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Why you need a creative pursuit

I cannot overstate the importance of having something to work on that is so difficult, no matter how much you think about it, it will never be enough and you will never fully solve it. 

Something that is there to soak up the extra energy of your wandering mind. It’s like exercise but for the brain.

The creative pursuit can be anything from painting, drawing, writing, creating music, creating content - you name it. The important thing is that there are no clear answers for what you should do, the way it turns out will be unique to you and the end result will be something that could only have been produced by you - there and then in the moment you created it. If you tried to do the same thing another time with the same process, then the results would be different. 

Personally, my creative pursuit is writing, specifically, I’ve been working on a science fiction novel for the last year or so and it’s no understatement to say that engaging in this process has changed my life.

I always struggled with getting my brain to stop, to dim to the torrent of thought washing through me night and day, always there, always distracting, always demanding attention. What I’ve found is that having somewhere to focus those thoughts, something to work on, that, no matter how much I think about it, still requires more thinking, has induced a state of calmness within that I never expected or even hoped for. 

At the end of the day, I’m tired, the process is stressful and emotions frequently range between jubilation and anguish within the space of an hour. You experience illusions of grandeur one minute and revel in the glory of your own genius while lying there crippled with anxiety and self-doubt the next. This is normal and this is good. 

Idle hands are the devil's playground. More and more I believe that our time on earth should be spent doing things that are hard, things that exhaust us and instill a sense of pride upon completion. There are few greater joys in life than the completion of something difficult, taxing and stressful. We need stress in our lives. The cortisol hormone has to be balanced and there are ways to achieve this without pushing ourselves into an early grave. 

I would argue that generating cortisol from your creative pursuit and from your physical ambitions are the healthiest ways to do this. For example if you go for a run; you’re going to feel stressed because at some point during that run it’s going to suck, you’re going to want to stop and your body is going to tell you to give up. When that run is over the sense of accomplishment is overwhelming. 

The same applies to exhausting yourself in the attempt to create something new for the world. It’s stressful. That's what makes it worth it. 

It is important to note the role of discipline when talking about this. We cannot wait for inspiration to strike before we act. If we did, then we would be prone to irregular bouts of creativity leaving us feeling like we can only benefit from the creative practice in those inspired moments. Something else I’ve learned from writing a book is that bum-in-chair time beats inspiration. You need the discipline of carving out the time to be creative. There is a science to the art. 

For me, using a journal has been instrumental. Not only do you have a record of your progress but you are reminded, anchored to your pursuit every day. There is no substitute for showing up and getting the work done. Don’t fall prey to the idea that creativity cannot be systemised. 

Every movie, every song, every story, every piece of art you have ever consumed was created by someone who had the discipline to turn ‘one day’ into today. 

Start now and that could be you. It doesn’t matter if you ever share it with the world or not. It is for you more than anyone else.  

The process is more important than the destination. Discipline equals freedom. Your mind is capable of more than you think. Just give it a chance.

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