• Written by Angela Predhomme

A weekly series about how to succeed in music.

Opening to Creativity

Our Western minds love tangible, provable science. We love concrete methods and a straightforward path of doing X in order to get Y. However, mastering creativity is a bit more elusive. It’s not so much a “doing,” but an “allowing.”

Most people have assumed that some people are just born “creative,” while others are hopelessly uncreative. But maybe that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, and people live up to or down to the expectations placed on them regarding creativity. What if creativity is accessible to everyone? What if some people intuitively access that part of their brain, while others have closed themselves off from it? What if you could become more creative by nurturing that side of you?

You can! I guarantee it. Following, I’ll give you my perspective as an indomitably creative person who’s done everything from attending art school to composing music to writing for academia to designing quilts and concocting tasty creations in the kitchen.

Trusting yourself

I know someone who does not consider themself a good cook. This person follows recipes to the letter, and does artsy projects only when there is a specific, guided task. They call themself uncreative. But this person is terrified of doing something wrong, and “bad.” That would be shameful in their perception. They’re paralyzed by the fear of criticism and failure, and to stick to the known is safe.

Creativity is extremely unsafe, but that’s why it’s fun! Sure, you might create something terrible. But, so what? If you hang out with people who’ll ridicule you or make you feel bad for trying to spread your creative wings, you might want to find new people to hang out with (or just keep your work to yourself). Feeling safe is a prerequisite for trusting yourself.

In addition to feeling safe, you have to be patient with yourself. I guarantee Michaelangelo had PLENTY of practice – and maybe some pieces that were a little shaky – before he painted the Sistine Chapel. Also, it’s important to avoid confusing technical ability with creativity. Technical ability to “do” something like art or music takes dedicated practice and commitment, while creativity exists in the intangible realm of the mind. It manifests as ideas, not physical creations. Your openness to receiving these ideas, and then attempting to birth them into form is the foundation of your creativity. Trust yourself in this process.

The landing pad of the mystical

In my personal experience, profound creativity is not of this world. It’s inexplicable. It’s a gift -- a lucky, fleeting access point of something mystical and divine. Our job is to be receptive to these ideas that come out of the blue. Innovative ideas need somewhere to land, which is an open and receptive mind.

Time and time again, I’ve seen the best ideas for my lyrics and music come without effort. The thoughts come to me in little pieces that I then develop around. When I try too hard, I struggle, and my creative work ends up to be contrived at best, or just uninspiring (not memorable) at worst.

Ideas for some of my most successful songs have come when I’m driving, waking up in the middle of the night, or just doing something random, with no pressure. I once read that Andrew Lloyd Weber “got” the melody for the song “Memory” from the musical Cats when he was shopping for tomatoes in the produce section.

For me, it’s exactly like that. Melodies, and sometimes lyrical ideas, come to me out of the blue, when I’m not trying. I make notes and then revisit them later in the painstaking process of writing a cohesive and hopefully well-written original song. In most cases, writing a quality song requires substantial effort and experience. But the effort involved is the careful development of a song that’s built around a seed idea that just popped into my head like magic, as if it was waiting for me to bring it to some fruition.

This is why I believe creativity to be more of a mystical “reception” than a man-made skill or labor. The ideas are received, and then the full development is conscious effort by a person. Getting a great idea and then executing it into completion are two very different things, which you probably already know.

Preparing the space

The two biggest aspects of creativity are your intention and making space for your muse. You have to know what you want: you must have the intention of creating something. Why would your muse come over if they weren’t invited? And what kind of gift should your muse bring? Painting ideas, music ideas, or ideas to reimagine your company? You must tell her with your intention.

That’s the easy part. Next, you have to do what most of us in Western society have trouble with: slowing down. There needs to be a clear, open space for the ideas to come to you. Your muse will not yell in your ear or bash you over the head, competing for your attention. No. She’s like a fawn in the woods you’re waiting to photograph. You have to be quiet so she’ll venture out. It’s the only way. If you’re constantly thinking and stressing or watching TV or working, well, of course you’re not going to be creative. Your mind is occupied 24-7. There’s no room for brilliant ideas to simply occur to you.

Creative ideas can only come to you when you open up space in your mind. If you do, you’ll be surprised at the little inspirations that start to pop in. And then, you need to bravely trust yourself in following through and bringing those ideas to life.

Techniques to increase creativity

There are different ways to prime your brain for creativity, like free writing or association techniques. However, my favorite, hands down, is meditation. The positive effects of meditation have been proven in many studies, which show improved response to stress, and reduction of some ailments. Preparing the mind to foster creativity is one of many other benefits of meditation.

The good news is that there is not one specific way you need to meditate. Eastern-inspired techniques have infiltrated our culture and are easily accessible in many apps and videos. There are guided meditations online, yogic techniques and many more. The gist of it is that you just let go of your thoughts as they rise up, and you come back to a focus point, which may be the breath, a sound, or a visual image in your mind.

The point of meditation in any form is that it gives you a break from your “monkey mind” or your incessant, frantic thinking. This monkey keeps your muse at bay. The soft and gentle mystical muse cannot and will not overpower your busy little mind. The muse respects your free will completely – you can think yourself silly if you choose to. But if you open up a little time and space in your mind, the muse of your own creativity will enter in, with sweet subtlety. And your collaboration with this higher aspect of you is the basis for beautiful expression of the unique person that you are.

Bio: Singer-songwriter Angela Predhomme’s music has been heard by millions through television, film, radio and streaming. Her soulful songs have been featured in the popular Hallmark movie “Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane,” Lifetime’s hit show “Dance Moms,” commercials for ING Bank and Fiat, and more.

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