How Is Surrender Essential to Being Creative?

We can’t force creativity. We know this intuitively. If we told a painter that we wanted a masterpiece by five o’clock tomorrow, they would look at us like we were crazy, that we clearly didn’t understand what being creative was all about.

An important part of being creative is learning to surrender to the flow of the universe, allowing something greater than our everyday self to move through us. It’s not something we can figure out with our linear mind.

Of course, if we want to paint we need to learn how to work with our chosen medium and studying the work of the masters can help. If we want to write it’s really valuable to read widely and deeply, to show up daily to put pen to paper and perhaps take a workshop on the form we want to work with.

Yet at the heart of being creative is letting go and allowing the ideas, the inspiration to move through us. This is where practice comes in. As Flannery O’Connor said of her writing experience, “I show up at my office everyday between 8 am and noon. I’m not sure that anything is going to happen but I want to be there if it does.”

I recently sat next to a young man in Starbucks who had a set of watercolors laid out and quickly produced a couple of small paintings that were quite lovely. We spoke of creativity and how so many people think you either have it or you don’t. “Yeah,” he said, “really it’s a muscle, you’ve got to use.” He went on to say “No mater how lousy I feel, if I do even a couple of little paintings I instantly feel better.”

I feel the same way about writing, even if it’s just a page of free writing where I let the words flow out of the pen. Being creative feels good and lightens our mood because we become more present to the moment, quiet our chattering minds, and allow for the awareness of our heart and knowing to do the work. In the surrender we find ourselves in an expanded state of consciousness were we can do things we didn’t think we could.

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