There is a belief among many whose profession lies in churning out creative works that drugs enable them to tap into their creative well, that without drugs they could never produce the works that have earned them their professional recognition. Writers, musicians, artists whose lifestyles involve indulging in too much drugs and alcohol usually find it a huge struggle to give up the substance they’ve become addicted to when they embark on stopping their subtance abuse. This is the main challenge for every ‘creative type’ individual I have worked with in addiction.
On a lesser level, even those who are not dependent on creative output for a living also struggle with the idea that their creativity may be dampened when they stop using. By the time someone comes to rehab, their substance abuse usually has become so deeply entrenched and intertwined in every facet of their lives that they have relied on the substance to see them through every task that requires effort. Even when under the influence of the substance their cognition may be impaired and their senses dulled, they have come to belief that they can get through their day-to-day activities quicker and easier. Without the substance, they fear, life would be boring and flat, as the substance has enabled them to go to certain places they otherwise would not (or be able to) go – mainly related to their self-expressions.
Creativity isn’t just for the ‘creative types’ or those with too much time sitting in front of a piece of paper or canvas trying to produce creative works. It is a much needed quality in every aspect of our lives. What is creativity? Creativity is, to me, simply the ability to put ideas together in new ways. It may be expressed in the form of visual artwork (combining shapes, colours, textures, media in new ways), writing (combining words, concepts, storylines in new ways), or musical pieces (combining notes, rhythm, melodies, sounds, genres in new ways). We may also express creativity when finding solutions to tricky problems, and this may be expressed in the form of a unique business plan, a clever PR or lobbying campaign, a win-win action in a personal relationship issue, or a fantastic vacation trip. Therefore, without creativity, life would be pretty dull and mundane.
In fact, the sense of deep fulfilment that comes from being creative is similar to life force itself. When we are being creative, we are in a flow of experiencing Passion and Inspiration – a kind of hypnotic feeling that takes us to the part of us that is divinely powerful.
I strongly believe it is a myth that we need drugs to reach our highest creative potential. Drugs do not contain a magical property that makes us creative. Rather, they remove our inhibition towards self-expression – i.e. the mental/emotional block which gets in the way of our creativity flowing is removed for us so that we are able to express ourselves without censoring. With our inhibition removed, we become more daring in expressing ourselves, bypassing any fear of rejection and inadequacies that usually cause us to close the door to our inner creative source. As we continue to keep that door opened, our creative energy is able to flow freely, and we are able to sense the deep fulfilment that comes from being creative.
Whether we use drugs or not, our creativity will flow with the absence of that block. Therefore, the underlying issues behind the block need to be addressed and alternative ways of removing the block explored in the treatment of substance abuse for those who strongly depend on their substance of choice to boost their creative output.
In the same way that people consume alcohol or drugs to boost their social confidence – believing that they need that substance to take away the discomfort of interacting with others and to allow them to feel free in expressing themselves – drugs and alcohol have become a quick way, a short cut, to reach our space of creativity. The function of the substance in both cases is the same: to remove the layer of fear which prevents us from freely expressing ourselves.
Fear of Embarassment & Shame
You may fear being rejected because you’re afraid that what you produce isn’t going to be good enough in the eyes of other people; or a fear of embarassment, shame or humiliation when others judge you for your expression. The crux of which is the belief that you are somehow flawed or inadequate. Relying on substance to make us feel more comfortable in expressing ourselves allows us to escape taking responsibility for ourselves: somewhere in our mind, we are aware that a drug has been consumed and somehow it is this powerful substance that is doing the expression for us. Because it is the drug, and not us, that is deemed to be doing the work, we have an excuse for when the rejection comes – i.e. that we are not fully responsible for this expression and therefore whatever we are being judged for isn’t entirely a reflection of who we are. Hence, the drugs serve as an escape clause for being told that we are flawed.
When I was suffering from depression, I often found it easier to write creatively. At times, I would harness feelings of pathos and tragedy to deepen my emotional pain. Through the depth of pain, I was able to reach into my creative source and express my truth from that space. Like drugs, depression is sometimes used as a tool to unleash our creativity. ‘Creative types’ like poets and artists have a hard time giving up their melancholy as they believe it helps maintain their connection to their creative genius. In a sense, depression and melancholy are altered states which allows us to momentarily suspend our ‘ordinary’ identity to justify our creative output. Like drugs, depression gives us the reason, the excuse, to express ourselves freely.
