The Most Important Thing I Know About Creativity

marksmonkeyembrodOne time, many years ago, my friend's seven year-old son was taking a bath and began to scream for his mother. She ran in to find him with a frantic look on his face. "Mom, I need paper and a pen! I feel a poem coming on!"

Understanding the importance of this request, my friend dashed to the other room, grabbed the requested materials, and began to transcribe the poem as it tumbled from her son's lips.

I've always loved this story. Not just for the characters involved - and, trust me, they are characters - but for the truth it tells about the creative process. Our creations are not made by us, so much as they come through us.

I had a similar experience when I was five years-old. My first poem came out of me in one solid lump, transcribed onto a white pad with a sky blue crayon. I can remember staring at it for a long time, feeling surprised. I remember thinking, "I didn't write this." And, I remember also thinking, "This is really good." I still have it memorized:

Oh, so high in the sky the birds fly. Down to the ground, and up with a bound, Oh, so high in the sky.

Not bad for a five year-old who had never taken a writing class, right?

I feel fortunate that this happened at such a young age. That experience holds a valuable lesson, one I return to again and again. It is the single most important thing I know about creativity: that if we step aside and allow ourselves to become a clear channel the work will flow through us. The act of creation will be more like watching a film unfold and less like a wrestling match where two opponents beat the hell out of one another and no one's quite sure who's going to win.

If you find yourself feeling frustrated, stuck or joyless in the creative process, return to this simple place of allowing. Let the creation reveal itself.

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