When you're new to something, Rick Rubin enlightened us, you bring an ignorance that can be highly innovative. The usefulness of experts is indisputable but when you need a breakthrough freshness of insight is a priority. Indeed, so much of what we know somehow stands in the way of developing new perspectives. In a sense, we're at all times hostages to our mental models. And only by becoming familiar with them and aware of them can we learn how to see things from a new angle.
Sometimes we may need to impose constraints on our projects in order to channel our creative energy. At other times, we may be asked to do exactly the opposite: drop the limitations, un-scope and acknowledge the importance of exploring something totally new, even if we don't know where this would lead us to. Unchartered territories obviously don't come with maps. They do, however, come with the promise of allowing us to be the first to map them while navigating them based on our inner compass.
Newness would not be exciting without a touch of uncertainty and a great deal of possibility in it. Develop a higher tolerance for uncertainty and wallow in the sense of possibility. Where no one has been before, nothing is yet tested or declared impossible. Innovative experiments are often labeled as risky, decisively reserved only for the daring few. Yet, at second thought, the daring few can do whatever they want because there are no rules in a realm that yet needs to be put on the map.
Some live in a dream world. Others are happy to find a dream world living within them. I agree with Lynda Barry that at the center of everything we call "the arts", and children call "play", is something which seems somehow "alive". This aliveness allows for an unexpected bolt of creativity to arrive and occupy its space most gracefully and unapologetically. It inevitably leads to authentic work, accompanied by the feeling that we're committed to participating in the coming into being of something honest and important to us. To us, maybe not to the world but to us.
What we create and the way we create it can provide a surprisingly accurate feedback about how invested we are into our work. What we make mirrors what we feel while we're making it. If we don't like the reflection, we should not get mad at the mirror. We simply must make the necessary adjustments to its source. Through patient and compassionate observation, we can learn how to distinguish between what others tell us we should want and what we truly desire, between real and imagined obligations, between what's necessary and what is intended.
The materials and the media we've chosen to express our vision with are invaluable mentors. If we bother to remain observant of their guidance, our play can keep developing joyfully and productively. Aside from an honest reflection of what we're putting in our creations, our materials of choice are there to help us identify constraints, limitations, but most importantly, possibility.
In a very real sense, creativity teaches us how to live and what to pay attention to. It is both a context and a purpose in itself. By surrendering to its power, we get the opportunity to live our way into the answers we seek.