April 13, 2021
An Invitation to Dive Deeper Into Your Own Creative Process

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"The creative process is a process of surrender, not control." -- Julia Cameron

The creative process -- the experience a human being enters into in service to their passion to manifest something from nothing -- is a mysterious one, even though it has been studied for decades by psychologists, neuroscientists, and researchers.

Consider this: everything you are seeing right now began as an idea in someone's mind -- the laptop, the cell phone, the chair you are sitting on, paper, paint, your desk lamp, picture frame, credit cards, books, halvah, and a whole lot more.

At one point, none of these things existed. And then they did. Somebody, somehow, someway conjured them up and successfully navigated their way through the twists and turns of the creative process until what they saw in their mind's eye became a reality.

The yoyo. The Sistine Chapel. The internet. Cheese. Dental floss. Cartoons. Beethoven's Fifth. Poetry. Gardens. Socks. Noodles. Earplugs. The Mona Lisa.

What do you think the originators of these manifestations went through? What journey did they travel to transform their inspired visions into reality?


For the moment, let's call their experience "the creative process."

Perhaps the most dramatic example of this phenomenon can be distilled down to four words: "Let there be light" -- supposedly the words of the prime Mover and Shaker, better known as.... drum roll please... THE CREATOR -- the one who, at the very beginning, created everything out of the nothing. Nebulae. Swirling gases. Galaxies. Black holes. White light. Space. Atoms. Molecules. Peacocks. Cockroaches. And, eventually, human beings.

All of this came into being via the primal expression of intention and declaration. Somehow, someway, somewhere there was a power that had the knack for CREATING simply by declaring it.

Of course, none of us were there at that alpha and omega moment to verify any of this. Not CNN. Not Fox News. Not Edward Snowden. And even though all we have are creation myths to go by, there is something about this "in the beginning" stuff that resonates with us -- an inkling that it is possible for something to be created out of nothing.

Can I get an AMEN?

Our version of this something out of nothing business is a tad less dramatic than what went down at the beginning. Our version is more like Let There Be Lite Beer.

And yet, we too, imperfect as we might be, also have the ability to create something out of nothing -- or COULD, if we only we....

Ah... if only we could WHAT?

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What is it that enables a human being to go from an idea in their imagination -- the concept of something -- to its realization? And, on the flip side, what gets in the way?

Is there a formula, map, or algorithm to follow? No, there isn't. But there IS a path -- the path that's made by walking on it. And the more we walk this path, the more it opens up, and the more it opens up, the more we discover what we need to experience in order to continue on that path -- much of which has been described in many beautiful ways, for centuries, by those who have gone before us and lived to tell the tale.

DaVinci. Michelangelo. Helen Keller. Einstein. John Lennon. Georgia O'Keefe. Nicola Tesla. Frank Zappa. Joseph Campbell. And a whole lot of other people -- lesser known -- with stars in their eyes and dirt under their fingernails.

Fascinated with the creative process, I have studied many of these people and whatever "maps" they may have left behind -- all of them indicating, in their own way, there IS a treasure buried somewhere.

Of these maps, the one that makes the most sense to me is the one drawn by Joseph Campbell, maestro of the "Hero's Journey" -- a blueprint of the human journey he discovered after deconstructing the stories of just about every culture on planet Earth, realizing, along the way, that ALL of the stories followed the same basic arc -- that, indeed, there is a universal, archetypal plot that weaves its way through our lives -- and that being mindful of this arc has extraordinary value, a kind of GPS for the soul's journey.

The value of this GPS? It positions us in time and space. It provides reference points. And it radically increases the odds of us being in the driver's seat, instead of the trunk.

For now, let's take a brief look at the five stages of the Hero's Journey (a distillation of Campbell's 17-step process elegantly crafted by Dr. Beverly Nelson and Joseph Dispenza) and how it relates to YOU, someone about to embark on their own creative journey -- one with at least a few Minotaurs, sirens, and Big Bad Wolves lurking in the shadows.

