Why You Must Keep the Channel Open If You Want to Be Creative

Today’s blog post is by my Project Manager + Client Care Concierge, Cher (I love alliteration)! Cher offers many skillsets in her executive assistant business and one of them is amazing writing chops. I’m honored to host her on my blog with a story about being open to receive.

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“And those who are the greatest — a Mozart, a Beethoven, a Kalidas, a Rabindranath Tagore — those who are the greatest are absolutely certain that they have been nothing but hollow bamboos and existence has been singing through them. They have been flutes but the song is not theirs. It has flowed through them, but it comes from some unknown source. They have not hindered — that’s all they have done — but they have not created it.” – Osho, Creativity: Unleashing the Forces Within

I lay in the arms of a new lover, his forearm sticky against my ribcage, his head tugging at locks of my hair, and a poem comes to me.

I am presented with a decision — do I lay here and enjoy the moment, or do I get up and capture this poem?

This poem that has come to me after months and months of no creative writing.

This poem that now seems like the reason I have chosen to be here with this new lover.

The poem scoots me out of bed and guides me downstairs. Settled into the chaise in the study, I open my notebook where words make the jump from mind to paper.

There is sleep in my eyes, so I find that I don’t censor myself as quickly.

The pen scurries across the page, and when I am finished, two poems later, I read over what has just fallen out of me, and I am a little bit amazed.

When was the last time I wrote a poem? Have I ever considered myself a poet? What has just been pushed through?

When I look back on that morning, I can see the stars that had aligned to make sure I didn’t get in my own way–that I wasn’t, as Osho would say, a hindrance to creativity.

There was no time to ask myself whether or not I could write a “good” poem. No time to decide where each word should be placed on which line and how many commas would make it grammatically acceptable. No time to think about what I wanted to say, which would have been impossible anyway, because it wasn’t me saying these things.

These words, the ones that positioned themselves right after each other in perfect formation, like soldiers that have just gotten the hang of the morning routine, came through me.

As Martha Graham, a choreographer that set the groundwork for modern dance, famously puts it,

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

There is a channel that must be kept open, but how does one maintain it, I wondered. What can I do to metaphorically scrub the walls and keep the doorknobs on both sides polished?

As a writer, first and foremost, and an entrepreneur second, there is an enormous pressure to create consistently and sustainably.

And if you, like I did for so long, insist on believing that you are the main source of what you create, whatever does come forth will be laced with expectation, the divine never even having had a chance to touch it.

Here is what I know to be true: I have created beautiful work, and I have never been the source of inspiration for it.

That, to me, is a huge weight off my shoulders.

The idea that guidance beyond me exists is a relief.

This concept of creativity coming through me, instead of from me, has changed everything about the way I approach my everyday work. (Think: less self-loathing, less inner mean girl chatter, and a whole lot less second-guessing.)

And while I could spend an uncomfortably lengthy amount of time discussing what I believe creativity to be and the difference between creativity that comes through you and from you, I get the feeling that you know exactly what I’m talking about. Because in your must lucid moments, you’ve experienced it, too.

This sensation of not being the one in control. Of surrendering to forward motion. Of being passive in a very active energy.

And it felt good.

So that’s what I’m here to share with you. If you want to have more of those open-channel, visceral, not-so-censored creative moments, here is what works for me:

1.) Pray.

You can pray to whomever you believe in, or you can pray to nothing at all. All that matters is that you open a dialogue, surrender, and ask for guidance. I pray multiple times in my day — at the end of yoga, in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, before a client meeting, in the midst of an article, after a tough phone call. It goes something like this, “Hey, I’m going to do my best to keep the channel open today. Creativity, I just want to let you know that I’m all in and I’m listening. Thank you for being here and supporting me. Thank you for helping me get out of the way.”

2.) Trust curiosity.

You show the universe that you trust 100% in it when you follow the breadcrumbs it lays out for you. I have a good friend that calls these “God winks,” but whether or not you believe in God is beside the point. When you get a feeling to follow something — a trip to Australia or a photography class — and you take action on that, that’s a pretty high beam you’re putting into the world. It’s even better when you make time for it in your already abundant schedule.

3.) Make being receptive a practice.

Sit still for just fifteen seconds, and listen to each sound wherever you are. The whir of the espresso machine, the bark of the neighbor’s dog, the hammering of the construction scaffold outside the window.

What do you hear?

Our minds are so encumbered by thoughts that it’s easy to forget to listen, to receive what’s happening right now all around us. I am a firm believer that true creativity comes from being receptive. When you get quiet and stop flitting around, you can hear exactly what needs to happen next. You can hear the truths you’ve been actively ignoring. And you can vividly hear the people and the machines and the nature around you.

For you, practicing receptivity might look like three minutes of meditation a day. It could be waking up during those ambrosial hours between 4 and 6 AM to sit on the patio and drink a cup of tea. Or it might be a walk in the park with a notebook. There is no need to push to find the best way to be receptive. (That would be a tad counterintuitive, don’t you think?) But you can do it anywhere and with anything, and you will find that original thought does indeed emerge.

At the end of each day, we have done our best to, as Rumi states, collaborate with the cosmos. We can only wake up more to all we need to hear and the path that lay ahead of us, so be patient on your journey, be kind to yourself as your creativity comes through, and know that the Universe most definitely has your back.