With the new year on the horizon, my first full year as an independent practitioner in creativity coaching, it feels appropriate to think and talk a little about how creativity begins. What I like to call the Creative Baseline.
Imagine a machine into which you can feed various materials. Depending on how you set this machine up and what materials you feed in it will spit out different widgets. The Creative Baseline is the machine before configuration.
So what are the properties of this baseline?
Some of you might recognise this set of qualities. In many ways this mirrors the mindset of mindfulness.
**Presence** simply means allowing yourself to be focused, to concentrate. But without the effortful quality associated with these ideas. To be present simply means to be here, undistracted.
**Clarity** is an ever growing quality. The idea is simply to develop ever greater awareness of whatever it is you’re present with. If you place the attention on your breathing then as you remain present with your breathing you should be ever more aware of the nature of the breathing. Like turning up the resolution of an image. See, hear, feel more.
**Acceptance** is the most important element of the Creative Baseline. Presence and Clarity are about perception. Acceptance is about how you relate to what you perceive. Acceptance doesn’t mean approval. It doesn’t imply any form of value judgement. In fact, Acceptance is the absolute lack of judgement. In essence the Creative Mindset must begin as a judgement free space. This is because not only does judgement interfere with the flow of awareness, constantly stopping us and asking us to apply labels, sort and assess, but judgement also prevents us from seeing things we do not want or expect to see. Acceptance is like removing filters. Without it we are unaware, distracted and easily confused.
So, what do you think? Satisfied? Don’t be. This might all seem plausible and perhaps you do me the honour of trusting my expertise. But before you accept the above you should test it for yourself. Try the following exercise.
1. Choose an object to which you wish to apply creative thinking.
2. Now find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed and somewhere comfy to sit. Alternatively go for a walk. The important thing is that you won’t be disturbed.
3. Begin with **Presence**; just allow the mind to settle on the object of your creativity. Don’t try. Just allow the mind to be there. Spend a few moments here. Notice how distractions come and go. Notice how they come and go with decreasing frequency.
4. As the mind begins to settle and **Presence** becomes easier to maintain, move to **Clarity**. Allow a sense of curiosity to guide you. This is, in a way, like interrogating reality. What you’re looking for here is a feeling of growing understanding, a series of little clicks, noticing what was previously hidden. “Getting it” bit by bit. This is not a linear process. Let it happen in its own higgledy-piggledy way. And don’t attempt to memorise what you notice. Trust that it will still be there later when you go back to look for it.
5. As **Clarity** forms bring to mind the concept of **Acceptance**. As you notice new elements of the object of your focus, simply accept them. You might find that gently repeating the phrase “OK” to yourself, either in the mind or aloud, helps. A cousin of **Acceptance** is kindness. Be kind to what you see, hear, feel or in any way become aware of. Smile. It helps.
6. Continue this for ten, fifteen or even twenty minutes. Then, without any jarring changes in mental repose, move to the problem you’re trying to solve or outcome you’re trying to achieve. With the same sense of **Acceptance**, begin to deliberately manipulate the object playfully. Just to see what happens. This is the beginning of the **Creative Flow**.
Try this once or twice at the start of a creative exercise. In fact, since it is my belief that every day is a creative exercise, try this at the start of the day. Allow the day itself to be the object of your **Presence**.
This is the Creative Baseline. The starting point. Learn this well and everything else can follow.