For those of us who consider ourselves to be people who dabble in the world of creativity, or call yourself a creative, there are a few things I’m sure you’ve come to realize. Let me clarify by saying that I truly believe creativity is embedded into all people, somewhere inside in a place that can’t be taught. So for the sake of this one-way conversation let me define what I mean by a creative.
A creative is one who wages war against the blank canvas. We choose a weapon, our medium, and do what we can to not allow the canvas of our choosing to continue it’s current state of void. It’s awesome, and frustrating. A creative is one who sees the canvas as the opportunity to communicate something, express something, or bring life where life did not exist; and this can happen through all types of expressions.
But regardless of whether you are a writer, a painter, poet or thinker, there are some common experiences that happen to all creatives.
In my younger days I fell in love with the Nor Cal Ocean. The taste. The cold. The darkness underneath. I found the only way for me to be close enough to it was to be in a wet-suit, at 6am, sitting on a surfboard, waiting for my wave. Often I went out with my friends but I really enjoyed being there by myself. Alone in the ocean.
Most of the time was spent waiting. Looking out, beyond the breaks, and looking ahead to what wave was on the way. I saw sharks, seals, and ate seaweed. Sometimes there weren’t any waves; sometimes they were too big for me. But eventually my wave came, and when it arrived, I joined it.
My relationship with creativity has been like my relationship with the ocean. I love it, I crave it, and I miss it. I often look back on pictures of waves I’ve ridden and laughed at where I started. I’ve gone back to the same spots, at the same time and didn’t find anything. I’ve also randomly gone surfing in an unknown place off a whim and had some of the best surf sessions of my life.
It’s awesome and annoying.
If you’ve seen the Netflix show Iron Fist then you’ve heard this line, I am the Immortal Iron Fist. He says it at least 100 times and the Internet has unleashed a fury of sarcasm on it, which I may or may not have participated in. Even through that silliness I found some common ground with the Iron Fist as a creative.
Usually in the story of our lives as creatives, we’ve had some really awesome creative experiences. Meaning there are memories of us riding some really incredible waves. People have seen your past work and have told you how awesome it is. They love the song you wrote, they adore the painting you finished and they are in awe of the creative idea you brought to the table.
Someone has said to you, You are so creative.
But much like the Iron Fist, while we know we have creative ability and even a passion for it, we cannot always summon this ability on command. You’ve experienced this when you have a deadline and your brain is apparently turned off, or when in the battle against the blank canvas, the blank canvas seems to be winning.
What people don’t realize, like you do, is creativity is much like sitting on the surfboard, waiting. We don’t summon waves, He sends them. All I can do is be ready to ride.
Creatives are people who put themselves in a position to ride the waves of creativity as they come. It isn’t about how long you have to wait, or how many ideas seem to fall through, or whether or not it was the best idea ever. What matters is continuing to not allow the canvas around us to stay blank.
We like the wait. We like to process, the discovering and experiencing. We enjoy the salt and the cold of the ocean. We enjoy the process of the oncoming wave of creativity. It requires both patience and intuition.
The search for the idea is awesome. A buddy told me when he’s writing music that he knows the song is already written, he is just a part of the journey of finding what it sounds like. I love that.
Write something no one else will see. Paint something for you. Tell the poem to yourself.
A few tips as you embark on waging your war against the blank canvas. Commit to not leave it blank. Write something. Paint something, anything. I don’t want the canvas to have the last word, I want that kingdom of blankness to know that it may have won the battle but I have plans to win the war. Secondly, take a closer look at the work you thought was dead. It’s amazing what you can see in a scribbled on piece of paper. And lastly, continue to surf. I mean keep-making time, to be out on that ocean and enjoy it.
Waves are coming.