What leads to creativity? It’s a question many of us struggle with, especially in the dark times for our art. The times when nothing seems to come easily. When inspiration seems to have deserted us. In those times, there are things we can do to keep us going. We can read thought-provoking books, visit galleries with good art, learn something new, or talk to people about deep and meaningful things. Those are a few steps we can take.
And one other step? We can step away from things that we know bring us down, overwhelm us with stress and worry.
Earlier this year, I did that. I stepped away from something that was increasing my stress and anxiety, was fueling worry and was generating internal anger on a regular basis.
I stopped listening to the news.
It wasn’t just the election cycle, although that was a big part of it. It started with the Orlando shootings, and the obsessive coverage it got. And that turned into responses and sound bites from every direction. And it all felt so self-serving and sensationalist. The news outlets that covered it. The politicians who reacted to it. The conjecture and the analysis only served to fuel the hate. So I turned it off.
Instead, I’ve been listening to podcasts. I’ve found interesting, intelligent podcasts which stretch my mind, teach me new things, give a deeper story than a sound bite. After a few weeks of listening to podcasts I realized how much better I felt about the world. How much deeper I was thinking about it. How my thoughts were fueling more interesting conversations with those I interact with. How much happier I am, in my day-to-day life.
I still get the news, through the grapevine of coworkers, family, friends. If something happens I want to learn more about, I can go find a deeper analysis of it. Often in a podcast, on my terms.
And guess what? My creativity has responded, too. Without the extra stress and worry of how sad the world is these days and what might happen next, I am in a more positive place. My art doesn’t come when I’m working out my anxieties. My art comes when I take a deep breath and find quiet. Peace.
This week, I read a Cherokee legend in Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy, “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil — he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you — and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
This story resonated with me deeply. There is so much wisdom in these few words. If we dwell in the anger and hostility, we feed that wolf. If we step away from those negative sources, and fill the void with positive influences, we are feeding a different wolf.
Which wolf do you feed?
I thought I would share a list of my favorite podcasts with you, in case you would like to try something new. If you have other good podcasts you recommend, please leave a comment. I’m always interested in learning about more!
And, if you listen to podcasts, you need a good podcast app! My favorite podcast app is Pocket Casts, available for both iOS and Android. With this app, when you subscribe to a podcast, you can go into the settings to have it automatically download and add to the “Up Next” list, for continual podcast goodness without a lot of effort.