The shackling of creativity


How children name things they don’t have labels for:

  • Woof Elf – chihuahua
  • Bearoplane – bat  
  • Penguin Shark – killer whale
  • Pocket rabbit – kangaroo 
  • Unicorn Mermaid – narwhal 
  • Sword Hippo – rhinoceros 
  • Witch Eagle – vulture
  • Witch Flamingo – ostrich 
  • Vampire Fly – mosquito/midge 
  • Battle Unicorn – rhinoceros 
  • Party Dogs – wolves 

Children & Labeling

In each of these names, all but the last two of which come from my children, we see how children seek the categories and labels of things they do not know. Let’s take “woof elf” (one of my favourites) which was informed by my son’s 2.5 year old understanding of a dog. The chihuahua did not meet all of his criteria to confidently assign it the label “Woof” (his word for dog), and seeking a modifier to correct the concept to match his interpretation, he chose elf. Elves are generally small in children’s stories, and they are also magical. The magic of fairy tales and imagination is present in so many of these descriptions. Even “bearoplane” (my favourite of all time) is full of magic and possibility. A bat is no less mundane than a flying mouse to adults. A bearoplane might have passengers! Or advanced engineering. Bearoplane far better honours the sonar detection of bats, than the word bat ever will!  

Children explore and interpret the world from outside their culture, making “mistakes” adults take upon themselves to correct. We work hard to bring them into shared understandings as rapidly as possible; the general consensus is that it’s our job to make all children fit in, rather than allow them to stand out. Beautiful labels like battle unicorn and sword hippo demonstrate how creatively each child uses the concepts in novel juxtapositions with one another, bringing them together in original ways that show their unique understanding of each animal. Yet as parents and teachers, we correct these as “mistakes” without second thought. We rarely consider that their perspective is not something we should laugh at and move on from, but an opportunity for immense discovery, creativity and play. 

Identity is Made up of Connections

I’ve shared this list with countless audiences of academics, students and entrepreneurs, speaking about the power of novel connections between words (and therefore the things to which they refer) to invisibly direct reality and identity. Identity is made up of words. Labels. Words that transmit the relationships between things and their boundaries. These categories are not simply neutral, they are part of our ontology – the framework through which we collectively (as cultures or subcultures), and individually (as citizens) understand being in the world. Our ontology is the framework through which we relate with the categories of things (experiences, places, thoughts, emotions, animals, gods and everything else) around us. It’s not only how we weave our shared understanding of what reality objectively is, it’s how we weave that reality. The reality of a culture is whatever we collectively observe it to be. The identities available to are ultimately bound to a set of rules, just like the different subcategories of “dog” are. Those rules are observations both in that they are things that we see and practices that they observe. They’re made collective through the power of words, art and created things. Reality, creativity and personal identity are all deeply connected to the collective experience. 

If you’re wondering how this applies to you, consider this: affirmations speak only to you.

They work to an extent, because you are plural – there are many different cultural constructs of you. Mother, sister, daughter, wife, professional, victim, survivor, creator… Affirmations create an opportunity for enhancing congruency across different parts of yourself i.e. internal agreement. However, when we speak with others who agree with our perspective of the world, we’re more than affirming it to ourselves, we’re confirming and co-creating it together. When we speak to others who challenge it, we may back down entirely. We’ve all walked away from a dream because someone made us feel silly for it. Alternatively we may defend the position, like the chemist in Chapter 2, because identities and realities are taken down by words. It’s important to consider how the external measurement plays into this: it is easier to find agreement externally when you’re holding an established position. It’s also easier to defend one. To be truly creative, is to be maverick in some way. To take new positions and try out a new juxtapositions. To rebel like that, you have to be prepared to stand alone. It’s the opposite of domestication. And it requires courage. 

