Category Archives: creative process

retro respect

Creativity, Stillness and Magic

Originally posted April, 2011 as a guest blog for Kris Cahill

The Titan Arum, otherwise known as the corpse flower, blooms every
hundred years and grows to be the worldʼs largest blossom, attracting
tourists from around the world. It is tall, phallic and smells like hell.
I think the lesson here is donʼt let your creative projects wait one
hundred years to blossom or else they might stink.
But there is another lesson, and that is the magic is there, waiting to
happen. It takes patience, but if you keep the plant fed and watered
every now and then a magnificent bloom will appear.
Donʼt mistake patience for procrastination. It is amazing how when
pressed with a deadline I suddenly find it very important to redecorate
my apartment and watch the Real Housewives marathon on cable
TV.
Rather than procrastinate, next time practice stillness. A good way to
find stillness is through meditation, but there is also truth to the
phrase “sleep on it.” The seeds are there. The beautiful blossoms of
your creativity will appear. You donʼt need to push the shoots through
the stems; they know how to bloom already.
I am not saying that creativity just happens, obviously. You do need
to sit down and type the screenplay, rehearse the part, pick up the
guitar to compose that song, pick up the brush to paint your canvas,
write the punch line to that joke. But stillness helps if, like me, you
have many ideas and donʼt know where to start. Stillness helps
create space in the middle of working on a project as well. Next time
you are struggling to find a solution in your work try taking a little quiet
time. When you return to the computer, the canvas or the piano you
might be surprised how easy things flow having taken some space.
The Quakers in their meetings have a practice of sitting in silence.
No one speaks unless absolutely compelled to do so, and then no
one is required to respond. This makes what is said all the more
powerful. And there is also great power in just sitting in silence.
Perhaps a better example than the corpse flower would be the lovely
night blooming jasmine that appears outside my window from late
February to late March. It surprises me every year, this beautiful
smell that transports me to when I first moved to Los Angeles. I
have lived here nearly twenty years and yet I forget about the night
blooming jasmine until one night in late winter I walk home and there
it is, that amazing aroma filling the air.
But the jasmine plant was there all along, growing and taking over the
fence knowing full well the blossoms would appear. The blossoms
were a foregone conclusion. The plant didnʼt forget, just me. And let
me tell you it is nice to be transported by the magic of that smell
every year.
We have stories and art in us, and some of these creations have
been there for a month or a year, some are from our childhood, and
some from generations before us that come from deep in our bones.
But great art comes from within. You can boost your creativity by
adding a little quiet to your creative process, whatever that may be. If
you are patient I bet you will discover magic appearing more often in
your work, and every now and then you might grow a crazy giant
bloom that people pay good money to see (hopefully one that doesnʼt
stink) or something more delicate but equally remarkable like the
night blooming jasmine.
Let your ideas and projects grow. Feed your creativity by listening to
good music, having fun conversations with friends, or going for walks;
whatever gets the juices flowing. Add a little stillness or meditation
practice to the mix. But mostly just trust that the magic will appear. If
it is there it will find itʼs way out and surprise you (and consequently
your audience or viewers) when you least expect it.