Fear of Having Little Creativity
Another fear that prevents us from freely expressing ourselves may be a belief that we are not naturally creative. That only certain people are born with extraordinary creative abilities, whilst the rest of us need special assistance to force out of us whatever latent creative potential we may have. This is not true. Even those who are ‘creative types’ have periods when their creativity is blocked, supporting the premise that it is not that some of us are born more creative than others. I believe that everyone has the same creative abilities and potential, the only dfference is how freely we can express our creativity.
If the channel from our source of creativity, through our expressiveness, into our space of creation, is unblocked, then creative energy flows. The source of creativity is constant; it always holds its infinite potential. What is being created depends on how freely and easily we express ourselves. Understanding this point is vital to addressing what impedes our creativity. Once we recognise that our source of creativity is infinite, that we do not have to be ‘special people’ in order to be creative, we can work on relaxing those mind-directed fears that narrow our channel of expression. Allowing ourselves to freely expressing ourselves is what unblocks our creativity.
Removing Blocks to Creativity
You’ve probably heard of the saying, “Your external world is a reflection of your inner world.” Meaning, you can look at what is happening in your world and examine where it might be a metaphor for what is going on inside of you. Similarly, your actions and behaviours, as well as the people and things around you, can have direct influence on shaping your internal world. That is why, changing your external world must involve the changing of your inner world, and vice-versa. To ease the flow of your self-expression as a channel for creativity, it helps to look at how you might be holding yourself back in some area of your life. Where in your life are you stuck?
By ‘stuck’, I refer to a state of being unhappy yet unable to get out of the situation. The staleness and stagnation becomes a dense energy that blocks creativity from being expressed. Creating movement will encourage that energy to flow. An effective way to unblock creativity is to change your environment or to make yourself do something new, thereby injecting freshness that can dissipate the block. The idea is to move the energy of stuckness. Sometimes, the stuckness shows up as rigidity in your physical body. Move the energy of stuckness by physically moving. Many people have reported being more creative immediately after exercise or massage. I have found that most of my creative ideas come when I’m travelling in a bus or airplane. You can also create movement by moving projects along, doing something different or differently, and being spontaneous. Movement breaks down the blocks to creativity.
The way I see it, drugs work because it creates movement on a more micro level. It changes the bio-chemicals in our body and puts us in a different state. Rather than attributing any increased creativity to the actual bio-chemical changes, I attribute it to the fact that there has been movement. The movement itself, not the nature of the changes, is what triggers creativity. There is a psychological factor of expecting drugs to do certain magic which promotes a bigger expectation of change, which in turn encourages more actual change. Yet it is this expectation that results in bigger or more movement, which breaks down the block.
Another way of creating movement is by reaching deeper into your creative source. If you’ve been used to having drugs in your system, the absence of drugs will leave you vulnerable to raw emotions. Staying in that space of vulnerability and being honest about what is there will allow you to reach places deep within yourself and bring out more authentic expressions. As a result, your creative output will tend to have a more personal, authentic flavour. It may take time to get to this place as it takes courage to remain vulnerable and look at yourself honestly. But the rewards are worth the trust and patience it takes. With time, you will find that the works you produce will be better than ever.
In the course of reaching this space, you may feel flat at times – as if there is nothing there. Where there appears to be nothing, there is silence. Drop into the space of silence. It is the realm where everything is found. It’s a free fall into your creative source. Without trying to conjure up anything, ideas will flow naturally. Immersing yourself in silence is like standing before the very point of creation – where the infinite potential of creativity is about to explode into manifestation.
Two weeks ago, I was inside an abandoned tunnel that was totally devoid of light and sound, where I had a cool experience of being simultaneously at the beginning and the end of Creation. I was the Creator standing in infinite space – a blank canvas for my creativity. Yet the nothingness contained an infinity of everything that is possible. The silence within us can lead us to that space.