How To Create Order From ChaosIn today's Sunday Letters, I'm taking a look at how we can create order from chaos. I'm staying with The Artist's Manifesto until publication on October 15th, and This article is part two of chapter eight, titled; The Creative Self.
Many of us in western industrialised society do not believe ourselves to be creative. We assign creativity to those we see as having natural talent, assuming that the expression of creative or artistic ability is inherent in some but not in all. We believe that we were not bestowed the gift and therefore shouldn't waste our time. Besides, in the practical world of things to pursue the creative life is risky and can never pay the bills. That's the thin script some of us have running in our minds. So hemmed in by this belief, we often lack the broadness and depth of thought we need in chaotic times. When professional challenges arise such as job loss or financial difficulty, we feel unable to cope. Our environment has so successfully conditioned us to its norms that we fail to see the multitude of options and creative possibilities available to us. In the aftermath of the 2008 economic collapse, I came to this understanding in no uncertain terms. My first business, which I had worked so hard to create, had failed. The climb down from the self-assigned pedestal felt impossible. I had invested my sense of self entirely in my work and the business I had built, and I could not separate them. However, I regret none of it. Given that there is no better teacher than experience, there was a benefit to the entire sequence of events.
The Emotional BrianI happen to believe that human beings have an enormous ability to overcome chaotic life circumstances. Skills such as courage, grit, resilience and perseverance can provide the route to creative solutions to these problems. To access these skills the desires and demands of the surface level personality, of the ego, often need to take a back seat. But given that most of us operate within strict societal boundaries, it is usually impossible for the ego to relent. In stressful situations our emotional brain takes over, shutting down our ability to think rationally and objectively. The Hippocampus, that area of the brain responsible for memory and learning cannot be accessed either, and we act irrationally. In defence of our fragile selves, we blame things and other people. We refuse to take responsibility for the results of our own decisions and actions. Having externalised our goals and motivation for achieving them, we lack the unconscious self-assurance required to find a way through.
The Self-Assured StateIn the self-assured state, instead of seeing ourselves in opposition to the environment, we see ourselves as part of it. We don't see ourselves as something alien, cast down into the world against our will, left to survive alone in a hostile place. Although the adversarial aspects of the ego often convince us this is so. Instead, we see ourselves as a component of the process rather than separate from it. In this state of mind, we can accept conditions for what they are and exercise patience and reserve in the face of chaos while maintaining the assuredness of right action. There are no mistakes in this state of mind. There are no conditions we can't overcome; in many respects, there is nothing to overcome. In the self-assured state, the ego led surface personality fades into the background, and the deeper, genuinely creative self comes forward. Now the self, the process, and the environment become and act as one system. This oneness with the environment, acceptance of painful conditions, and the application of transformational skills do not mean you will smile all the way through hell. But it will allow you to come out the other side a stronger and more resilient person capable of dealing with whatever life throws at you. You will subsequently become someone possessing a stable, internalised sense of self, willing to work in harmony with the environment regardless of circumstances, becoming more complex and creatively astute than you were before.
“The good things that belong to prosperity are to be wished, but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired” Seneca | Stoic Philosopher
The Creative PersonalityIt is perhaps impossible to define a single creative personality type that consistently reflects the self-assured state of mind of the successful artist. Because as we have seen earlier in this chapter, the self is a moving changing thing and traits of personality will always vary from one person to the next. The environment has an effect too. However, there are certain aspects of personality that weigh heavily on how we manage challenges to our creativity in life and work. In that, unfortunately, some of us are unable to experience the joy of doing things for the sake of it. For we are either too self-conscious and afraid or too self-absorbed and narcissistic. When we worry about evoking the correct response from others, or we are so self-absorbed that we focus only on personal profit, happiness is fleeting. Outwardly focused, we rarely afford the creative personality an opportunity for expression.
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Well thought out and written. I needed to read this today because it affirmed and supported something I re-committed to this year, and this time, for all the right reasons – exactly as you described! Finally, I think I’m on the right track. I understand now how I got derailed so many times before.
Hi Gaelle, thanks as always for reading and posting a response here. I’ve been flat out editing the book so my apologies for delayed response. Stay with that feeling you have and keep looking for proof to reinforce it.