The two fundamental forces of creativity are generative energy and sustaining energy, according to director / producer Barnett Bain. Generative energy can be compared to feminine energy (it’s all about being open to receive – inspiration, feedback, support) and sustaining energy can be compared to masculine energy (it’s all about giving.) We need to be on friendly terms, and not resistant to both if we want them to let them do their thing.
I go through phases where I struggle with the generative part of the process, where I trick myself into believing doing nothing aside from “experiencing” is a waste of time, is taking away from the real work. It’s hard (for a lot of people, I think) to not do anything aside from being open to receive – experiences, thoughts, ideas, feelings. Nothing much “happens” when we meditate, feel, watch, listen, just be present. The masculine energy in us tends to want compel us to just push forward and get things done. But that never really works. It’s not sustainable, and it doesn’t feel good.
In a similar way that I always end up liking the end result of my procrastinating-writing more than than the actual, “real work” I do, the experiences I accept fully, rather than resist, yield the best fodder for creative work. With those, time passes and I don’t realize anything interesting “has happened” until afterward when an experience becomes a story, a brief acquaintance has become a character, a relationship so clearly becomes the right thing or the wrong thing. It takes time for experiences to integrate… but only after that can they become fully-formed ideas that are ready to be shared. That’s the feminine energy at work.
Really feeling the feelings that compel us to action, really hearing the things that stick in our heads, and really seeing the things that reinforce values requires being totally present wherever we are. When we’re present, we put ourselves in the right place not just to “do the right thing” in life, but also to do right by our work. We need to be there to “have been there,” and to remember it clearly when we go to make something of it we want to share with others.
Barnett calls our generative states the womb of creativity. He says, “being states are… where creative inspiration is planted as a seed within us. If we are at war with the feminine energies… we preclude a relationship with the very source of our impulse and inspiration.” It might seem kind of paradoxical, but being on friendly terms with that feminine, void-like energy will make us more motivated and more likely to be satisfied with our work in the end. I reckon practicing being open to receive as important as honing your craft.
He has an exercise for training ourselves to “stay steeped” in a generative state that he shares in The Book of Being and Doing. He suggests some structured imagining to train yourself to whole-heartedly tune into the present moment. Choose some specific times and places when you’re alone (maybe it’s before you get out of bed in the morning, in the shower, while you’re washing dishes, on the bus) to consider:
- Who / what do you value?
- What and who are you enjoying?
- What and who do you care about?
- What and who are you grateful for?
When we’re mindful of these, it’s easier to anchor down into the present moment because we know who we are, why we do what we do, and what’s really good here. That conscious state of non-activity, with full acceptance, is where the creative magic happens.