When Luther coined the phrase “Living Word” it was more than just a Bible rebrand for the 16th century Christian (Matheson 1998, 2000). It didn’t exclusively bring the biblical past into contemporary time either. He and his peers were rebels, and they relied on their courage to create change. Courage, derived from the French for heart (coeur), means to speak what’s on your heart, even though there may be consequences, and indeed there were. The Reformers plunged an entire generation of Europeans into existential dread; it wasn’t only the past that rushed into the present. Much more pressingly, the end of days flooded into contemporary time too. People lived believing they were seeing the end of the world; that’s a big factor in why witch hunting suddenly mattered so much. Luther may not have known it, but he was tapping into the creative power that exists within all words, not only in naming and labelling, but in incantations, mantras and affirmation. In contracts, chanting and validating. In commanding, judging, denouncing, punishing and binding. Like performances, words create realities, in their coming together. New realities come from whatMatheson (1998, 2000) calls new juxtapositions and novel collocations. New combinations of words co-create new ideas, which become new possibilities, inventions, social conventions and more. 

One of the most famous recent examples of this phenomenon in the conscious collective is “war on terror.” In one fell swoop, this novel connection created almost unlimited license for change in global politics, national security, redrawing conventions of human rights, and standards of governance, executed in the most part through covert operations of limitless scope. The War on Terror was ideological. Unlike a war on someone specific, in a specific place, at a specific time, it was a war against shadows. It’s marketing campaign relied on the use of fear to direct people’s attention away from these multidimensional changes, whilst at the same time collecting more data on them and surveilling them to never before seen levels.      

Whilst we’re not all creating on the scale of global impact, we are all constantly creating with words and subtly moving the world immediately around us. Capitalism demands it; demands that we constantly create services or products, or consume someone else’s. That we move one another, on an endless tide of knowledge and material. Luther’s intent was to claim solely for the Bible, a power that had always resided in storytelling, prayers, vowing, and wishing. Worlds are created through the words we spin and weave with one another. Our collective responds to the power of words at the subconscious and collective level. Wisdom is recognising this, and learning to interact with this power with love and integrity. 

Worlds we will never know are also suppressed by words, without us even noticing it’s happening.

In 1907 Pablo Picasso completed a painting that would shake the entire art community and father both Cubism and the wider movement of modern art: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. His friends and confidantes told him it was awful, and to keep it to himself. After almost ten years of self-doubt, Picasso’s painting went into an exhibition in 1916, where critics initially called it immoral. It would not be recognised as profoundly revolutionary until the early 1920s. 

Art might be very different indeed, had he listened to the friends who said it’s prostitutes and their intense combination of 2D presentation and lack of conformity with the comfort of the male gaze were too offensive. In the end, it made it into the world, but there have undoubtedly been many great treasures hidden, destroyed or deleted that could have been just as impactful, and we will never know. Dictators the world across have censored artists throughout history: creative courage moves hearts. Kira O’Reilly’s performance untitled syncope, feels so subversive perhaps in part because it puts before us what’s traditionally behind closed doors: power has always intentionally controlled those who move others by locking artists up and spilling their blood.

Almost 100 years later, as my research into empowering creative interpretations in adult participants was being published (McCabe 2011), Dr George Land (2011) presented the results of a longitudinal study based on an experiment originally commissioned by NASA to test for creativity at TEDX Tuscon. Dr Land’s and his team selected a sample of 1600 American children between 4 and 5 years old, with the intention of exploring whether creativity is something that some people have and some don’t or that changes over the life course. He and his team were shocked to discover that of the sample, 98% of children tested at the level of creative genius when presented with a test that evaluated novel solution crafting.

Testing again five years later, only 30% of the children continued to test at genius level. By age 15, it dropped to 12%, and by age 25, that figure had dropped to just 2% of the same population. Like many before him and since, Land found we’re failing society universally, at the level of the education system. Even those who graduate with great grades are actually suffering in this system; marking 120 essays at a time some semesters, it’s rare to see examples of original thought in undergraduate degree coursework. Such examples are even more rarely rewarded with a good grade, so it’s not surprising they are few and far between. Who could possibly come up with truly new ideas at the same time as continually assessing those same ideas for correctness, and cutting off the parts that don’t fit? Land describes the neural activity of how we teach thinking as antagonistic; the process of creativity and that of critique actively fighting and diminishing one another. When we teach children to competitively perform to meet or exceed an arbitrary universal standard, we teach them to let go of creativity. To do so, they have to let go of part of themselves.

