Creativity is messy

Creativity is messy. It just is. Or am I just trying to justify not cleaning my art studio?
The studio does need to be straightened up – but there is also something that happens in the mess if I can tolerate the discomfort. It seems to me that the messy part of creativity is not about the steps of the process but the feeling of uncertainty in the process. Will this experiment work? What if it doesn’t? What will I try next?
Creativity can feel like being out of control – and the natural human reaction is to get back into control.
This point was driven home for me last week. A friend was driving us to dinner over wet mountain roads in the dark. He was driving way too fast for my comfort. I mostly managed to tolerate the discomfort, but more than once, I said “slow down!”
Here’s the funny thing: He probably wasn’t driving any faster than I would have. The problem wasn’t his driving. The problem was the sensation created by being out of control.
My brain wasn’t connected to the foot that could hit the brake pedal, but my brain was happy to send warning signals throughout my body that we were going to die if we didn’t slow down. The feeling was intolerable – and my natural reaction was to stop the feeling.
So what does all this have to do with creativity? 

Creativity involves starting something that may or may not work.

If you are creating something new, it hasn’t been done before. You can’t be sure what you are going to get. Uncertainty is an essential ingredient.
I recently completed a large painting where I had several moments of discomfort that caused me to have to walk away for a while. In fact, sitting in my one of the drawers in my art room is another painting that made me so uncomfortable, I’ve walked away indefinitely.


Unlike the brake pedal on the car that almost always slows the car down when you press it, trying something creative guarantees nothing. Even though you are not going to die, tell that to The Sanctioner (your inner critic) – and all the imaginary art critics, bosses, co-workers, and teachers from your past who have taken up residence in your mind.
Here’s what I’ve learned through agonizing trial and error: The feeling is the feeling. How I interpret the feeling is up to me. Will I listen to the Sanctioner or will I listen to my own wisdom? Will I act mindlessly on the feeling by quitting or beating myself up or will I stay with the feeling as an essential part of the process? Will I avoid mistakes or treat them as the gifts of learning?
When we ask for creativity from ourselves and others, we have to tolerate the feeling it brings – and the mistakes.

​In order to get to something new, we have to leave behind the old. And the old does not go quietly into to the night.
Early in my art journey, I would go into my studio seeking to express myself and instead I would organize. Why? Because I knew how to organize and that felt good. When I’m being creative, I don’t really know what I’m doing, and that feels uncomfortable. What I’ve learned over time is that a messy studio gives me the freedom to make new connections, try something different and to worry less about making mistakes.
Where do you need more creativity in your life?

How do you get your creative juices flowing?

What does uncertainty feel like to you?

How much uncertainty can you tolerate?
As always, I love hearing from you and please share with anyone you think would find this helpful.