Part of the joy of my work is that I have had the privilege to talk to people from, quite literally, almost every walk of life. And there’s a theme that comes through when I listen to creators—whether painters, film directors, visionary entrepreneurs, or writers (and many others): The creative process isn’t always pure pleasure; more often it is, in fact, painful.
Effort against resistance seems to be an inherent facet of bringing things into this world. It’s part of birthing anything of value. A baby. An idea. And, yes, your true SELF. (You knew that’s where I was headed, didn’t you?)
I remember that when I was starting a charity fundraising company called Causemo, we hit a point in our planning when we needed to rethink fundamental elements of how the company would operate. My co-founder noticed the pained expression on my face and said, “This is supposed to be the fun part. You don’t look like you’re having fun.”
I was, actually. But the process hurt, at the same time. It felt a little like running a few miles feels to me. I want to do it. I don’t really want to stop. There are certainly times it is enjoyable. And there are certainly times it is painful.
I think there are a few reasons why any worthwhile creative act involves some amount of struggle.
First, our nervous systems include some amount of “noise.” This may literally be a result of the way nerve cells connect across fluid-filled synapses, generating electrical activity between them. Getting a pure signal may require neurological “effort” that feels like work.
Second, and perhaps more important, our life stories create “noise” because the pages and chapters include stressful, even traumatic, times, relationships that may have directed us away from our core selves (the seat of creativity) and negative patterns of thought, emotion and behavior that interfere with manifesting the very best of ourselves.
Getting it “right,” especially when the art we seek to create is ourSELVES, in pure and powerful form, will, therefore, always feel like some amount of work. But there is a great deal of joy in the process, even as the work unfolds. Because we are then engaged in the most important creative process there could ever be—manifesting our greatest potential and greatest sense of being self-actualized in life, both personally and professionally.
Dr. Keith Ablow