To Live a Creative Life

If you Google the words “creative life,” you will come face to face with a quote which— even though it has become a popular meme (infographic that has gone viral)—is still startling in its message: “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”

Although he’s rarely given credit, these words were written by contemporary author Joseph Chilton Pearce, whose fan page you can “like” on Facebook. Pearce is the author of groundbreaking parenting books such as The Crack in the Cosmic Egg and The Magical Child, which I might write about in the future, but here I want to talk about his statement about creativity.

I know too well how fear of being wrong can make it almost impossible to create. Just last week, a new client asked me to rewrite a website that was originally written by another writer. There were several challenges with this assignment, the main problem being that I don’t like to edit or rework other people’s stuff—my creativity flows better if I write from scratch. I think that’s because when I edit or rewrite, I’m so aware that I’m stepping into someone else’s turf, messing up the brilliant train of thought they so lovingly created. I also have the client to please. And in this case the client was new to me, so I didn’t know her thinking or how much I should edit. Should I make deep changes or simply fix the typos?

In other words, I was so afraid about being wrong in the eyes of other people (the original author and the client), that I could barely write, or even rewrite, a word. Usually when I find myself stuck, sooner or later I take a break and do some journal writing to ground myself in my own voice again.

I come back with a sense of play, a sense of “let’s see where this can take me,” and let the fear, doubt and judgment fade away. That’s when the magic begins and the flow of creativity itself sweeps me along, and I watch my fingers typing wonderful things with a kind of amused curiosity, wondering who is doing the thinking. When I’m in the creative flow, the words are not coming from my limited mind, really, they’re coming from some place deep within.

I remember how my friend—a wonderfully creative cook—once dealt with fear. He was assigned to cook for a group of people who came from six different countries, each with their own ideas about what made for great spicing, food preparation, etc. At first he tried so hard to please every person, working out menus with dishes from all the countries represented. But instead of pleasing them, after dinner each night, people stood in line to tell him how to alter the flavors or cooking method to be more authentic.

He began to dread going to work. Finally, in desperation, he threw away the menus and started cooking meals the way he liked best—without recipes, drawing from his own creativity and from the way the fruits and vegetables and spices spoke to his heart.

“After that I never received another word of advice,” he said. “As soon as I satisfied myself, I satisfied everyone else too.”

Perhaps this is why some highly creative people, such as the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson, have withdrawn from society in order to shut out the world and stay in touch with their own inner muse.

But most of us don’t have the inclination or the luxury of shutting out the world. I know for myself, even though it’s an ever-evolving journey to stay connected to my own creative voice, I have found that over the years there is progress. The fear of what others think, the fear of being wrong, is receding.

Part of this is maturity, but a large part, for me, has been the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. When I close my eyes each morning and evening, the chatter of my mind fades away and I’m left with the light and warmth of my own essential being, the self with the big “S”, the part of me that is universal, timeless, boundless and serene. When I come out of meditation, some of that stays with me.

It’s not like I try to be fearless, or try to forget the endless list of to-dos and the thoughts about what others expect of me. It’s more that when infused with a clear experience of my cosmic, creative Self—which is the essential nature of every human being on this planet—the fear and doubt fade away. After all, in the span of our lives, in considering our place in this vast and beautiful universe, it’s not what others think that matters. It’s who we are.

About the Author

Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki’s Ancient Epic—Complete and Comprehensive, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

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