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  • Dan Connors

The Creative Act- Making something out of nothing


The Creative Act: A Way of Being


The act of creation is a uniquely human act. Ideally, it is a way for our soul to make something out of nothing and put our mark on this life. I used to think of art as a very niche area that doesn't apply to me or most people. But creation is much bigger than art, music, or writing. We create all of the time. Every time we get dressed, we create a story of yourself that you present to the world. Every time you fix a meal, we create. And at work, even in the most mundane jobs, we have the opportunity to create a finished product that contains a tiny kernel of who we are.

Rick Rubin is an American record producer with experience helping to create music in a variety of genres, including heavy metal, hip hop, and country. The Creative Act is his first book, and it's a 400 page meditation on the creative process and all that goes with it. Each chapter is very short, but he has eloquently explained how to be a better creator in whatever you do. This book is not just for the musician, but for anybody and everybody who wants to bring something new and beautiful into the world.


I can't do this book justice with a summary, so below is a selection of contemplations on the art of creation from this book. As a writer myself, it moved me to take my craft with more reverence and awe.


Everyone is a creator

Creativity is not a rare ability. It is not difficult to access. Creativity is a fundamental aspect of being human. It's our birthright. And it's for all of us.


The world pulses with productive energy, and everything that exists on this planet is driven by that energy. Every manifestation of this unfolding is doing its own work on behalf of the universe, each in its own way, true to its own creative impulse.


Look for clues. When looking for a solution to a creative problem, pay close attention to what's happening around you. Look for clues pointing to new methods or ways to further develop current ideas.


Broadening our practice of awareness is a choice we can make at any moment. It's not a search, though it is stoked by a curiosity or hunger. A hunger to see beautiful things, hear beautiful sounds, feel deeper sensations. ... consider submerging yourself in the canon of great works. Read the finest literature, watch the masterpieces of cinema, get up close to the most influential paintings.


The world is constantly changing, so no matter how often we practice paying attention, there will always be something new to notice. It's up to us to find it.


We're affected by our surroundings, and finding the best environment to create a clear channel is personal and to be tested. It also depends on your intention. Isolated places like a forest are fine locations to receive direct transmissions from the universe. If instead you want to tun in to the collective consciousness, you might sit in a busy spot with people coming and going and experience source as filtered through humanity.


Nothing begins with us. The more we pay attention, the more we begin to realize that all the work we ever do is a collaboration. It's a collaboration with what's come before and what will come after. It's a collaboration with the world you're living in, with the experiences you've had, with the tools you use, with the audience, and with who you are today.


Our work embodies a higher purpose. Whether we know it or not, we're a conduit for the universe. Material is allowed through us.


Instead of sounding like others, value your own voice. Develop it. Cherish it.


To see what no human has seen before, to know what no human has known before, to create as no human has created before, it may be necessary to see as if through eyes that have never seen, know through a mind that has never thought, create with hands that have never been trained.

This is beginner's mind- one of the most difficult states of being to dwell in for an artist, precisely because it involves letting go of what our experiences have taught us.... Innocence brings forth innovation.


Consider establishing a consistent framework around your creative process. Creativity-supporting habits can begin the moment you arise each day. These might include looking at sunlight before screenlight, meditating, exercising, and showing in cold water before beginning creative time in a suitable space. Find the sustainable rituals that best support your work.


In the first phase of the creative process, we are to be completely open, collecting anything we find of interest. We can call this the Seed phase. We're searching for potential starting points that, with love and care, can grow into something beautiful.


We have collected a handful of seeds- of starting points and potentialities. We now enter the second stage- the Experimentation phase. Fueled by the initial hit of excitement at discovering a starting point, we play with different combinations and possibilities to see if any of them reveal how the seed wants to develop.


Once a seed's code has been cracked, and its true form deciphered, the process shifts. We are no longer in the unbounded mode of discovery. A clear sense of direction has arisen. Often unbeknownst to us, we find ourselves in the Craft phase. Now comes the labor of building. We work to add a foundation that has reveled itself through our experimentation. The lines have been drawn and now we're filling in the colors.


As the work improves through the Craft phase, you'll come to the point where all of the options available to you have been explored sufficiently. Nothing is left to add or take away. The work's essence rings clear. From here we advance to the final movement of the creative process. In the Completion phase, we leave behind discovery and building. With a beautiful volume of material crafted before us, the final form is refined to be released to the world.


A river of material flows through us. When we share our works and our ideas, they are replenished. If we block the flow by holding them all inside, the river cannot run and new ideas are slow to appear.


Distilling a work to get it as close to its essence as possible is a useful and informative process. Try finding the simplest, most elegant way to put a point across, with the least amount of information.


There is no telling where that next great story, painting, recipe, or business idea is going to come from. Just as a surfer can't control the waves, artists are at the mercy of the craeative rhythms of nature. This is why it's of such great importance to remain aware and present at all times. Watching and waiting.


You may yearn for success in art as a way to leave an unfulfilling job and support yourself through your passion. This is a reasonable goal. However if the choice is between making great art and supporting yourself, the art comes first. Consider another way of making a living. Success is harder to come by when your life depends on it. Art is an unstable career path for most. Financial rewards often come in waves, if at all.


Ultimately, the act of self-expression isn't really about you. Most who choose the artist's path don't have a choice. We feel compelled as if by some primal instinct, the force that calls turtles toward the seas after hatching in the sand. We follow this instinct.


Even in perceived chaos, there is order and pattern. A cosmic undercurrent running through all things, which no story is immense enough to contain.

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