1. THE CALL TO JOURNEY: Have you ever felt called -- like the universe itself, was tapping you on the shoulder to get your attention -- that there was something for you to DO that absolutely HAD to be done and that if you DIDN'T do it you would end up feeling like you had chickened out? This calling is always preceded, according to Campbell, by some kind of disruption -- the end of the status quo and the recognition, as Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ so memorably stated that, "Toto, we're not in Kansas any more."

This disruption can take many forms. It can show up as a traumatic event, like a near death experience, the end of a marriage, the loss of a job, your home burning down, or Covid-19. Or, it might show up in a more intoxicating way -- like a dream, epiphany, or visitation from your muse.

Most commonly, human beings resist The Call to Journey. Where letting go would, ultimately, be the right move, we hold on. We tighten, clench, dig in our heels, cling to the past, and procrastinate.

If YOU are thinking of enrolling in The Year of Living Creatively (or have already enrolled) it is likely that you are feeling called -- that something deep within you has gotten your attention and you are now at the intersection of "Life As I Know It" and "I Have No Fucking Clue." Welcome to the fun house. Let the games begin!

2. THE PREPARATION: In order to transform nothing into something, you will need to prepare for the transformation. You will. There is no way around it. Farmers do this every season. Committed to having a harvest, they roll up their sleeves, plough their fields, fertilize the soil, and do whatever is needed to help nature take her course. You, too, will need to roll up your sleeves. You, too, will need to prepare for your creative journey. What, specifically, this preparation looks like is completely up to you. By the way, The Year of Living Creatively can help.

3. THE ENCOUNTER: Every aspiring creator eventually runs into obstacles. Every fairy tale has its Big Bad Wolf. Luke Skywalker had Darth Vader. Cinderella had evil stepsisters. And Jesus had Judas. That's just the way it is. Or as the Buddhists like to say, "No mud, no lotus."

The obstacle is not the problem. The problem is how you relate to the obstacle. Do you freeze, procrastinate, stick your head in the sand, and eat another quart of ice cream -- or do you summon your courage and proceed?

The good news? In the Hero's Journey, allies and mentors show up all along the way to offer their help, bearing all kinds of gifts -- winged sandals, mirrored shields, magic beans, and maybe a foot massage. For the moment, think of The Year of Living Creatively as an ally of yours -- the assistance you need to help you navigate the creative process with as much power, resilience, and confidence as possible.

4. THE HOMECOMING: All major rites of passage have some kind of "honeymoon period" associated with them -- the intoxication phase when everything is new and our lives are animated by the energy of "anything is possible." That's a good thing. It keeps us in the game. It provides the fuel we need to keep on trucking. Eventually, however, this phase comes to an end. The buzz wears off. Holy Grail having been discovered, head of the Minotaur having been decapitated, we need to integrate what we've learned. We need to sustain the effort on a daily basis -- the "chopping wood and carrying water" phase of life when we practice what we've preached (or what's been preached to us).

In Joseph Campbell's taxonomy of life, this is known as the Homecoming -- the part of the process when the hero, after all kinds of adventures, gets the chance to LIVE their wisdom. The mountain has been climbed. Now it's time to do the laundry with the same consciousness that received the Ten Commandments the week before.

5. THE TELLING OF THE TALE: Storytelling is our species' most powerful way of sharing what it knows -- a form of communication that has been going on forever. Indeed, neuroscientists tell us that human beings are hard-wired for storytelling. It's what we do and how we do it -- translating our life experiences into a form that not only attracts attention, but delivers our message in the most memorable way possible -- the message of what we've learned... and what we know... and what will be useful for other people to consider as they continue on their journey -- or, perhaps, return from one.

The Telling of the Tale is the final stage of the Hero's Journey and, for those of us attempting to unleash our creativity -- a way to clarify our wisdom and be of service to others at the same time. YOU, as someone on the journey will not only be on the receiving end of many tales, you will also be the teller of tales -- the deep expression of what you've learned along the way. Your insights. Your moments of truth. And, ultimately, your wisdom.

And all in service to the greater good.

"The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are." - Joseph Campbell

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at April 13, 2021 12:53 PM

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