Creativity is Not a Muse, it's a Choice

“Creativity is Not a Muse, it’s a Choice.”

Gregg Fraley

Yes, that’s my quote, and what this post is all about today.

I’m writing this piece to co-publish on a cool new blog called Follow the Weasel. Most of the content on FtW is in German, but selected bits, such as mine, are in English. FtW is a potpourri of creativity and innovation topics, a bit of design and invention, and it has a younger readership in Austria and Germany. Thank you to “Alf Red” a young visionary for the invitation to guest post on FtW. My post is directed at younger people, but it might resonate with anyone seeking greater creativity.

There is a ton of written material about creativity and innovation. I make an effort to keep up with the waves of literature — and it’s hard work. There’s a new methodology, a new process, fresh brain research, best practices, anti-best practices — some of it is quite good. There is also stuff about how creativity relates to mysticism and spirituality, also good. Finally there is also what I as an American would simply term “bullshit” — in other words, useless, boring drivel. If you intend to innovate, I would encourage you to read widely and make your own judgments. And…don’t get lost in all the words. Creativity, the wellspring of innovation, starts with something very simple — a choice.

Creativity is not something that happens to you. Or doesn’t happen to you! It may feel that way at times when your creativity doesn’t seem to be present. People over many years have bemoaned how elusive creativity seems to be, and term it a muse, an angel, a gift from God, etc. Creativity is indeed connected to spirituality. In my view it is part of the soul. So, I understand why people would connect it to things divine. And I understand it’s elusive nature, I don’t deny that.

And…

I strongly believe that Creativity is more of a choice than it is a muse.

When you make an active choice to be creative, your life changes. When you get up in the morning and look in the mirror and say “I’m creative” you’re choosing a path, and, you’re telling your brain how to behave. Good things will flow from that choice, trust me. When you make that creative choice, creativity, over time, becomes something that’s part of your being, your personality, how you think and act — all you do. When you integrate it into your life and mind, elusive creativity shows up more often and stays longer.

If you say, on the other hand, “am I creative?” or even worse, “I’m not creative” your brain will listen and will process challenges with no momentum. And, you’ll be living life tentatively, with fear, and with no confidence — and that’s no way to live. If creativity is a muse, you’ll have told it to go somewhere else. If you think this way now, that you are not creative, remember that creativity is not just about artistic talent, at its root it’s the human capability of solving problems. If you’ve ever solved a problem, you are creative.

So, young people, creative people, I urge you to make the choice. Say it out loud. Write it down in your idea notebook (which you must have with you at all times). Pick a time, every day, to remind yourself of your choice. Maybe it’s the morning mirror, maybe it’s an oak tree you pass, maybe it’s the door to your home, maybe it’s the first taste of coffee or tea. That’s your reminder moment, your re-choice moment. Pick your moment now.

Try this for a month and see the difference in your creative results. I’d wish you luck, but when you make this choice you no longer need it. I’ll just say — happy trails to you, until we meet again.

PS: If you want to start into more advanced practice, you might consider my book — Jack’s Notebook, a business novel about creative problem solving.

PPS: If you liked this post or found it interesting, please comment, and/or subscribe to this blog, thank you)

    18 Responses to “Creativity is Not a Muse, it's a Choice”

    1. Wayne Morris says:

      GReat blog Gregg. I agree entirely. The muse focus is often used as an excuse not to create. I like the quote from Robert Fritz in Your Life as Art [I think] “This one fundamental choice – to be the predominant creative force in your life – is a foundation for the entire orientation of the creative.”

      • GREGG FRALEY says:

        Thanks for your comment Wayne. Agree that “the choice” alone can set a person up, because once you’ve made the choice you’ll start asking yourself other questions that will take you to deeper and deeper levels of creativity. Hope all is well in New Zealand!

    2. Reuben says:

      I get cold chills daily, every time I hear people say, “I’m not Creative”. I just explain how it has to start with the attitude, and then its practice..just like working out at a gym, the more you work out your creativity, the more comfortable and “better” you will feel at it!

    3. Ryan Jaques says:

      Hi there Gregg. I’m interested to hear more about this ‘partnership’ with FtW. I’m trying to get Canadian youth (specifically in Southern Ontario) to be more engaged with the topics of creativity, innovation, and collaboration (hence trying to get them in conversation). I was wondering if FtW had any other Canadian counterparts, or if you had any tips on how to appeal to my audience? I’m big into the idea of personal/professional development, and want to create a place where youth can learn to become better leaders by engaging from a younger age the ideas of leadership, collaboration, and innovation.

