The Virus That Kills Creativity (…and how to fix it)

Full disclosure: I have been struggling for the past few days to be creative. After an initial high in which I created a blog and wrote a poem and drew for the first time in a decade and got over 700 visitors within 24 hours, I found myself still charged up, but now restless and anxious. Should I write a poem? Or a topical quasi-spiritual piece? Or make a new painting? What should it be about so I don’t end as a one-blog wonder?

I felt stretched and unhappy as I considered how I could best hold on to my new-found appreciation and grow my web audience. I tried and gave up on two new artworks, which were calculated for all-quadrant approval. I dug up old writings and measured them for appreciate-ability because I could not think of anything new.

And I also did the thing I do most often when something like this happens: I cut myself off from GD. Until this morning, when GD telephoned casually, and I tried to sound like I was standing on a Himalayan peak of good fortune. But GD being GD, noted within five minutes with a tone of amused puzzlement: I’m not finding you balanced today. I instantly blamed it on the commotion in my immediate surroundings, and promised to call him back in the evening.

When I hung up, I felt a peace I had not felt in many days. Something in me relaxed with his direct pointing of my state. The commotion inside disappeared, and Silence filled the empty space.

Later, I realized that I actually loved pencil sketching, and spent the afternoon drawing a bougainvillea bloom in my balcony. I was feeling in the zone again, spending a precious Sunday afternoon doing something that had no worldly value, except that it gave me a chance to love a flower and see it like it mattered infinitely. And the minute I finished, I went to the phone, and there was an sms from GD sent a few seconds before: Am free now.

I shared with GD what I had been going through in the last few days.

GD chuckled: “The virus of proving has gotten into you from the other side. There are two spaces from which one can truly create. One is the high, happy space from which you created the blog. It is a true sharing of joy. When fear creeps into that, then it can go into arrogance: an attitude of ‘I know how things are’. The other is a space of humility. It is the student of life, always willing to learn. It is softer, feminine, more Taoist flow. Can you feel this space?”

“Yes,” I said. “It is like an observer of life, sensitive, intuitive… a very yin energy.”

He continued: “Yes. One more thing: you should also focus more on writing – the mind will resist that because drawing is safer. All praise and no controversy… The fear of negative judgment is the biggest obstacle to true creativity – and in your case, apparently, even positive judgment!”

Something within me opened as he spoke. I remembered all the fledgling film actors who had played this same game out on larger stadia: initial success, then anxiety, then proving, then losing the very quality that made them lovable in the first place. I thought of directors who had shown a natural talent and promise, and become more show-offy and artificial with every film. My heart went out to them, and I had wished I could help them in some way. From the outside, it seemed so obvious what was happening to them. But because they didn’t have someone like GD around them, they have been living out for years the nightmare I went through in those two days: the virus of proving.

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My little Bougainvillea sketch

“You’re seeming distracted,” GD said. “What’s up?”

“You’re such a gift, GD,” I said. It was a rare direct compliment from me to him: in guy-language, a nasty nickname is the more normal expression of love.

He laughed it off. “It’s easy to fix this virus of proving. Just write four-five pieces without any thought of which one you are going to share. And you will get the hang of how to get into that flow. And in a few weeks, the flow will become natural.”

“Okay,” I agreed. “I am looking for interesting, topical subjects. There’s so much information out there, unless one writes about something special and fresh and original, I myself wouldn’t care to read it.”

“Let me just stop you right there,” GD interrupted. “You are right when you say there is too much information. And to compete on information is a mug’s game. But remember that you are writing not to share information, but to share a certain space. That’s what people have liked about your blog. Not the information – the energy. That’s the secret.”

5 thoughts on “The Virus That Kills Creativity (…and how to fix it)

    • Glad it resonated with you. Some of the older posts by GD are really good. Last week, I met my former boss from LA and he told me that the post “Fixer of Polarities” has changed his life. It is one of my favorites too and every 10-15 days someone mentions it… May update and repost it soon. Check it out if you have some time…

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