It’s not a coincidence that schools aim for a universal standard and so often require children to wear a uniform; the entire intention behind schools, their very reason for existence, is to create uniform people. School was birthed within the industrial revolution as a way to create interchangeable human machine parts who can operate society with the minimal level of disruption. As we discussed in the last chapter, the work of artists is fundamentally disruptive: art exists to share the artist’s unique perspective. That 2% of creative geniuses make it through the school system intact is almost a miracle. They are just enough to keep the entertainment industry going with devices, games, movies, and experiences, plus a few left over to invent some nifty things. Just enough to fundamentally maintain the social hierarchy, even while everyone feels like they’re moving forwards. 

What Land’s research equates to is 96% of society’s potential creative genius being lost before adulthood. What would be possible in a world where we held that creativity in our own hands? And why don’t we? Why are we globally doubling down on STEM education (Science Technology Engineering and Maths), when we know that new thoughts emerge in relationship with imagination, not through processual thinking that’s continually seeking repeatable “right “ answers? Why are we suppressing the very capacity for creative thought from entire generations of children, without question? Why do institutions keep such incredibly tight reins on subjects that seek to understand the human condition?  

To me, this equates to the fact we’re teaching science alone, without magic. In validating only the repeatable outcome, we’re actively telling ourselves (and our children) to discount the irregular. We’re each told from early childhood to shut down all the things others don’t see. That those things are dangerous. To ignore the wild power of imagination. To judge ideas before they’re fully formed, by testing from within the very system that already invalidates them. To forego self-trust and self-expression, in favour of conforming. Land reaches the same conclusion. In his TEDX talk he offers a single consolation: that creativity is never gone, we practice it in our dreams. But to bring it back into our everyday lives is another matter. 

Creativity demands real experience in the world.

When we only think about things but don’t do them, we learn in ways that are warped without ever realising it. This is one of my main critiques of how social disciplines engage with nature. People write about the ideas of specific trees and animals, their symbolism and 2D representations, without the intimate knowing of having been with those species in space and time. Creativity is informed by what we’ve encountered before – that’s where creations like penguin shark, bearoplane and witch flamingo come from; the new is brought forth from the existing in a co-creative process. Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon wasn’t created in a vacuum. It was Picasso’s familiarity with extensive artworks, including the work of early modern European artists such as Paul Cézanne, and African and Iberian art, that inspired his creativity. Creativity alone wasn’t enough either. Creativity demands courage: to have the idea, but never realise it out of fear of judgement or rejection isn’t creativity, but the illusion of it. Seeking a foundation of “knowledge” before creation may seem rational, but it’s energy is one of possessing and mastering. You can’t create and also clench tight your fist. Learn as a child, with curiosity and an open hand. Only an open hand can engage with new experiences. Only an open mind too.  

A beautiful example of the power of open hands and open minds is recounted in Art and Fear, (Bayles & Orland, 2001) where an art teacher divided his pottery class into two groups. One would be graded on quality – one perfect pot to get an A. The other would be graded on quantity – hit the total weight threshold he set to get an A. At the end of the experiment, he observed that it was the students graded on quantity who created the much better work. Without the stress of being measured or graded, or the perception that they could “fail” even if they did their best, then played and tested things out. They learned real lessons about the material, and gained insights into its strengths and weaknesses. They learned about themselves too. The students graded on quality were in their own heads, worrying about what perfection meant. They researched and debated, but created very little. They weren’t becoming artisans because they weren’t practicing their craft.  

On some level, we all know this – developing skill takes practice. Creativity and consistency are deeply entwined: Picasso required mastery in order to innovate. Yet we resist it in so many ways, through procrastination, perfectionism, people pleasing and other forms of self-sabotage. The simple answer is to say it’s because we’re “afraid of failure” but in truth, we are generally just as fearful of success. There’s generally truth in both, but neither one looks beyond the individual to the collective experience. Why are most of us, most of the time, resisting creating things we ostensibly want to create? Especially when, in a capitalist society, our social value is primarily understood to be through contributing some kind of creation (e.g. a product or service) or consuming those of others. Social media is founded upon  it. So what’s holding us back?  

