The Psychology and Philosophy of Creativity

The art and science of connecting...
The Psychology and Philosophy of Creativity
Jake McNeill
September 13, 2021
5 min read
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In 2004, the cartoonist, copywriter and blogger, Hugh McLeod wrote a manifesto called “How to be Creative“

It has been downloaded millions of times and is widely considered to be one of the definite guides on creativity.

I re-read it again recently and it inspired these thoughts that I wish I had known 20 years ago.

Life would have been so much easier…

Surrender to creativity

“Creativity is obscured by the conscious mind.” — Naval Ravikant

The creator’s job is to surrender. Otherwise how else can creativity flow?

Self judgement is a creativity killer. Self doubt, overthinking and trying too hard restrict the flow of creativity.

“Is this good enough?” “Will people like it?”

Creating without expectation and ego is the only way to create with freedom. Your best work can’t be created without freedom.

It may not suck, but it will be limited.

Getting in flow, or in the zone, as athletes call it, requires you to get out of your own way and let your creativity take control.

Flow is a state of mind.

It is achieved when you feel completely engaged in creativity, lose perception of time, and perform at extremely high levels without engaging in thoughts or judgement.

It’s not trying to be: it’s simply being — effortlessly.

Flow state is happiness. Why? Because we’re not overthinking and judging; we are just doing.

We are truly connected to our creativity

Get into flow to create your best work.

Ignore everybody

When I was younger I used to seek validation for my ideas. I let myself be swayed by others’ opinions.

I almost didn’t sign one of my most successful acts who sold millions of albums. Why? Because someone close to the project said it was shit.

The truth is…it was shit. To some. To others, it was amazing. The project was successful because it polarised opinion.

In the UK, we call this the marmite effect. You should seek it out. The more divisive the better. The more people hate on it, the more the fans will love it — and defend it.

The point being is everybody is talking about it.

According to the research the top 5 polarising brands in the UK are :

To be truly successful you need to polarise opinion.

Nobody really knows what works.

Every record label turned down The Beatles, Jay Z, Kanye, Macklemore and Lewis, and countless others.

David Bowie was described as a talentless cockney type with no personality by the BBC.

Creative stuff that truly connects divides opinions. This is also true in life…as life imitates art.

Do stuff that you enjoy and get better at it year after year.

The idea doesn’t have to be original to change the world

The only art I'll ever study is stuff that I can steal from — David Bowie

I have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours trying to create original creative masterplans to drag my career out of times of mediocrity.

I have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours getting pissed off with myself as a result. I felt that my ideas had to be 100% original.

Otherwise, I felt they lacked purity. Like I was cheating.

Now I realise that is complete bollocks. The greatest thinkers and artists were all inspired by other people’s ideas.

Nothing is original. Good ideas are built on other people’s good ideas to improve upon them.

That is the basis of scientific research that drives human progress.

It’s how humans evolve as a species.

Idealism is romanticism

Creatives tend to be romantics. What’s the point of creativity if it’s not an idealist attempt to connect with people and inspire change either for personal or altruistic reasons — and sometimes both.

Creativity is the intersection between empathy and compassion.

It’s solving problems. Finding solutions and sharing them.

Creativity is communicating and connecting with others through the medium of art and ideas.

Put the hours in

This is the biggest predictor of success in pretty much any field. Those that work the hardest over the longest period of time generally get the best results.

Talent is a baseline. Some have more than others.

Everyone knows about the growth mindset these days.

The harder you work the more talented you get.

Best selling author Steven Pressfield talks about going pro. That is setting aside time on a daily basis, turning up, and putting in the work.

“ What we get when we turn pro is we find our power. We find our will and our voice and we find our self respect. We become who we always were but had, until then, been afraid to embrace and live out.” — Steven Pressfield

You are responsible for your own experience

It’s no secret that being creative can be challenging both emotionally and psychologically. It can also be the most fulfilling thing you will ever experience.

A lot of people have a love/ hate relationship with their creativity.

You can’t control how others will react to your work. You can, however, control how you feel about your own work.

You are responsible for your own experience. We all are.

If you’re relying on external gratification and the applause of strangers to enjoy your creativity you are imprisoning your self worth in the hands of others.

This is an extremely common and dangerous path that leads to misery.

"When you’re living for the approval of strangers, and that is where you derive all of your joy and fulfillment, one bad thing can cause everything to crumble”Taylor Swift

Or you can create work that you love. Create work you enjoy and master your craft for a better experience.

It’s cool if other people love your work. But your self worth is invested in the creating of your art and not in the applause of strangers.

Everybody has their own Mount Everest to climb

We all have a purpose. We are drawn to our purposes with our dreams and aspirations.

This could writing, creating music, or building a business empire.

The thing is most people don’t start. They are scared to try in case they discover they aren’t good enough to succeed in their dreams.

This is your personal Mount Everest.

You have two options: You can ignore it and fail. Then deal with the shame and regret of never even trying. This is the most common dying regret.

Or you can start. The truth is you will be shit in the beginning. Everyone is shit in the beginning.

It’s only by trying and failing that we improve.

No one can advise you; it’s a personal journey. There are two questions you need to ask yourself.

Will you have more self respect for trying and failing or never trying?

Will you end up being another statistic of the most common dying regret?

Do things that don’t scale

Paul Graham is the co-founder of Y Combinator.  

They are responsible for funding and launching over 2000 companies, including Stripe, Airbnb, Dropbox, Twitch, and Reddit.

The total value of companies of the top Y Combinator is in excess of $300 billion.

The most common advice they give to start-ups is to do things that don’t scale.

Most start-ups believe that if you build the best product that it will work or it won’t, which will prove there was never a market for it.

Y Combinator strongly disagrees. Founders need to get out there and make it happen. They need to knock on doors and manually recruit new users.

The Collision brothers weren’t just sending people links for the beta version of Stripe, they literally went around installing it and doing demo after demo for businesses to show how simple it was.

Stripe is now worth $95 billion.

Airbnb went door to door recruiting new members in New York every weekend for months as well as helping existing members improve their listings.

Airbnb is worth $75 billion

Do the things that don’t scale first to get traction.

That’s all. Thanks for reading. ✌️

A bit about me

I’m an ex- multi-platinum artist manager. I created strategies and built audiences for artists who sold millions.

You can read more in the archives here. Find out more information on my website

Too Much to do? Don’t know where to start?

I help creators and indie founders build no bullshit step by step creative business strategies to achieve their long term goals

I do discovery calls to see if we’re a good fit.

Cost? $0.00 Commitment? Zero. Time? 30 minutes

More info? Go here

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