The Creative Process: A Map

The older I get, the more time I spend hyperventilating in front of a blank page and biting my nails into oblivion and the more I realize that being creative isn’t always fun. Sometimes it’s never fun (and no, that doesn’t make sense logically, which is exactly why I draw pictures and am not in charge of any important documents or clients). I know that, for some people, singing or painting or dancing is a healthy, poetic act and something that brings absolute and pure joy into their lives – but that’s not how it is for all of us, right? I prefer to look at creativity in the way that Thomas Mann did, when he said that “a writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people”.

A few months ago, I was asked to create something, anything, for a magazine. I was given a theme: “the Creative Process”. At first, the task of creating something about creativity seemed awkward. I thought of how this equation applied to other tasks—asking your eyes to see themselves, or smelling your own nose—and it seemed impossible for me to produce something that made sense. I called my father and told him my predicament. I said that I knew I had the right idea somewhere, that I had a clear description of the creative process in my mind, but that it was impossible to see amongst the mess of other ideas that kept entering the ring. My father responded: “Well, just describe the mess, then.”

It was good advice.

I think when a lot of us get down about being creative, it is because we don’t see our confusions as something unique and interesting about ourselves. We want to explain what we’ve learned or what we know, but its actually our questions and fears that make us most relatable to one another. Being creative, maybe, isn’t always fun because it is a confrontation with what we don’t know. That blank canvas or paper might as well be a mirror, except we have to explain to it what its reflecting. Nightmare Village.

But I keep reminding myself: just describe the mess, describe the mess. And that helps. This post, for example, was only supposed to be a blurb about the above thought-map, the product of my Creative Process project, but then I got to thinking and wondering, and—oops–I made an even bigger knot. So, at least, in the end, I’ve created something.

But, what do I know?…How do you face the blank page?

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