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

3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that inspires you to care less…

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 thing I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that has helped me grow.

As a bonus I’ve finished with 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good.

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) Giving a shit about everything makes you incapable of solving anything. That’s not to say your shouldn’t give a fuck, but to make sure your fucks are targeted. Then ruthlessly not give a fuck about anything else. The world will be far better off if you do this.

2)The creative process is about expressing your individuality. In order to express the truest version of yourself, you have to stop giving a fuck what anyone else thinks. The best creativity comes about spontaneously – from a place of playful freedom. That means allowing your subconscious mind to express itself through you. That’s how you unlock your creative genius. 

3) While we’re on the subject of not giving a fuck, here’s why you shouldn’t give fuck about swearing, or most anything offensive that someone says: Because being offended is a choice. By being offended you give away your power. It lets your enemies know they don’t need sticks and stones to break your bones, because names will do just nicely


2 x Quotes:

“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.”

– Aristotle

“When you stop living your life based on what others think of you, real life begins. At that moment, you will finally see the door of self-acceptance opened.”

~ Shannon L. Adler (SOURCE: https://cheriewhite.blog)


1 x Thing:

This Mark Manson article: How To Be More Productive By Working Less. This article explains why more isn’t necessarily better when it comes to work – and how working too much can actually produce diminishing/negative returns. If you’ve ever found yourself writing in circles to the point that you end up creating more work for yourself – this article is worth your time. Quote from the article below:

Solving problems is to your mind as food is to your stomach. It needs a variety of stimulation and too much of one kind will cause it to get sick and tired. But what’s amazing is that leisure time—this ability to distract one’s brain away from problem-solving and work—actually makes your brain far more effective upon returning to work.”


1 x Joke:

Another far side comic for you all this week – this one resonated with me on many levels. I hope you enjoy!


Thanks ladies and gentlemen, I’m here all week! As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know in the comments section below.

One bonus idea: Why not write a give-a-fuck-about list detailing the things you care about most, and then use the process of elimination to cut out everything that’s not on it?


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 07/06/21

Motivational Mondays – 10/08/20

Hello fine readers and welcome back to my Motivational Mondays Post! The only newsletter to give you a nice warm hug and a much needed kick up the backside at the same time.

Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have helped me grow

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to lighten your Monday blues… 

Love to all X


4 x Thoughts From Me:

There isn’t an inverse correlation between success and failure. The more you fail in life, the more you succeed. If you’re not failing it simply means you’re not trying as hard as you should be. If you ask me, the only real failure in life is not trying. You need to put yourself in positions where you have to fail in order to succeed.

Creativity has nothing to do with being the best but everything to do with expressing your individuality. It’s about doing something in a way that only you can. This is what makes the creative process so beautiful. It’s also what makes imitation such a terrible waste of your talents. There will always be someone who can do it better than you but no-one, who can do it the same.

What the world needs from you and what society expects are two very different things. One you need to trust in. The other you need to tell fuck off!

Why we feel the need to map out our entire lives from the age of thirteen is beyond me. Life is meant to be a melody. Yet so many of us get stuck on one note. That’s not a beautiful song. That’s just noise. Or put another way, a really shitty way to live. You have to allow the melody to play out through both the high notes and the low. That’s what creates a beautiful life.


3 x Quotes From Others:

“Your passion is for you. Your purpose is for others. Your passion makes you happy. But when you use your passion to make a difference in someone else’s life, that’s a purpose.” – Jay Shetty

There are so many people who don’t know what they want. And I think that, in this world, that’s the only thing you have to know — exactly what you want.Agnes Martin

“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.” – Carl Jung


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This insightful Tim Ferris podcast episode with Brad Feld on The Art of Unplugging, Carving Your Own Path, and Riding the Entrepreneurial Rollercoaster. I was particularly interested in Brad’s advice on dealing with depression and how to find the right therapist. Quotes and notes below.

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • “Do your words match your actions?”
  • “Brad, they can’t kill you and they can’t eat you. Suit up.” — Len Fassler
  • “The first day of therapy with a new therapist is worse than the first day of school.” 
  • I was able to break down my shame around depression gradually by talking about it. The more I did the more comfortable I became with having had it. 
  • Having honest conversations with other people who told me that this was the first real conversation they’d ever been able to have about their struggles with depression made me feel like what I had to say had value. This created a positive feedback loop that obliterated my shame. Not lessen it, obliterate it completely! My narrative shifted. I just started to think ok it’s depression – not gonna hide from it. We’re human. We can either deal with it or not. 
  • To be willing to go deep on yourself. To keep recognising we are all flawed. The more we can do this without shame the better. Ask yourself, How are you complicit in creating the conditions you say you don’t want? What it is not being said? What is being said that you’re not listening to? 
  • It’s true for most people. We are in complete denial about the ways in which we create our own unhappiness. 
  • HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT THERAPIST – GET A REFERRAL FOR A REFERRAL. I recommend finding someone – a friend or colleague who has done therapy and get their recommendation (or if you have a GP you’re comfortable with – most of them will have a network of therapists for referral). Go to their therapist for a referral. Get them to spend an hour with you so they can refer to someone that in their professional opinion believe is appropriate for you.

