Creativity is a hungry beast and if the artist doesn’t feed it right, the result is implosion, artistic anorexia. Feed your creativity a steady diet of input – besides the weekly Artist Date recommended in the Artist’s Way program, also give it “creative solitude” or what Julia Cameron describes as taking the time to do nothing. This time to do nothing allows you to build and conserve the physical space, the time, the mental energy required to synthesize all the inputs into some kind of creative output.
The Virtue Trap
Protecting that time to do nothing can be really hard. Family, work, friends, other obligations so often seem more pressing, more important, more urgent, than our creativity. To ignore our need for solitude for these kinds of reasons is to fall into what Cameron calls “the virtue trap” where we “leach blood from ourselves, vampirizing our souls.” Pretty soon we are just going through the motions of living, because we have cut off our creative self.
Selfish or Self Denial?
Sometimes we worry what might happen to the people we love if we get off the virtue treadmill. We think it would be selfish to retreat into solitude, or spend the money on equipment we need, or take time away from our children to work on our creative projects. But this is really just a kind of denial, a fake sense of virtue.
When we give up on our creative solitude or downtime to live according to how we think we need to, to be nice, or helpful, or generous, or unselfish, we end up abandoning ourselves.
We mangle our creativity, stifle and crush it by habitually concentrating on our duty to others, by showing only kindness or generosity to others and never to ourselves. Now we are trapped. We’ve sold out and we are dying inside. Our false virtue has made us self-destructive.
Are you doing this to yourself? Have you shoved your creativity on the back burner, crammed it down to nothing, dimmed it down to a shadow?
It is a choice: give your creative self the downtime and feed your creativity, or starve yourself. Think about it for a minute. Are you that self-destructive?
How to Get out of the Trap
What would you be doing if you could allow yourself to step outside the virtue trap? If you could do anything you wanted, nothing is too crazy and nothing is too selfish?
Creative self-denial is a tough mental habit to break, especially when combined with the nifty stereotypical negative beliefs and automatic self-fulfilling limiting beliefs building up into this kind of pervasive habitual block.
But you might make a beginning stab at it by trying the following exercise, just to warm up the new thought pattern. Who knows, it might even be fun.
Practice List of Wants and Wishes
Here’s a quick exercise from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity to help you begin to say yes to yourself.
1. Number your paper from 1 to 30.
2. List 10 things you would love to do, but are not allowed to do. Lickety split!
(Hmmm. Keep this list where you will see it every day. See if they begin to happen.)
3. Now list 19 wishes, real quick, no thinking. These are just wishes! Go!
4. On the very last line, write out: I most especially wish: ________
5. What are these lists telling you?
If you like, you could mention a wish or two in the comments, or you could use the share button to send this to a friend.