There is no difference between the Creator and creation,
just as there is no difference between the ocean and its waves.
Amma, Indian saint
Throughout history geniuses have expressed their connection to a divine creator.
William Blake writes, “I myself do nothing. The Holy Spirit accomplishes all through me.”
Johannes Brahms credits the source of his creativity: “Straightaway the ideas flow in upon me, directly from God.”
Music legend Johnny Cash explains, “Creative people have to be fed from the divine source.”
Visionary inventor Nikola Tesla observed, “The gift of mental power comes from God, Divine Being, and if we concentrate our minds on that truth, we become in tune with this great power.” He adds, “We have, undoubtedly, certain finer fibers that enable us to perceive truths when logical deduction, or any other willful effort of the brain, is futile.”
Holy Spirit, God, and Divine Being are different expressions of the same experience. This is the state where the “finer fibers” that Tesla mentioned attune to the creative broadcast. It is the key to accessing higher creativity and the portal for profound inspiration. You don’t have to believe in a particular religion or spiritual path in order to access this state.
So, how can you prepare yourself to function at the highest level of creativity? In any creative endeavor begin by asking, wholeheartedly, for inspiration and insight. When you get stuck or frustrated, ask for help. As you near completion, ask for guidance. Who are you asking? If you believe in God, ask God. If you believe in a Great Spirit, a Divine Mother, or a Universal Mind, then ask the Spirit, Mother, or Mind. If you don’t believe in any of that, then just ask for a creative source to guide you. Vincent van Gogh expressed this very well when he wrote, “I can very well do without God both in my life and in my painting, but I cannot, suffering as I am, do without something which is greater than I am, which is my life, the power to create.”
Direct your appeal to a creative power, something greater than your ego, however you conceive it. Whether you think of the higher power as divinely inspired or as an expression of your own intuitive gift, you’ll discover that sincerely asking for guidance liberates you from the constricting effects of your habitual mindset. Asking for guidance, and listening deeply, gives you access to vast creative power. As Jung explained, “Creative power is mightier than its possessor.”
Do not underestimate the might of a wholehearted appeal to the source of creativity. And when you make such an appeal, be accountable for doing something with what you receive. As G. K. Chesterton admonishes, “Never invoke the gods unless you really want them to appear. It annoys them very much.”
Be careful that your appeal isn’t a demand. Inspiration can’t be forced. You meet the demand for creative insight by surrendering your idea of what you think you need and opening to something you don’t know.
Ask. Let go. Listen. Be patient. And keep working on your craft as you wait.
There’s a paradox here. You, as an individual, remain fully accountable for what you create. You must learn the craft associated with your discipline. As Brahms expressed it, “Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.” You must provide the effort, commitment, and diligence. And while taking full responsibility, surrender your attachment, empty yourself, and ask for inspiration and guidance.
The idea that the secret of creativity involves surrendering to a higher power has ancient origins. According to Greek mythology, Zeus, the god of unlimited energy, made love with Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, for nine consecutive days and nights. The children of that ultra-marathon of love were the nine Muses. The Muses were the angels who blessed the efforts of poets, musicians, and dancers. As novelist Eliza Farnham noted, “Each of the arts whose office is to refine, purify, adorn, embellish and grace life is under the patronage of a Muse.”
In a 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Where Have All the Muses Gone?”, cultural critic Lee Siegel describes the long history of creators relying on an invocation to the Muse, in one form or another. But, he notes, “Poets stopped invoking the muse centuries ago — eventually turning instead to caffeine, alcohol and amphetamines.”
Caffeine, alcohol, and amphetamines can help us shift out of our habitual, limiting mindsets, but over reliance on these substances damages our health and has diminishing returns. On the other hand, relying on an invocation to a creative source yields exponentially increasing benefits, without any negative side effects. Moreover, the Muses aren’t just standing by to help artists; they’re available for everyone who wants to bring more creativity to life. All you have to do is ask, wholeheartedly.
(This article was adapted from Creativity On Demand: How to Ignite and Sustain the Fire of Genius by Michael J. Gelb, published by Sounds True)
Michael J. Gelb is the world’s leading authority on the application of genius thinking to personal and organizational development. He is a pioneer in the fields of creative thinking, accelerated learning, and innovative leadership. Gelb leads seminars for organizations such as DuPont, Merck, Microsoft, Nike, Roche and YPO. He brings more than 35 years of experience as a professional speaker, seminar leader and organizational consultant to his diverse, international clientele. To learn more, click here.