Working with students and clients, it’s become clear that there is more than just individual fear, or even individual participation in collective fear, at the root of our struggles with anxiety around performing in new tasks. We’re conditioned from childhood to do what we’re told, not what we love. To perform in what is set before us, not what we have aptitude for. We’re told that what we value – play, joy, adventure, freedom, creativity – is not valuable. This telling often doesn’t come as words, it’s internalised through participating in culture. As a child, you grew up knowing that some careers make money and others don’t, and that money is important. Most likely nobody ever explained to you that money emerges from what you create, because most people don’t know it. They’re waiting for the proof of concept first, before putting in the effort. Just like the pottery students, they’re overthinking what “will work” instead of taking action, and indoctrinating you into the same. 

Just as we’re conditioned to overthink, we’re conditioned to practice getting good at meeting needs that are not our own, in ways that feel toxic to us. I was very good at sciences, winning a number of school science prizes as a teen, and was therefore encouraged to take exams in physics, chemistry and biology. Subjects I loved like art and history never made the line up. As I moved on to the final exams of high school, I wished to resume art, but wound up taking the three sciences again, because “you can learn art anywhere” and “sciences open doors everywhere.” Science was a “safe bet.” At university, taking biology, chemistry and psychology and experiencing severe mental health issues, it finally dawned on me…Why am I doing this!?! I hate the experiments! I hate the way the lab smells – I’m allergic to so many of the chemicals. This doesn’t make any sense – a career in this would kill me! I realised the sole reason I was there was that being seen to be good at something valuable was more important to me (thanks, conditioning), than being seen for who I really was. It was a lightning bolt moment. Nobody can show up like a well-oiled machine part, if the machine wasn’t made to fit them, except through some form of self harm. We’re taught to cut parts of ourselves off to “fit in” and stick additional fake parts on for the same reason. To maintain that identity we must train ourselves to “be consistent” until we’ve forgotten who we even were before those frankenstein self-surgeries. Creativity can’t flourish under those conditions.  

Practice makes us good at things.

Except when it doesn’t, because we are practicing the wrong thing. Most of my audience are entrepreneurs, already awake to the fact that going out to a job you hate every day is “consistent” but definitely not good for you. However, the underlying belief system remains intact until it’s fully released.The false belief in consistency becomes forcing yourself to work everyday no matter what, or to always put out a very high energy, or to be consistent with social media. Faking it when you feel down, just to be consistent with an identity you’ve constructed is counter-productive to creating a life you love: it can only build a life that relies on you to keep faking. Forcing consistency that’s against will never turn you into the person you want to be – it physically cannot. We make ourselves in the things we do; every action or inaction is building or atrophying a muscle. Consistency builds, but be honest with yourself about what your consistency is building. 

The contemporary world as it has been made, through lenses that measure, will  always always default to measuring you. Judging, labelling, quantifying and qualifying, from birth, and teaching you to do the same.You perceive yourself through your own experience; as a result, the fullest extent of your creativity isn’t cut off from us, it’s completely invisible to you, as though it were never there at all. Like a bonsai tree has never experienced how big it can become, there’s a creative giant in you, sleeping, waiting to be remembered into being. 

Fully expressed creativity across the population would threaten the dominion of the few who hold not just the wealth, in terms of dollar amounts, but the social construction of what abundance is. To become whole in your creativity does not negate the need for them to create everything for you – quite the opposite. The more abundance in your life, the more you value your time and pay for others to do and make things. The danger is in what you would consume. So much of what’s marketed to us is created to fill the void left by being cut off from your own creativity leaves in you; from massive online TV networks, to social media, to gaming. Consistency in identity as an interchangeable unit of our culture is valued at the top of the capitalist agenda because it allows a very small number of people to dictate what abundance is and how to get it. Creative genius dictates abundance for itself and consumes intentionally. 

This is an invitation to be wild and creative. To possess your body fully, and feel the electric creativity of every cell.  Many years ago I was blessed to live next door to a lovely, eccentric old man with many patents, including one used in oxygen monitoring which was originally introduced to the fire services in Australia, and later put to medical and other life saving uses around the world. His creativity was astonishing, his art form machines. He’d lost firefighters, and he wasn’t afraid with his inventions, if failing meant  saving even one life in the future. The message in his heart was a calling to save them. Creativity need not mean paint or music, it can mean whatever you create to express the truth inside your heart. 

