Understanding Your Creativity

Being intensely creative can be an intoxicating experience. Consequently, there is a tendency among creative individuals to conceptualize the process in ways that are not realistic. These false theories usually fall into one of two categories. In either case, the error gets in the way of developing a true (and therefore more useful) understanding of the creative process.

When Inspiration Strikes

Creative people do not always understand their own creative process.

Mystics, poets, and artists of all kinds can sometimes come to believe that their creativity (or inspiration) is not their own. That is, the creative process can seem so remarkable and astonishing that ideas and impulses seem to come from somewhere else or from someone other than the creators themselves. These individuals modestly assume that they could not possibly have come up with such impressive results on their own. For some, the source feels in some way divine and is presumed to lie with “the Muses” or with God. For others, the origin must lie in a mystically enhanced version of the unconscious mind. Both scenarios place the origin of creativity outside the conscious ego. The creator is just a channel.

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Cargo Cults of the Unconscious Mind

We have all heard of the South Seas islanders who belong to bizarre cargo cults. The cults got started shortly after WW II when the Americans pulled out of their many military bases scattered across the Pacific. It was cheaper to leave large quantities of supplies and gear behind than to transport them home so, as is so often the case with the Americans, they generously donated the materiel to the inhabitants of the islands. Having seen all this abundance arrive in airplanes, but not understanding where it came from, the less sophisticated natives decided they could get more of this cargo (and thus secure eternal peace and happiness) by simply luring passing planes from the sky. All they had to do was clear a rough runway, build a wooden plane for a decoy, and set up some homemade landing lights by making fires lined up in neat parallel rows.

Douglas C-47 Cargo Plane

Not all cargo cults have to do with South Seas islanders and US supply planes. The West has its own peculiar cargo cults. (Image: public domain)

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