I understand how difficult it is to be spontaneously creative if you have been crystallized in your defense system for a long time. Daily creative practice is a good way to get moving out of inertia, but sometimes daily art practices can become obsessive and unbalanced.
True creativity invites a mode of heightened awareness that is a vivid contrast to an emotionally repressed state of living. In my earlier life, I was blocked creatively. My character was not yet strong. I was not yet expressing my truth in my daily life. I felt depressed and invisible to myself and others.
Over the years I have become a passionate creator, but now I have to watch my tendency to be too creative! Over 15 years ago, I started teaching people to use creativity as a way to access unconscious thoughts and emotions. Ten years prior, I had already opened a floodgate of repressed feelings inside myself through expressive art, and I was on fire with inspiration and insight.
There is delicious freedom in the creative process where I can forget about my everyday concerns and worries, and move into passionate, even cathartic states. Once the creative process begins to flow I can feel inspired beyond belief, and compelled to move into new heights of beauty, power, inspiration and self-knowing.
I dare say that not many "creatives" are willing to admit that creativity can become over-indulgent, and even manic in its intensity. Without knowing it, excessive creativity might be a way of avoiding the emotional vulnerability that arises when you stop, become still and simply feel.
In our culture, we glorify excessive creativity. But intense daily creativity by its nature can be a self-involved state. I can easily become overly attached to my creativity. I can crave creative time as a way to escape from the mundane, practical requirements of my daily life.
When you feel difficult emotions, it might feel easy to believe that you should add more creative projects to the roster, when it would often be wiser to stop self-expressing for a while. Because we each unknowingly create our own recipe for emotional pain through the unconscious repetition of limiting beliefs, the immediate relief of extensive self-expression can seem to be the antidote.Unbalanced Creativity
As creative people, we can tend to want to be "saved" by creativity; and be delivered from the more difficult feelings that are on the opposite pole of inspiration. When I was struggling with depression, elated creativity was my preferred high, my energy juice and my saving grace.
I came to know I was over-indulging when I began to substitute creativity for everything else important: relationships, love, sex, friendships, sleep, exercise and attentive parenting. My "drug of choice" was found in buying excessive amounts of art supplies.
Soon after I started exploring expressive art, I was filling my entire day with creativity. When I was in emotional pain, I would sometimes draw in my sketchbook all day long. Looking back, preferring creativity to all else, I can see I was unbalanced in my creative practices.
Because most of us repress emotional pain, the immediate relief of intense self-expression can seem to be the antidote. Yet, reaching for higher states of creativity can become compulsive if we are not careful to attend to all areas of our life with awareness.
Creativity expert Eric Maisel describes manic creativity as "a racing brain driven by a certain powerful pressure, need or impulse. Anything that gets in the way of this seemingly forward motion—a physical obstacle, another person’s viewpoint, a delay in the bus arriving—is viewed as a tremendous irritation. Hence, irritability is so often associated with mania. This irritation makes perfect sense: if you must get on with it—get every wall painted red, capture that song, solve that theorem—then nothing must get in the way."
Elation and Depression
When I was struggling with anxiety and depression, everything that existed around me paled when I was experiencing such elation in my creative practices. I forgot the more mundane aspects of life. When in a heightened creative state, I postponed my practical tasks, neglected my relationships and consumed lots of caffeine. I went past my bodily limits, working at my full-time job all day, staying up most of the night painting, not letting my body relax and integrate.
You will know you are overindulging in creative intensity when you feel lost without it, and get depressed when you have to take the time to attend to practical tasks. Feeling out unbalanced in my creativity, I was relieved to hear I was not alone. A creative friend of mine also wondered, "what am I looking for?" while in the throes of creating in the middle of the night.
I still find it tempting to overcommit to creative practices, but now I know that an over-elated state inevitably leads to a depression. So, for many years, I have maintained a small daily creative practice for about 15–30 minutes a day. This feels balancing and integrative for me.