Can you relate the person in the illustration above? He has taken all his wondrous, firey wands of creativity; his gorgeous ideas and free-spirited thoughts and has dug them in around himself like the stakes of a prison. Now his wands of creative imagination and expression hem him in, smother and oppress him.
Feeling creatively oppressed is horrible. With too many burdens to carry you’re exhausted and grumpy. The feeling escalates with every un-creative task you attend to, (although admittedly you could argue all tasks are creative in some form or another).
Yet, annoyingly, it’s a natural part of the process of creativity.
Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in mundane tasks like washing the floor, doing the laundry, making meals, checking emails. I’ve been over-ambitious about how much I can achieve in one day.
I’m wrapped up like a fly in a spider’s web of grocery shopping, making someone’s birthday present, sweeping the patio, taking the dog for a walk and on and on it never-endingly goes.
I think about the world and all its concerns. My giant creativity is tied down and every tiny task or thought is like a tiny person tying down Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels until it is trapped, rigid and helpless.
Now I don’t want to give you a shopping list of X ways to flip free of creative oppression for fear that might make you feel even more oppressed. Just thinking about a shopping list makes me feel suffocated right now.
So look, here’s just ONE simple, lovely way. Maybe two, or two and half.
First, realize you are creatively oppressed. Know that in living and being part of the real world, it’s normal and natural for things to overwhelm you. Flip this attitude to one of appreciation of the basics like having a job or a roof over your head then let it go by doing this:
Allow your creative, adventurous, daring and risk-taking side a little space. How do you do that? By relinquishing stuff.
We all know that what we do on the outside mirrors what we do on the inside and vice-versa. So grab a bag and throw some stuff out.
This may seem to contradict what I said about simple tasks making us feel creatively oppressed but I’ve found that cleaning my home or tidying up seems to release at least some of the burdens that are weighing me down.
I knew a novelist who could not write a word unless his entire house was neat and tidy. (Luckily it was a small house and he has managed to write a few books.) I think maybe this has something to do with tangibly getting your house in order so your mind will be ordered too. The mindful task of cleaning and sorting also sorts out your thoughts and calms you.
Sculptors know all about removing in order to create. They talk about taking pieces away to reveal the shape within. I’m not a sculptor but I really love this idea. Minimalists and those on a de-cluttering drive get it intuitively. (Leo Babauta of ZenHabits has a beautiful, useful post “how to let go of possessions” on his Mnmlist blog which fires me up to chuck stuff out.)
My number one way to instantly relieve myself of a sense of creative oppression is to grab a bag, zealously collect things from round my home that I no longer have need for and take the bag to a charity shop.
When I do this – and I do it a lot because I often feel creatively oppressed and am cool with that – I feel instantly lighter.
The bigger the bag, the more stuff I’m removing, the lighter I feel. Oftentimes the more ‘attached’ to something I am, the more relief I feel in getting rid of it.
So here’s your one-step process to flip quickly from feeling creatively oppressed to creatively liberated: relinquish.
Yes, take one bag of stuff you no longer need and give it away. Free up your space, free up your mind, free up your creativity.
————–> If I’m being responsible I should add an important caveat. There is another effect of relinquishing physical possessions. It often precipitates relinquishing of relationships and out-moded ways of being. For example, don’t be surprised if you throw out a bag containing your first resume attempts and some old work stuff to find yourself deciding to write a resignation letter.
Relinquishing has a BIG ripple-effect. And as we know a ripple effect is one of nature’s fundamental and creative responses.