Consider a woman who washes the dishes and tidies up, daydreaming of being a writer. She never makes the time to sit down and practice writing, however, because there are always dishes to be done. What is she actually practicing? Not writing, but doing the dishes. If she stays in that pattern for five years, she will be no closer to being a writer. Be mindful of what you are consistently doing. It will absolutely grow you in what you are doing, but if you’re not yet doing what best suits you, that consistency is a false friend. Courage is what will give your creativity the form that can change your life and a little piece of the world too. Look to your heart for answers. Consistency only amplifies what is already there.

Creating is a conversation

After practice comes reflection. Reflection is essential to creativity. Hurson (2010) calls this ‘the third third’ in reference to how ideas unfold. The first third of ideas and creations will be lower quality and more basic, created in close relationship with norms. The second third begins to expand, but it is in the third third where the best ideas will flow through, as we go deeper. In my masters year, I threw away an entire completed masters thesis (15k words) two weeks before the deadline, writing an entire new thesis in two weeks. The first one would have passed, but it was the first (first draft) and second (redraft) ‘third’ of my creative process. The second one passed with full marks and went on to publication. The new thesis represented the third third. It was infinitely more creative and valuable. 

The fastest thing we can create is a conversation. It’s how my business is built, how my clients build theirs, even how my 8 years of research were conducted, with an amazing mentored me whose thought-partnership added creative energy. Creative conversations amplify certain parts of a work-in-progress (or an idea-in-progress) and diminishes others. It’s part of the nature of call-and-response. Questions asked and answered become more than the sum of their parts. You can’t hide in your mind looking for your creativity: you have to start creating without it, in order to find it.   

Creativity thus requires an act of courage – you never know what you will create, or even that you can, until you do it. You’re asked to express what’s on your heart, even though there may be consequences, and that must take place with other people. Your work must be shared if it’s to change your life or anyone else’s – whether that work is an idea for overhauling the catering industry in your town or a piece of jewellery. For me, this next step was taking my ideas to conferences, where I tested them out with international audiences of peers and found which parts excited me and other people the most, and which parts felt flat. 

Many people have asked me how I consistently created wild and transgressive work that excelled in academia and in business. I’ve never intentionally worked on my creativity or cultivated it formally in any way. The only answer I can offer is that I worked assiduously on my courage. 

There have been many times I wanted to die. The closest came at age 20. I suffered a serious injury that saw me with a plaster cast on one leg and one arm, crutches and then two walking sticks, and muscle damage in my back and neck. At the time, the doctor indicated I may never regain my full mobility. It was only when I was broken, that I realised not living my life was not an option I was prepared to accept. I remembered who I was – the little girl who held Life’s hand in her own on one side, and Death’s on the other, and was better for it. Somehow, I’d let go of Life’s, and I was finally ready to take it back. My lifestyle relied on me working 50 hours a week, but my sick pay only covered 10 of those. Week after week in plaster, I was running up a significant amount of debt. A friend was stripping one night a week to boost her income, and I remember thinking “if only I was brave enough…” 

Almost ten years of eating disorders, body dysmorphia and shame after abuse, somehow the idea that becoming a stripper would benefit me wouldn’t leave me. I started to carefully sew an outfit, my dominant hand still in plaster, tapping into the vision of a me who would one day wear it with confidence. By the time I was recovering and regaining strength, it was decided. I’d go to a strip club. Nothing more, just go. Just to see what it was like. When it was done, I decided I just needed enough courage to ask for an interview, nothing more. I didn’t need to go if I didn’t want to, I just challenged myself to ask. And after that, I just had to show up for the interview. I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I was offered a job, just show up, nothing more. 

The interview went rather differently than expected. Two men sat across a desk from me. My intention was to show up with enough courage to answer the first question, and if I wanted I need do nothing more. Things took a turn. The first question was “Can you take off your clothes please and show us any tattoos, piercings, scars, or other markings on your skin, please?” I wasn’t expecting it, but I’d prepared so intently for the first question that somehow I did it. What happened next was kind of hilarious but utterly, utterly life changing. They never told me I could put my clothes back on. And so, assuming it was normal in this industry, I proceeded, one question at a time, to go through the entire job interview completely naked. My body felt electric. 