      • GREGG FRALEY says:

        I can hook you up with the Follow the Weasel developer in Austria. Send me an email … To Gregg @ greggfraley.com. I have tips for your audience, beyond “the choice” and would be happy to share, and write a piece to that listening/age interest group, please get in touch!

    4. Doug says:

      I especially appreciate the encouragement to not wait for inspiration. I am currently making the step (leap) in my art from hobby to income generation. If I wait for inspiration, I’ll starve! Ha! I am slowly learning that the creativity is always there — and learning how to tap into it, even when I don’t “feel like it”. Thanks!

    5. Penny says:

      Great point, great quote, great blog post. Thanks for the idea that creativity isn’t a gift given to us or a muse that can sit on our shoulder occasionally, but something we can develop.

    6. “Creativity, willpower, and muscles are all the same: the more you exercise them, the stronger they grow”

    7. [...] Creativity is not a muse, it’s a choice [Gregg Fraley] [...]

    8. Laura C says:

      Your post reminds of a quote attributed to Picasso, something like…”I don’t know what inspiration is, but I hope when it comes it finds me working.” Choice is one of, if not the, most powerful gift we have has humans…why not unleash it as you suggest? Thanks for the encouragement!

    9. [...] Gregg Fraley's Blog » Blog Archive » Creativity is Not a Muse, it’s a Choice Gregg Fraley's Blog » Blog Archive » Creativity is Not a Muse, it’s a Choice © 2011 SelfImprovement4Noobs ★ Coaching ★ Goal Setting ★ Personal Growth ★ Positive Attitude ★ Stress Management ★ Inspirational [...]

    10. Renee says:

      Excellent post, Gregg. “Living in choice” is something that I propose to my clients to consider whether they are in a business or personal inquiry. Also, your post reminded me of Annie Dillards essay, “Living Like Weasels” where she submits how we, as humans, live in choice. Her essay is found in her book, “Teaching A Stone to Talk.”

    11. Krister Axel says:

      Hello, I agree with this point completely, but I also have something to add.

      This whole conversation reminds me of a Hemingway quote, which is:

      ‘Write drunk. Edit sober.’

      Of course I am not encouraging people to run out and start drinking, but the point I think here is that there are two very distinct stages to creativity. I agree it is a choice, but it is also a process that can be understood (to some degree).

      Stage 1: let it flow. Write write write. Do NOT stand in your own way. Wrote as much as possible and NEVER self-censor. That is for stage 2. This is the creative muscle that needs to be exercised and to quote Voltaire: The perfect is the enemy of the good.

      Stage 2: look at what you wrote as if someone else wrote it. Feel free to move back to stage 1 if you get a good idea. Remember that 99% will be not usable and that is as it should be. Another good concept (I don’t know who said this first): Kill your darlings. That means that if there is one thing that you are REALLY excited about, it might be a good idea to get rid of it. Superstar tidbits tend to get in the way of the whole. Be honest with yourself.

      Those two steps have served me well for 20+ years, and I got problems but a lack of creativity is not one of them. What tends to happen, I find, is that as you perfect this 2 step process, with the two steps so separated (flow versus scrutiny) your brain over time is actually able to do them simultaneously – and that is somewhere after your first 10,000 hours (read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell for more on that). It is here that good things can occasionally just land on the page, fully realized. That is what people talk when they say the song wrote itself. This has happened to me on many occasions and these are among my best works.

      Lastly, remember that this is not about you, it’s about what you are writing or creating. I have never once been able to consciously direct or insert meaning into anything. If you get good at step 2 you will find that often if not always the good stuff is not what you expected or wanted – it is the stuff that was NOT consciously created. It is the stuff that just happened along the way. That is why step 1 is so important – you will never know if it is good until AFTER you have finished it. So never judge yourself until you have walked away for a moment and can move on to step 2.

      Good luck everyone!

      • GREGG FRALEY says:

        Thanks for your comment Krister. Particularly interesting to me is the last bit about the unconscious emergence of things. And usually, it’s best to separate things, as in divergence and convergence. Combining them is only for the expert! Best wishes.

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Posted in Creative Problem Solving (CPS), Creativity and Self-Expression, Inspirational, Jack's Notebook, Public Speaking