On Writing

Where Did THAT Come From?!? – On Creativity

‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…’

Thus begins the most popular creation account / story / myth (delete as applicable) in human history. The question of the origins of our creation has exercised humankind’s greatest minds for as long as we have existed, as has the question of the nature – and indeed the very existence – of the creator. Philosophy, science, art and, of course, religion have all wrestled with these our biggest questions.

I expect you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. Well, I’m not quite ready to weigh-in with a new theory of evolution (sorry to disappoint, Charles Darwin may rest easy) but the question of creation, and the nature of creativity, is something that has been of real interest to me since I began to write. Writing has opened up a whole new part of me, a voice and a form of expression that I didn’t even know were there. This has lead me to publishing my first book, a dream come true and my own little miracle of creation (and it’s a bestseller! You can buy it here: http://amzn.to/2vL8Qd7).

But am I truly its creator?

The fact that my creativity was latent for so long before bursting forth, and that this blossoming was the result of a hitherto unknown and subsequently overwhelming compulsion to write, makes it feel all the more special to me. And, dare I say it, somehow miraculous.

Jarvis Cocker, lead singer and songwriter for Pulp, made the observation,

‘That’s what I appreciate when I listen to songs, that another human being did that, and it came from nothing. They wrote something where there was nothing before. That’s kind of a miraculous event for me and that is what keeps me doing it, it’s nice to have little miracles in your life isn’t it?’

One of life’s biggest miracles – I think it would be universally agreed – is how Keith Richards is still alive, never mind still thrilling audiences as part of the never-ending touring behemoth that is The Rolling Stones. He too questions the nature and source of his creations:

So I’m in good company in identifying with a sense of the miraculous. But does this creation of something where there was nothing before really come from nothing? It’s something I’ve been wondering about and it has brought to mind the idea that I have read about over the years from many artists who see themselves as not a creator, but rather a channeler. As a vessel through which the act of creation flows, finding its expression as words on a page, paint on a canvas or notes played through a musical instrument. Creation is therefore an act that is through you rather than of you. John Lennon seemed to think so:

More grounded and rational minds may baulk at this idea but can we so readily dismiss the experience of many artists that we would identify as gifted, if not indeed the possessors of genius?

Ahem, please allow me to add my loud but, in this context, very small voice to considering this question. I have spent the last few weeks compiling a number of my posts to create my first book and re-reading them has been an interesting experience, reinforcing a sense that I very often have upon writing something new – ‘where the hell did that come from?!?’ If you had sat me down and asked me to read my book a couple of years ago I would have told you that never in a million years could I have written it.

But I did.

That undeniably fills me with a sense of pride, regardless of what anybody else thinks about its merits or otherwise. But I also don’t feel wholly responsible for it when on so many occasions I have felt, for want of a better expression, guided by an invisible hand. My mind – an oft-frequented meeting place for jumbled-up thoughts and swirling confusion – is curiously quiet during the act of writing as my fingers tap (OK, hammer, very loudly) at my keyboard or scratch a rhyme across a blank piece of paper. It is from this place of inner calm that creation flows unconsciously, whether the piece in question is a cathartic purge or a tongue in cheek account of a(nother) dating failure.

A case in point: ‘My mind – an oft-frequented meeting place for jumbled-up thoughts and swirling confusion…’

I just wrote that, yet I have never consciously thought to express it in such a way, even as my hands tapped at the letters on the keyboard resulting in the words that appear before you now. A rational, scientific explanation would probably account for this by pointing out the many, many books that I have consumed over the years, coupled with the many hours that I have devoted to writing and the particular genetic composition of my brain and my educational and life experiences. And who would I be to argue? Undoubtedly these play a part, a huge part, but I don’t believe they tell the whole story.

How do we explain the melody to ‘Yesterday’ appearing fully formed in the mind of Paul McCartney during a dream, convincing him that it must have been something he had already heard rather than an act of purely unconscious creation?

John Lennon offers us further insight based on the nature of his own creative spirit:

Whilst such open-mindedness is anathema to empirical rationality perhaps it gives us a glimpse into the reason he and his fellow Beatles were so able to push the boundaries of what was possible in popular music. It is only in pushing against the boundaries of our limitations and prevailing orthodoxies that true innovation can take place, and the seemingly impossible can become possible. Perhaps even our greatest scientific mind would have agreed.

There is an idea that all possibilities already exist ‘out there’ within a universal consciousness and that the role of the creator is in somehow tapping into this, channeling it into our temporal existence. In honing the tools of our creative talents – with thousands upon thousands of strokes of the paintbrush, strums of the guitar strings, flourishes of the pen – we unlock the door to the higher consciousness and enable the creative spirit to flow through us and bring new potentialities into being. Think of it this way – songs don’t come from the radio, rather they travel through it via radio waves; in the creative sense we are the radio, the channel through which the creative force emerges.

I like this idea, and as someone engaged in the creative process it is an idea that I can certainly identify with.

We are all creators and each of us have the power to change the world for the better in ways both great and small. Whether we consider ourselves to be ‘creative’ or not we are all part of the process of creation, and each day through our thoughts, words and actions we create our own lives. We even create new lives, and just as our children become independent of us and exist outside of our will, so too do the fruits of our creative labours – as stories, paintings and songs whose identities and meanings are shaped through the perceptions of each reader, observer and listener.

As for me, having published my first book and achieved what was possible merely in my dreams until a few weeks ago, I’m curious as to where my creative journey will take me next. The publication of ‘Something Changed’ represents both beginnings and endings. It symbolises the transformation of challenging circumstances into new and exciting opportunities and the drawing of a line under the past. I’m keen to see how my own creativity evolves and the directions in which my writing may now go. It is my dream to publish a novel and I’m looking forward to pursuing this dream, to looking towards the future with new hopes and to leaving the past where it belongs.

As I embark on new challenges it remains to be seen what will be written. I’m looking forward to discovering what the next chapter holds and I hope that you will be joining me along the way to finding out.

Matthew’s debut book, Something Changed: Stumbling Through Divorce, Dating & Depression, is available now Click here for info


Across the Universe – The Beatles

8 thoughts on “Where Did THAT Come From?!? – On Creativity

  1. Great Article,

    I have never thought about it this way of creating something from nothing. In the eyes of physics it should be impossible, but never the less here we are with words in the very comment coming from nothing.

  2. I have said this phrase to my kids alot today.. If you believe it you can achieve it.. Someone famous said it.. Can’t remember who.. and I think also that the people who have achieved the most haven’t always know how they will achieve their goals… But they as you have said or Keith…. They have sown the seeds and watered their belief….
    Law of attraction whatever you put out there…..you will reap more of .. Good or bad… And thoughts are things.. Everything including them have an energy and a frequency which they will attract… Am smiling have gone off on a tangent here!!
    Great read as usual.. And will recommend your book to others too.

    1. Thank you Fariha, I do think there’s a lot to be said for that and it links to another of my favourite quotes of the moment – Steve Jobs on only being able to connect the dots when we look back so we need to have trust in something as we move forwards.

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