At the end of the interview, the two men offered me the job without even conferring. One of them told me it was the bravest, most confident thing he’d ever seen in his life, and that I was truly exceptional. My first shift I fell off the stage in front of everyone and took home about £30 at the end of the night. In a short time it became £300, then £1000. All a braver life taken is the courage for one moment at a time, and the willingness to create something with it. Focusing on who you get to be, not the external results. Getting up. Keeping going. 

Whenever I falter, or fail, in work or in life, I can still go back to that point in time and remember “I only have to be brave for a moment.” As a stripper, I learned to be with my body, to love and care for all of myself, to manage real money and expand my money mindset exponentially, high ticket sales (£1000 for a 15 minute stag show), and so much more. Instead of longing for the past or a different path taken, I continue to co-create with it, going back to her when I need her, and bringing her strength into the now. The most peculiar outcome of this is that now if I’m anxious about going on stage, I picture myself naked, not the audience. Working with clients now for some years, I know we all have such peculiarities, and how much more powerful they are than platitudes. What might you have left in your own past? What value would reclaiming it bring into your life?

Courage, bravery, whatever you want to call it, is the foundation of every creative decision in life. Creativity is always waiting for you, willing you to reclaim it. All it needs is for you to show up for a moment, willing to fail and try again. Willing to summon it again, for the next one, and then the next.

You don’t have to find your creativity all at once or produce perfection.

Just create in response to the world you inhabit and work you admire. Not to copy, but as an offering, in gratitude for its spirit, with the loving intent to sing your heart’s song, even when it means rebelling. Write, paint, move, teach, invent or otherwise create the things that over the years have moved you. Let it be a practice that you do just for yourself. 

Approximately 1/10th of the notes I collected over the 7 year process made it into the final thesis. It’s not a work of genius; it’s a work of practicing creativity and courage for myself, whatever the outcome. Of staying with the same question for a long time, always returning to the child’s mind, and letting answers come from the most extraordinary places, rather than setting the expectation that “it must look this way” and “it must sound like this.” Allowing creativity is being brave and saying yes to yourself when you don’t know what the outcome will be.  

Embracing a creative practice of call-and-response interactions with the world changes lives and businesses incredibly rapidly, without ever creating the pressure to “create one perfect pot to get an A+.” There’s no identity to live up to, or let down; instead there is just an experiment. What happens when I say or do this? It’s the equivalent of creating a huge volume of pots. 

One of my clients, Nicole, started over completely this year with a new business, in a new niche, with a new ideal client, a new offer, a new everything – even creating content on a completely new platform. In 6 months, she’d fully booked her business whilst raising her rates 5 times. She’s working with joy and ease, resigning soul mate clients back into her programme and making a huge impact because she’s sharing courageously and creatively from her experiences. In her words, it’s never been about the money, it’s who she gets to be everyday, and the healing she’s found with herself.

She didn’t feel “qualified” or “ready” to create that change at first, we just walked together, one moment at a time, as she learned to use her courage. You can use the process of co-creative conversation with people, places, things (and more) and then acting from courage to create profound change in your life and to integrate it at the same time. Remember, “qualified” is a culturally constructed measurement. “Ready” is certainly not a place of perception, where you can stand and feel perfectly ready and see yourself that way. Good or bad, externally validated achievements like grades, awards or certifications don’t mean anything about a living soul in a human experience. 

To this end, I encourage you to stop labelling yourself with terms like ‘qualified’ or ‘not qualified;’ ‘ready’ or ‘not ready;’ ‘creative’ or ‘not creative.’ The words we use with ourselves have immense power in creating reality. Be careful too, what labels you participate in by letting others use them. The identity “good girl” for example, is not only descriptive, it’s prescriptive, loaded with expectations. In order to live up to it, we have to forego so much of ourselves. Instead of battling to live up to labels that never fitted or down to ones you’ve never questioned (clumsy was one of mine), adopt new labels that fit you. To begin with, I can think of none better than your own first name, or a name of your choosing. 

Think about who and what you’re co-creating with. Great minds, great thinkers, great art, great inspiration that move you to new thoughts and feelings? Or things that help you tread water? People that hold you back? Situations that cause pain in your life? 

