing around – that everything would start to click. Suddenly the muse would come out to play and what resulted was comedic gold. 

I often hear bloggers write about the need to have a process. A specific time where you commit to writing each day. A place where you sit down and “punch the damn keys” as one blogger regularly puts it. 

Of course, if you don’t form the habit it’s much harder to catch that bastard muse when it strikes. Having a process is about creating the conditions that make it more likely to come out and play. Not to mention that you’re committing yourself to improve through regular practice. 

That said, I wonder if there might be a little too much emphasis on habit formation nowadays? Something I rarely hear bloggers make mention of is this idea of spontaneity. This idea of being ready for when the muse strikes outside of your normal routine.

I don’t know about you but often when I commit to writing, the muse is nowhere to be found.

I say, “Ok buddy, time to sit down and write. Gotta crack out that weekly post!”

My muse: “Sure thing buddy, just hold on a minute would you…” 

At this point he goes into the kitchen and cracks open a six pack of beer before sitting down on the sofa and proceeding to binge watch NETFLIX… 

Oh wait that’s me!

Anyway, on the rare evenings I do employ willpower and commit myself to writing, my muse remains silent. 

When that happens I end up writing in circles.  I’m like, “Hey muse, you wanna help me out here?” Of course he doesn’t. Instead my internal critic starts editing the post well before it’s finished as I become increasingly aware that what I’m writing is complete dog shite. So I go back and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite… 

And then what happens?

Not only do I become stressed, I end up butchering the post in question. I actually create more work for myself trying to fix the mess I made, simply because I didn’t walk away.

The lesson? 

You cannot bully the subconscious.

At this stage I’ve found the best thing you can do to aid the creative process is not engage in it. Take a break. Go for a leisurely walk. Mess around with your children. Be silly. Have a beer. Maybe, even, binge watch some NETFLIX. (Hell yeah!) 

Do this and I’ve found the brain works in the background connecting the dots in ways that it couldn’t when you were trying to force it. So much so that when you do come back to write, it’s not only easier, but much better to boot.

There’s something else I figured out too. I’ve noticed it’s when I’m not thinking about anything in particular – when I’m busy doing something else – that my muse gives me my best ideas. In fact, he usually visits at 2am when I’m struggling to sleep. 

He says, “Hey numb nuts I’ve got an awesome idea, wanna hear it?”

“Not now muse! I’m trying to sleep!”

Then my muse says, “Fuck you, I’m gonna tell you anyway (my muse is a bit of a dick). Here it is…”

At which point he explains in painful detail this amazing idea for a blog post. 

So I say, “Ok muse – that’s a good one, I’ll admit. But I really must sleep. Can you remind about it in the morning and let me go back to sleep?”

Of course he doesn’t. He says, “You’ll forget in the morning numb nuts. It’s now or never! Here let me explain that idea to you again in painful detail…” 

Eventually I’ll get up in anger and write down as many thoughts about the idea as I can, as quickly as I can. Often I won’t think. I’ll just write. Sometimes I’ll write a first draft in less than 20mins. 

It will just “flow” out of me. 

When I revisit it in the morning I often go, “holy shit, that’s far better than anything I’ve written in a while.”

Interestingly enough, if I do wait on that idea, if I try to revisit it later on, the writing doesn’t gel nearly as well. My muse (that smug bastard) is usually right.

Sometimes you gotta play when the subconscious wants to, not the other way round. 

I’ve noticed the same thing happens to me when I go for a walk around my local park. An idea will pop into my head that’s too good to ignore. 

At this point my muse is jumping up and down like a dog in heat as a post will suddenly form in my head. When this happens I take out my phone and start writing. 

Once again it kinda flows out of me. I feel this usually results in my most interesting, if not my best, work. 

It’s for all the above that I take a somewhat freer approach to my writing nowadays. I still try to write at the same time everyday, but I don’t force it anymore. I take a daily-ish approach. I’ve become much better at recognising when to walk away – when It’s clear that a little NETFLIX will actually do me some good. 

I’ve also come to recognise the importance of writing when my muse is busting a gut. Unless it has to wait, practically speaking, I will try to sit down and write as soon as that idea has popped into my head. 

While you cannot bully the subconscious, it can, on occasion, bully you. My experience is, when it comes to the creative process, you should let it. 


(I’m curious, how do you engage in the creative process? Do you have a particular time and place where you sit down to write? Or do you take a more freestyle approach? What works bet for you and what other tips do you have? As always I’m very keen to hear your thoughts. Warm regards, AP2.)

