On creativity and dark matter

(but mostly creativity)

My top tips for daring to start a cretive life and having enough fun to keep it going.

Do you also struggle to find inspiration, the courage to start drawing or find the time to do it? Or have you been doing it for a while but have fallen into a drought where it’s not fun anymore and you don’t know how to get out of that rut? You are not alone, it happens to most people, but it can be changed.

Creativity is a tricky topic to write about. It is like energy. Or, dark matter. We know that it exists and it is immortal, but we cannot see it or analyze it and are therefore led to believe that maybe it is not in my life after all, right now. Or even worse: that it never exists because I am not a “creative person”. But it is the opposite: creativity is a common human resource that you have in abundance, whether you like it or not. But it needs some soil to grow.

Chasing it is difficult, it’s a bit like catching the wind with your hands. And the more you hunt, or the more you demand from it, the more it hides. What a great paradox it is, huh?

So what IS creativity?

Creativity has brought us to where we are today. It allows us to develop the world and ourselves, and helps us understand each other and ourselves a little better. It’s fucking huge. So, basically, creativity is not at all about performance, what is on your paper when you are done or how much money you make from your work. It is much bigger than that.

Creativity is vital, a necessity and a right.

Neither more nor less. People NEED to create. And yes, that’s easy for me to say, as I spend my days drawing letters for a large Instagram audience. But this was not always the case. For a long time – we’re talking 40 years or so – I didn’t think I was creative. I have often found myself in contexts where drive, structure, control and results were most important. And let me tell you, that does NOT do wonders for good creative energy.

When I changed the course of my life and started sleeping (not a bad idea at all, would 100% recommend) and doing what I really enjoyed, things slowly changed. Ideas came! Plenty of them! When the pressure was off, solutions, new approaches, and the desire to create presented themselves, and boy was it fun.

Now I’ve been selling my creativity since 2017 and I still have lots of ideas. And if they do dry up, I know what to do to get access to them again. And I thought it might be good for you to know that too?

Here are some of my top tips:

 

1. Make yourself available for input from different sources

It is common for people to narrow their field of vision too much. If you’re into lettering, you just watch people draw letters, and that’s all good, but don’t forget to open the other doors too: go to art exhibitions, follow photographers, furniture makers, glass blowers, hedgehog accounts. Photograph things you see while walking – lines, colors and shapes are everywhere. And what are letters if not lines, colors and shapes? Practice LOOKING. Not evaluating, not rushing by, not necessarily understanding. Just LOOKING.

Picture from the studio

 

2.Get out

If you want to get good at drawing, go for a walk. Sure, practice is obviously essential, but it’s so easy to get stuck in a cycle of frustration and more attempts and more frustration. You know the drill. The brain needs some time to archive and consolidate things you learn on your trip. It needs fresh air. It needs movement and nature and colors. So besides exposing yourself to the possibility of new ideas, you also help your hand to draw better lines when walking on a path in the forest.

Taking inspiration from social media is all well and good, but don’t get stuck there. Good content can kick-start your creativity, but too much of it will kill it, believe me. Watching 382 drawing videos in one afternoon doesn’t make you a better artist. So drop the damn phone and grab a pen instead.

 

3.Release the guilt

Guilt is one of the heaviest emotions to carry, and it goes without saying that it dams that creative little spring creek of yours in no time. Feeling like you “shouldn’t” be spending time drawing or going for a walk instead of emptying the dishwasher is nothing unusual, but hear me out: Creating is your human birthright. You don’t need anyone’s permission for that, quite the contrary. The world needs what you have and the world REALLY needs to be better, so please give yourself time to draw. Thank you.

 

4.Create to create, not to deliver

Well, this is where it gets a bit tricky. With all the great reels showing an entire process from the first pencil stroke to an amazing piece of art in 14 compressed seconds, it’s easy, consciously or not, to start striving for the same result, thinking it will come almost as easily as it looks in the video. There’s really nothing wrong with wanting the same outsome, it’s how you learn to develop and overcome obstacles.

But it’s also often where people shut down their creativity. Because if you create to get recognition, to achieve a certain result, it is easy to be discouraged by the fact that “everyone else”(?!?!) is doing it better. And this is where you should ask yourself the question of WHY you are drawing/photographing/sculpting/turning/knitting etc.? Why? Because you want to be that person? Because you look forward to what others will say when they see the results? To achieve Instagram fame? Because you want to make money? Or because you enjoy doing it? Needless to say, it is the latter that will take you forward.

So if you want access to that rushing river of creativity, the best advice in the world is to focus on the process. Work actively to find enjoyment in the act of making, without too many thoughts about how it “should” be. Difficult? Absolutely, you’re not used to it yet. But can you practice and get better at it? Absofuckinglutely.

 

5.Set aside time

Don’t wait for a small ocean of undisturbed time to appear with the right light, prefectly tempered coffee in the cup and all the pens out. No, if you want to get something done, you have to make that moment happen. And it probably won’t be as perfect as you hoped, but fuck it, all that matters is that it you grab it. Sometimes the outlet is just 10 minutes while you wait for the pasta to boil, using a billing envelope as a canvas and the nearest cheap ballpoint pen or the kids’ semi-dry marker as a tool. But it YOU GRAB IT, and that’s the most important thing, because you’re a creative person and you can’t wait for perfect moments that don’t come. Also, it’s better to go quick and often than the other way around when learning new things, that’s just how it is.

 

6.Fuck perfectionism

Yes, I have saved the most important things for last. Comparison and the pursuit of perfect results have killed more artistic souls than most other things, I think. Think of all the amazing works, insights, drawings and objects that could have come to life if it wasn’t for this society’s approach to creation, my goodness what a loss. So what to do? Get vaccinated, man. Vaccinate yourself against your own inner judgmental voice, against unrealistic expectations, against too much STRIVE, against being afraid to try new things and suck at them. Vaccinate yourself by checking out different artists, and practice a more accepting attitude towards yourself. Actively work on comparing yourself less – maybe uninstall instagram? For the paradox (yes, another one) goes:

Expect less (results) and you will get more (well-being and results).

 

Those were my tips. And don’t forget: This is not a matter of life and death. What the hell, there is starvation in this world, rape is used as a warfare veapon and in Uganda, men face the death penalty if they have a relationship with another man. THAT is fucking horrible – the 57 “F’s” where none of them turned out the way you wanted is not. Go for a walk. Sleep. And try again tomorrow. Maybe this time when boiling potatoes?

 

Read more

  • The creative act by Rick Rubin
  • Everything by Austin Kleon (well, all books, not a book called Everything because I don’t think he wrote that)
  • The war of art by Steven Pressfield
  • Creative Friction by Jan Gradvall and Magnus Lindkvist
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