Escape The Rut: Free Your Creative Mind

Have you ever felt like you have fallen into a rut, stuck doing the same things, with no noticable improvement in the quality of your life, career, or relationships? Falling into a rut means you are following tried-and-true but well worn steps instead of taking a chance or exploring new areas. What is the primary reason we do this?

Most people make their decisions based on some level of fear. “If I try that, I might fail.”, or “If I do this, others will think poorly of me.” or the big one: “If I take a chance, I might end up living in a van down by the river.” Fear is the biggest factor that holds people back from trying new things and fulfilling their dreams. I better not chance it; it’s just too risky.

Don’t get me wrong; we live in dire economic conditions right now. There are millions of people in this country out of work or under-employed, so there are real-world consequences to going off on a new path on a whim. The fear of losing something is the biggest hindrance to new thought processes. “I’m just trying to hold onto what I have.”

But, do not let this fear be an excuse for not stretching your mind in different directions. Take your mind off its leash from time to time and let it run free, without restrictions. In my drawing classes, the biggest challenge I see my students struggle with is their inability to let go and create spontaneously. When sketching, they hesitate, they judge themselves critically, they get frustrated when a masterpiece does not emerge right away.

This is a symptom of our society’s relentless demands for conformity and success: don’t act so weird. Watch what you say. You’re not good enough. Don’t make people feel uncomfortable. Better not say that, someone might get offended. Just keep it to yourself. You can’t do that, are you crazy?! If you can just go ahead and stay in that box, that would be grrreat, mm-kay? Thanks a bunch. 

Coupled with that is a fear of failure. Our society teaches us, constantly, that failure is shameful and to be avoided at all costs. This is why every student gets a trophy, so no one will fail. This mind-set is why innovation in business is shriveling.
FAILURE IS PART OF LIFE. Get used to it. You will fail (and have probably failed at some point in your life in the past). No one gets a free pass from failure. I’ve learned more from my failures than I've ever learned from my successes. The more comfortable you are with the concept of failure, the more you’ll be able to learn from it when it happens.

Some of the greatest entrepreneurs were people who launched projects most people thought were ridiculous. When Walt Disney began building Disneyland in Anaheim, California, it was widely derided; people called the park Walt’s Folly. Disney had setbacks and failures, but he never quit, despite what people thought. Steven Schussler, founder of the Rainforest Cafe restaurants, was so passionate about his concept he built an artificial rain forest in his house to attract investors. His house even got raided by the DEA, who thought the high energy usage meant he was growing pot. It took TWO YEARS before he attracted an investor who would give him a chance, and the rest is history. His autobiography, It’s A Jungle In There is an excellent read.

Here is my suggestion: take your mind off the leash and engage in some kind of creative endeavor, whether it be drawing, painting, sculpting, fixing old cars or even quilting. And when you do this, DON’T CARE. I’ll say that again: DO NOT CARE. Get your analytic mind out of this process! It has no place here. Create without thought, without judgment, without reservation. Do not think. DO.
When you do this, you will get into that special place called the ZONE, the place where you are operating on pure instinct, and your creativity is flowing almost without any conscious thought. It is in the zone where some of your best insights and ideas will emerge, because those ideas are not constrained by your fearful, logic-based restrictions. It’s a lot like meditation.

We’re in a new age, people. What worked yesterday will not work tomorrow. To get to someplace you've never been, you have to do something you've never done. One of the best places to start is to set aside time to unshackle your mind and let it run free. You might be surprised where it takes you.


Michael L.

Experienced Cartooning and Drawing Instructor

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