Imagine being able to consistently get great ideas and solutions to everyday problems whenever you need them. To read Greg Hansen’s first article on learning how to seek creative inspiration, click here.
Last time we discussed some of the basics of setting ourselves up to receive creative inspiration. We identified living a noble life as a foundation, and grouped the creative process, inspiration, revelation, the Holy Spirit, mediation and prayer as part of the same whole. We discussed ascending levels of communication and had some examples of positive and negative effects of heeding the flashes of understanding that come to us.
This section gets into the how-to’s: the nuts and bolts of getting inspiration when you need it. It gives us the ability to take our day-to-day living to the next level, getting the understanding, ideas, and direction we need to be greater instruments of good.
Levels of Awareness
The following diagram shows the four levels of creativity, or awareness, that have been referred to since the time of the Greeks. It also corresponds to general phases of life. The lowest level is at the bottom of the pyramid, ascending to higher and higher levels as it goes up.
The first level, what I call Technician or modeling, is the most basic. The Greeks referred to this as the Beta level. This level of creativity is akin to copying and adapting another creative style or presentation. It is the level of a student practicing the basic techniques and skills needed to master a craft. By studying the masters in his field, he can extract what makes them great and imitate and alter them to lend a degree of originality. This lowest level is commonly mass produced in journalism, graphic art styles, photography, music and visual arts. It is rampant in marketing, car styles, clothing and just about any other field of consumerism.
This level corresponds to what we think of as a normal waking state of being. It is characterized by movement, activity, and surging thoughts. The mind is preoccupied and agitated, going from one thing to another in rapid succession. It is also a state of stress. It is associated with the things of this earth, and prevents us from getting true inspiration, thus we must copy what others have done because of our own shortcomings. It is actually not a state of being our spirits are accustomed to. Unfortunately, it is the state many people spend most of their lives in, not knowing any better, or only enjoying higher levels when those circumstances are created for them to be part of. The nuances of life and inspiration cannot be experienced unless the mind is relaxed.
The next state is called Alpha. It is characterized by internal calm and peace. One is free from tensions and anxiety, unconcerned with the body, and alert to feelings of the Spirit. This is the state that the temple experience is set up to bring. One can also experience it in nature, in a church meeting, or alone in meditation and prayer. This is the true level of normal existence for our spirits. The more time we spend in this level, the more effective and long-lasting will be our thoughts and actions for good. This is the level where much of my everyday composing takes place. I have found that I can do twice the work and have it be much better quality in this state than when struggling in the Beta level to produce something beautiful.
In the Alpha level, original ideas are frequent within a known framework: such as a song form, a landscape painting, or an editorial article. The parameters of the style are understood by the audience already, and the originality occurs within those parameters. It takes effort to get to this level on a consistent basis.
The third state is called Theta. It is reached in the moments before, and just after sleep. It is a place where many of our problems can be solved automatically by our subconscious. This is the area of spiritual dreams and visions. It is like a blending of self with all things. This state is where many of the great inventions, art, philosophies and discoveries of our age were conceived. With practice, it can be reached often as with Einstein’s understanding of the theory of relativity. One or two visits in a lifetime to this state, with the resultant information gained there, and people will call you a genius.
The highest state is called Delta. It is seldom reached in this lifetime, but to my understanding includes the ability to do miracles, such as the Nephites calling down famines, or breaking down prisons with earthquakes, or healing the sick with the power of a word. It is a complete blending of self with the spirit and power of the priesthood; and with the mind and will of God.
Examples of the Various Levels
The lowest level is familiar enough with most people that it needs no explanation beyond what has been given. The Alpha level includes many of people’s deepest spiritual feelings and experiences, like those you would hear of in a fast and testimony meeting. The Theta level is a nearly magical place, where the greatest understanding can be gained to the average saint.
I will typically be working on a project, and load the parameters of the project in my mind-such as: this needs to be a piece of music three minutes long, it needs to feel thus and so, and must be contained within an orchestra’s colors, and structured in a certain form. Then I will go to bed. In the morning, just as I wake up, I will have the piece complete in my head. My subconscious will have been working on it as I slept. But if not notated immediately, it will escape. That’s why it’s so important to act on it as soon as it comes. I have been able to use this process enough that I know when it is true inspiration, as opposed to some idea planted there by yesterday’s taco salad.
Other Ways To Prepare for Inspiration
I have found a few things that work for me, perhaps they may for you as well. I have paid attention to my body over the years, and have found myself to be most productive and rested in the morning. I have many friends who are most creative in the wee hours of the night. At any rate, knowing your best time of day for creativity can be very helpful. I get up at 5:00 am to write each day while the family is still asleep, the phones aren’t ringing, and it’s quiet and peaceful. By 3:00 I have no business being creative, so I do phone calls or non-creative administration tasks at that time.
Having regular, big blocks of uninterrupted time is also key. Doing it consistently gets the creative ship moving and gaining greater and greater speed. Too long of a lull between creative sessions results in that much more effort to get the big ship moving again.
Regular breaks are helpful, as well as a hobby that is completely different than the creative activity. That is why I enjoy riding and working with our horses as a diversion from the intense writing time I do each day.
Do the creative work at the same time and same place each day. The mind gets used to the environment being a place of creativity, and so makes it easier to slip into the zone as soon as you sit down.
Things that hinder the creative process are sickness or fatigue, relationship troubles, grudges held against someone, or other
barriers that tie up our spirits.
David O. McKay made a statement indicating to me his understanding of this process:
Brother Faust has also listed nine suggestions for more fully receiving the blessings of the Spirit:
1. Live so we can merit the guidance of the Spirit.
2. Never be complacent and always try harder.
3. Excercise more faith.
4. Purge ourselves of personal aggrandizement.
5. Beware of pride and flattery.
6. Be humble and submissive.
7. Always try to act to promote that which is good for others.
8. Learn to enjoy then fruits of the Spirit.
9. Do works of righteousness.
With careful evaluation of our individual situations and circumstances, we can increase our ability to solve problems, gain deep spiritual insights, and create uplifting works of art. Each of us can benefit from even a start on this Creative Journey.