Creative Intimacy, a realisation.
When lockdown hit I found myself feeling my most ambitious yet; no distractions but an immense opportunity to produce content. Weeks later, burn-out followed. I pressed pause and allowed myself two months to retreat into the void of no output, while peeling back some layers of the onion skin to better understand myself, my perspective and my output. In hindsight, it’s been one of the most rewarding periods that I can remember.
Throughout my deep dives into meditation, introspection and reflection, I experienced some profound realisations and I dedicate this amalgamation of words and sentences to one in particular which I have termed ‘Creative Intimacy’. I am afraid to break it to you though, it is not the wild and creative acts of making love to your partner - it’s something a little different.
Initially, to better understand this realisation and solidify the idea from a thought into a concept, I wrote a letter to myself outlining the idea as a way of gaining clarity (don’t ask). This letter laid out the foundations to this piece of writing, and I hope you can gain from this insight, as I have.
I strongly believe that each and every human being has a fountain of creativity within them and while everyone’s approach is unique; expressing them is a different story. Creativity to me has always been based around a mindset and perspective rather than a fixed skill that is restricted to the discipline you are working in. I'd also argue that this ‘mindset' can certainly be cultivated; whether in music production, fine art or even a lawyer piecing together a unique argument, creativity adapts. Creativity is the eye that envisions every possibility, the perspective that combines experience and outlook to spark an idea. However, there comes a point when I must ask; what happens when your relationship with creation diminishes as a result of consuming more than you create? Or when the daily hustle and bustle of life consumes you, what can a loss of deep connection to this creativity result in? From experience, I know there's a strange sort of unpleasant friction, whether in burn-out or a lack of personal fulfillment and enjoyment through creative expression.
Creativity is the eye that envisions every possibility, the perspective that combines experience and outlook to spark an idea.
Creative Intimacy on one hand is your own balance of creation vs consumption. Everyday in the modern world, we are swarmed with distractions, the dopamine drip of social media feeds and binging on the products of other creator's, like on Netflix (which isn’t always bad, if everyone just created without consuming, there would be no creative economy). However, an extended period of time arrives when the consumption outweighs creation, leaving an unstable balance which I've felt contribute to the feeling of being in a rut. This idea of balance is in no way new, Alex Banks (Ninja Tune, MESH) highlighted in a recent conversation that when he's in the process of writing an album for example, he doesn’t consume at all - he focuses on the intimacy of the creative journey and simply expresses, without any external stimulus. A surplus of inspiration can create a strange environment where you are overwhelmed with so many creative ideas that you don't focus and finish one; you go round in circles, like a dog chasing its tail.
In addition, Creative Intimacy isn't just this balance it's also the quality of the connection and expression. Let’s say you’ve just sat down in the studio for a writing session and you're about to attempt to produce your next hit record. It's so easy to get lost in the techniques and sound quality, surgically EQing a sound to improve it without even properly getting the ideas out in the first place. I know from experience this typically results in a studio session that isn’t as successful as anticipated.
So how can this understanding of Creative Intimacy help? As we take steps towards creating our best work yet, how can this empower us forward? Like Brian Eno with his Oblique Strategies cards, I’ve made some of my own little rules of thumbs that help with this process and I hope sharing these will help you too.
If you are wanting to purely channel your creativity, ensure the reduction of distractions, of getting lost in the detail before the creative foundations of the work are built and most of all, warm yourself up! As Paul Nolan notes in a wonderful blog article, start off your creative sessions with rituals to prime and warm yourself up by getting into the right headspace/flow instead of just jumping straight in the deep-end (even though, that's what we all want to do!).
If burn-out is on the horizon, make the focus creating simply for you and your own enjoyment. Recently during my burn-out I found my way back to photography as a hobby, the benefits of which have been incredible from not only the return of creative intimacy, but the greater understanding of Beginner's Mind through the simplicity of creating without the feedback loop of rules, structure and technique. Now with this insight, I can apply it to other disciplines - hopefully further impacting my other channels (we shall see...).
If consumption begins to outweigh creativity, I'll attempt to add some creativity to the micro of my day - even if that is in cooking, making coffee or journaling in the morning, just brining Creative Intimacy into different aspects of my day helps bring equilibrium and further supports the moments of creative expression. (And yes, it is definitely possible to get creative while making coffee - Coffee Art is just the beginning).
If creative block sets in, forcefully trying to smash through the block will only cause more friction, I open the door to consumption and let it slowly seep in. Changing environment, moving body and mind, and adding some great content all help to demolish this block without trying to breaking it down; I'm talking walks, books, albums, adventures and films - whatever floats your boat. Consuming and appreciating the art, content and creations of other's can also be extremely inspiring. As an example I recently finished Rival Console's new album which has been a delight not just in sound but in concept. Ryan (Rival Consoles) created the initial ideas for these tracks as diagrams on paper - how cool!
Finally, it’s important to be conscious of what you are consuming and not just in others art and content but in body and mind. Cultivate a lifestyle that supports you and your goals.
Here’s to creating our best work yet,