How You Can Get Into the Creative Zone

(Photo above by Rfstudio / Pexels)

Having a real passion for something can be a source of joy or a curse. Not much can match the gratification and exhilaration we feel after working hard on something we are truly passionate about. And not much compares to the agony we feel watching our manuscript, soccer cleats or synthesizer gather dust in the corner.

In this sense, getting into the creative zone is less about finding the right plants to decorate your work space or the most comfortable chair, and more about winning over the negativity, doubt or inertia that prevents us from pursuing what we love. As bestselling author of The War of Art, Steven Pressfield, writes, “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write” (The War of Art, p. 17).

Buddhism teaches that we are each unique and endowed with many incredible talents. The real question is how to bring them out. Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda shares how to uncover these qualities:

Nichiren Buddhism enables us to reveal our most intrinsic nature—to fully reveal our unique potential, to develop our character and bring our true self to shine. To do this, we need life force. A strong life force will bring forth the most positive aspects of our personality

Discussions on Youth p. 119

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is how we can cultivate a strong life force. It’s a way to bring out our Buddhability, or inherent wisdom and courage. It’s easy to forget that we are amazing and that we have a bright future. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo awakens us again to this reality.

Taking steps to pursue our passion can bring out incredible self-doubt and negativity. Chanting enables to wrestle with this and win over it.

Taking steps to pursue our passion can bring out incredible self-doubt and negativity. Chanting enables to wrestle with this and win over it.

Making goals gets us in the zone

Psychologist Dona Matthews describes getting into a “flow” state, where we are completely absorbed, focused and immersed in a task. To get in such a “zone,” she recommends to setting up many short-term goals. Matthews writes:

Those who experience flow have concrete, short-term plans concerning the activity they’re involved in, as well as reasonable long-term aspirations. For an athlete, this can mean working on a certain basketball shot and hoping to join an elite team. For a writer, the short-term goal might be writing a short story to submit to a contest, and the long-term hope might be to become a published author. ... Although the flow activity is intrinsically motivated, the goals add direction and structure to the task.

Our Buddhist practice inspires us to win over ourselves each day. Over time, these daily victories add up to achieving big dreams.

Daisaku Ikeda shares:

The important thing is to take that first step. Bravely overcoming one small fear gives you the courage to take on the next one. Make goals, whether they are big or small, and work toward realizing them. You must be serious about and dedicated to your goals—you’ll get nowhere if you just take them lightly. An earnest, dedicated spirit shines like a diamond and moves people’s hearts. That is because a brilliant flame burns within

Discussions on Youth p. 116

Spending 15 or 30 minutes each day pursing our passion projects may seem like an insignificant amount of time, but over months it can add up to major steps forward toward realizing our goals.

Just show up

Buddhism emphasizes that the most important step in any process is the first step. Daisaku Ikeda shares:

It’s all about taking action, taking that first step. If your aim is to swim across a wide expanse of ocean, it will do you no good to get cold feet before you even get in the water. Rather, you’ve got to make a move, keeping your sights on your goal in the distance. Hindsight can be valuable to one’s growth, but to set oneself up for failure before even trying is self-defeating.

Discussions on Youth, p. 116

Pressfield echoes this approach: “How many pages have I produced? I don’t care. Are they any good? I don’t even think about it. All that matters is I’ve put in my time and hit it with all I’ve got. All that counts is that, for this day, for this session, I have overcome Resistance” (The War of Art, p. 16).

That’s why if we even just show up for the challenge today, we’ve used our Buddhist practice and won over ourselves and will certainly move closer to our great dreams.

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