2 – This interesting BBC article – The mindset you need to succeed at every goal by David Robson. The article explores what it means to have a strategic mindset and how you can use that to achieve your goals more easily. Well worth reading! As quoted,

“The construct – called the “strategic mindset” – describes the tendency to question and refine your current approach in the face of setbacks and challenges. While others diligently follow the same convoluted path, people with the strategic mindset are constantly looking for a more efficient route forwards. “It helps them figure out how to direct their efforts more effectively,” says Patricia Chen at the National University of Singapore. And Chen’s new research shows that it may just spell the difference between success or failure.” 


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

This week I get to spend it enjoying the confines of a hotel room in San Francisco! Such are the joys of layover travel during the COVID era.

Anyway, to make me feel slightly less homesick I thought I’d share this short story of when I was learning the ropes as a brand new father nearly two years now. May it serve as a waring for all new parents everywhere…

So I was happily going about the task of wiping my son’s bottom by gently lifting his legs up by his ankles and pushing them into his body (so his knees were pressed into his chest), before he happily let rip!

It seems the pressure applied plus the liquid consistency of his stool created the perfect conditions for something called projectile shitting.

That’s right!

Shit flew all across our windowsill – upon which we had positioned him and his changing table – travelling at least 4 feet from his anus before completely covering our favourite framed wedding picture.

I’m guessing there’s a cruel metaphor somewhere about what his plans were for our marriage. Best to ignore that.


Till next week…

Have a Happy F***ing Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One bonus question for you all:

What’s your best (or worst) projectile story?


(Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about today’s weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom.)

PREVIOUS MONDAY POSTS:

Motivational Mondays – 03/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 27/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 20/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 13/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 29/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 22/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 15/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 08/06/20

Motivational Mondays – 03/08/20

Hello fine readers and welcome to my Motivational Mondays Post – a weekly newsletter that attempts to rewrite the narrative Mondays are the most depressing day of the week. (Or at least start it off in a slightly better fashion.)

Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have helped me grow

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to hopefully make you all smile. 

Love to all X

(To my lovely readers: If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about today’s weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom. Thank you all so much for reading.)


4 x Thoughts From Me:

What if the only thing that is wrong with you is that you think there is something wrong with you?

Sit down every night and pat yourself on the back for the things you did well and then examine the ways in which you could have done better. Bring both your sense of accomplishment and willingness to improve into your next day. You will go far by making this a daily habit.

We talk about the possibility of being alone in this universe as if the world we live in isn’t enough. I think we all need a better understanding of what enough actually is.

Intelligent self interest is about understanding we are all part of the same world. That to hurt another is to hurt yourself. I would go so far as to say how you treat others is how you treat yourself. Kindness to others extends inwards as well as out. The same is as true for anger or hatred. You give fuel to those feelings within by acting on them. Be sure to choose forgiveness over resentment, kindness over hate and love over fear.


3 x Quotes From Others:

“There are two core fears: losing what you have and not getting what you want. There is one solution: falling in love with where you are.”Jeff Foster

“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?” – Rumi


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This fantastic Ted talk by Ethan Hawke on why being creative is so vital (my favourite quotes from the transcript are beneath):

MY FAVOURITE QUOTES:

“I believe that we are here on this star in space to try to help one another. Right? And first we have to survive, and then we have to thrive. And to thrive, to express ourselves, alright, well, here’s the rub: we have to know ourselves. What do you love? And if you get close to what you love, who you are is revealed to you, and it expands.”

“It’s a thing that worries me sometimes whenever you talk about creativity, because it can have this kind of feel that it’s just nice, you know, or it’s warm or it’s something pleasant. It’s not. It’s vital.”

“What makes kids so beautifully creative, is that they don’t have any habits, and they don’t care if they’re any good or not, right? They’re not building a sandcastle going, “I think I’m going to be a really good sandcastle builder.” They just throw themselves at whatever project you put in front of them — dancing, doing a painting, building something: any opportunity they have, they try to use it to impress upon you their individuality. It’s so beautiful. “

“If you want to help your community, if you want to help your family, if you want to help your friends, you have to express yourself. And to express yourself, you have to know yourself. It’s actually super easy. You just have to follow your love. There is no path. There’s no path till you walk it, and you have to be willing to play the fool.

2 – This BBC article – How being realistic can be key to your wellbeing. A study comparing optimists, pessimists and realists found that, “overestimating outcomes and underestimating them are both associated with lower wellbeing than getting expectations about right. Realists do best.” This is worth the quick read.


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

Having spent the last 4 days confined to a hotel room it was a relief to arrive back in Hong Kong this morning. 

Unfortunately, because of the recent spike in cases here, it’s now mandatory that all crew, as well as passengers, be tested for COVID on arrival. 

As I waited in line a lady dressed in a bio hazard suit assembled my COVID testing kit. She explained to me that I needed to deposit my specimen in a small plastic cup over in one of booths set up behind her. 

She’d omitted the word saliva…

I couldn’t help myself.

“That’s an awful lot of pressure,” I replied jokingly. “Do you have any magazines or anything that might help the process along?”

“Oh yes,” she replied clearly not registering, “you can watch a video that demonstrates how to do it on one of the big screen over there.”

“Hmmm, I’m not sure that will help,” I said as she handed me my testing kit.

She was clearly perplexed.

Probably a good thing she couldn’t see me smirking behind my face mask.

I walked to the booth in shame.


Till next week…

Have a Happy F***ing Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One bonus question for you all to ponder:

What does success mean to you?


PREVIOUS MONDAY POSTS:

Motivational Mondays – 27/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 20/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 13/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 29/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 22/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 15/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 08/06/20