‘On the dragon there are many scales.
Everyone of them says ‘Thou Shalt.’
Kill the dragon ‘Thou Shalt’.
When one has killed that dragon,
one has become The Child.’
– Joseph Campbell
in ‘Reflections on the Art of Living’
I barely remember doing my best work. It happened in a state of Flow. My books that really connect with readers are the books that I barely remember writing. The books that were hard to write, that had to be forced, that became a chore, they have not been my better stories.
It was the same when I used to make short films. I would bleed for one film and enjoy the process on another and guess which one would connect with audiences? Earnestness, trying too hard, can strangle the life out of a thing. Zen buddhists say that new practitioners often feel dissatisfied because they come at Zen too enthusiastically, with too much fervour, trying to ‘master’ something.
Actors say it about auditions. They never get the roles they really want but when they walk into the audition room for a role they couldn’t care less about, they get a callback. A big part of it is feeling relaxed, loose, creative, playful.
For me, Creativity happens wandering along a beach, slumped in a chair with paper and pencil, travelling, driving, mowing the lawn or sitting at the dining table. When I’m not trying.
The challenge for writers and makers and creators of things is to relax more. Easy for kids. Seemingly difficult for adults. It takes guts to turn away from the world, navel-gaze and find that still, creative space, the birthplace of ideas.
Here’s to finding it more often.