If something culture dictates doesn’t fit you, before you start forcing yourself into consistency to fit it, ask yourself great questions. Like what if you could just be you instead? What if that was enough? What would that look like, to show up with all that you know you are, even the bits you fear culture might not like? Especially those bits? Remember your dreams; they are who you really are. It does not fall to you to play small and fit in. Your job – your only job in this life – is to find the ideas inside that only you can conceive, and birth them. Create a movement or a montage. Start a fire that changes the world or feeds it. Or simply set yourself free, beginning with finding the person inside you that’s so deeply seeking to be birthed fully into your life. Co-create yourself into being, in conversations with the world. 

Creativity, by its very nature, is about the relationship between courage, authenticity and consistency. In the contemporary west, consistency is what we’re taught to foster, so that other people know what to expect of us. We’re measured and dished out a portion of ourselves that’s deemed fit for society. Society suffers for it; we’re unable to contribute the best that we have, or to extend real belonging to ourselves and others, when we’re forced to be what we’re not. Consistency founded in who you really are changes everything. 

The way of unbecoming into your creativity and finding consistency inside you is to tear all the labels down. Every single one that you have previously identified with comes with conditions, from daughter to citizen. Confers properties, as much and more as cat, or dog, or cow confers them to each animal. Try out new labels for things around you and inside you, from the bearoplanes to the woof-elves. Try only the label of your first time. Try out a new name. Unleash the unexpected within you, by disentangling from the rules that govern what you’ve been told you are. Set free the wild parts: the too much, the too big, the too quiet, the too emotional. Give them all joyous names, loving names or even silly names. Each of those parts is creative. Take a wild leap into the darkness of the unknown that is you. Then, when you know you are unbecoming in this moment, and you are willing to allow the shift into uncertainty as you continue to grow, you’ll easily contribute to the collaborative reality around you in incredible ways. This is what it really means to be consistent. Consistency is an I am, not an I do. 

Exercise: Rewilding Creativity

It’s easier to say “let go of the constructs” and “see in new ways” than it is to do, which is perhaps why artists traditionally go to such extraordinary lengths to embody new experiences and bring them into their work. We’ve all heard stories of actors who never leave “character” and even carry their props around town, or who go and spend a month in their character’s childhood hometown, just to get to know their perspective better. Of artists who do everything in excess, forgetting to eat for days or persistently unfaithful in their love, because they’re chasing the muse. Creating is a form of becoming – embodying what is in your heart. It’s very challenging to become what you’ve never experienced before; you have to find a way to access it, to see it within yourself and others.  

However, it does not need to be extreme. There are so many ways that you can experience ways into creative states, to suit you and your lifestyle. Many of my clients support others in this work, as I support them, with modalities as wide ranging as Emotional Freedom Technique, meditation, breathwork, and plant medicine journeys. In my former academic work, and here in this book, entwining poetry, artwork, biographical moments and story, encourages new shifts. Universally, all of it comes back on one central premise: disrupt the primacy of your conditioned mind long enough to see something differently, and then take a creative (new) action, and a new understanding and possibility will emerge. Be present to whatever your body, heart, mind or soul put in front of you, when you disrupt my normal pattern, and the normal pattern of thoughts, beliefs, ideas and emotions it generates? Something new always comes of it. 

Another way to encounter disruptions is through engaging with challenging art and performance and commentary on it. This has always been a major source of inspiration for me, as it is the profession of great artists to make us see new things, or in new ways. Art challenges our comfort. Picasso did it. Kira O’Reilly’s too. However, for art to be disrupting, you have to really look at it. Not look away in horror immediately, already committed to your disgust, as Picasso’s friends and much of Kira O’Reilly’s audience did. 

You may find yourself disturbed or even disgusted by juxtapositions in art. Putting things side-by-side implies a relationship, but is it just an implication? In those moments, allow your senses to explore the spaces between things. Explore whether we’re asking the right questions about those lines? Is it really disgust, indicating that some kind of lie is depicted, or is it disgust that some kind of truth is depicted, and that the truth is very challenging? 


Dr. Morgana

Dr. Morgana McCabe Allan


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