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

39 thoughts on “How To Unlock Your Creative Genius

  • Good post and totally agree. Life, itself, is the best inspiration and like a muse, you really just have to, as you say, let it. And let it draw the inspiration for you, even at 2 am! Enjoy your weekend. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  • So funny . . . but so true! Sometimes I feel a bit guilty for not having established a ‘proper’ writing routine but I’ve found, just like you, it doesn’t always work. Many of my most exciting writing ideas have woke me up in the ridiculously small hours with a pressing need to get up and write that is impossible to be ignored. I also love it that the seed of a story will begin to grow when I’m out with the dogs in the woods or the fields. I don’t note anything down right away though . . . just leave the seeds to establish themselves. The best ideas don’t ever go away. If some do, then they weren’t memorable.
    I’ve often said that writing should come with a health warning – it seriously disturbs your sleep! 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  • Great post! I’ve found my muse often comes out during meditation. I think in quieting my mind it’s voice is better heard. And like you, it often comes out at moments that aren’t ideal to start writing it all down—like when I need to get to work. Damn work! Gets in the way of my writing. Haha. Wishing you well, AP2!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you firefly! Meditation works wonders for me too – although the muse can often disrupt the meditation as I find it hard to let go of that idea or thought 😂 Wishing you well you too firefly 🙂🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  • This is a great post on writing! I love the idea of not being able to bully the muse! I love writing from the flow! You are right it is when I do my best work. Thanks for sharing this!
    Dwight

    Liked by 1 person

  • The times I ignore I end up with double the work. These days I write just one word if need to give me something to work with when the time is better. Or I just do it then and there. Its a hard one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The creative process certainly isn’t an exact science. Many people have made the point of being ready with pen and paper to write down ideas as they come – to give them something to work with when they do sit down to write. Thanks Barb 🙏

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  • My last inspirational muse idea, I was reflecting on a conversation I had with a buddy… and the idea came to me… you need to write out your social skills history. I started at the earliest age where I can recall any social development… (or lack of social skills development). I would say that a large percentage of my happiness is dependent on how well I engage socially–so I’m very surprised I haven’t thought of this earlier… but whatever… it’s all good, it got me into writing flow which I crave.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Posting daily is an amazing effort! I don’t think I could manage that. I write everyday but I often get lost in deep thought with a post over a number of days. Sometimes I won’t finish it if my mind wanders or comes up with a better idea. Much of what I write never makes it onto my blog for that reason. Thank you for leaving another thoughtful comment 🙂🙏

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Brendan – I think you can set up the conditions for creativity but it won’t always play ball. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Much appreciated. 🙏

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  • I fully agree, AP2. When the intuitve nudge happens (whenever it feels like it), I know to listen, get out a pad and jott down the idea. The nudge does the writing, even when “Art” might not feel like doing anything. It’s just the way ‘it is.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Art! Good to hear from you. It’s all about learning to let the nudge do the work. Thanks for chiming in. I hope you’re well 🙏

      Like

  • I too have an unusual way of putting my words down. I have no certain time of the day, although nighttime seems to be the right time for me. I have to have that click in my brain before I can sit and write. When the click does arrive, it flows in ways I can’t explain. One unusual aspect to my writing is alot of the time I will write out my post and after reading it, I realize that there are three different post written together. Once I figure out which is which, I separate them (setting two to the side) and continue with the one that my original thought was about. Guess that sounds crazy but I can’t help it. I really like your post. Keep them coming. I look forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Doesn’t sound crazy at all. I’ve started writing a post many times and gone off on a tangent and realised that I was writing a completely different post. Often times that ended up being the better post too. I like the way you call “the click.” Thank you so much for your kind words/sharing your thoughts. Wishing you well 🙏

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  • This is a great post. Simply put, I fall away from writing if I don’t set a specific time to do it each day. This has happened a fair bit over the past few weeks, even as we’ve entered another lockdown in New Zealand, and I find myself with more time available to sit at my computer in or with phone in hand.

    My muse pipes up when I’m walking, but also if I sit down and put on some peaceful music and write. Sometimes like you it takes twenty minutes for that first draft, other times it takes an hour or so. Consistency is the key, and that’s sunbathing I’m trying to get back into at the moment. Thanks AP.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Hamish – I think habit formation is very important, however learning to walk away when the muse isn’t playing ball is important too. I certainly seem to generate my best ideas when I go for a long mindful walk in nature. Take it easy Hamish and thank you so much for your continued support. Wishing you well 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

      • ‘Tis true, no point banging on the door when nobody’s home. Just takes a lot of time and energy when one could be resting, or getting out amongst the greenery.

        Thank YOU. I always appreciate your engagement and honest responses. You affirm thoughts offered, but the way you offer constructive thought processes around different perspectives is where many more gems can be found. Peace to you, my friend. 🙏

        Liked by 1 person

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