The Nature of Creativity

In Development Advice on August 17, 2010 at 1:59 am

What is the nature of creativity? It’s hard to describe; to say how you find it; how you generate it. Creativity is indefinable, un-teachable, intangible and hard to get a grasp on what exactly it is and how you make it, or where creativity and creative ideas come from.

As an actor, either in rehearsal, exercises in an acting class, or in the creation of any kind of performance, it is your responsibility to understand and use yourself as an instrument. For example, a musician’s instrument is separate from them but as an actor, your instrument is yourself, and you need to know how that instrument operates.

If you want to find the triggers that are meaningful to you ask yourself, “If it was my last day on earth tomorrow who would I want to see and what would I want to say?” This crystallizes meaningful relationships and unresolved issues that could be used to generate a genuine response within yourself for a truthfully emotional performance.

When you have a creative problem, say for instance, trying to find meaningful reasons for doing an exercise or scene, then patience is really a virtue. Let me be specific about that: ask yourself a question and rather than shutting down or preventing an answer from coming through, don’t accept the mind’s first response of “I just don’t know” or “I can’t think of anything.”

We live in a fast paced world, and even with our own thought processes, if the answer doesn’t come to us immediately, we incorrectly think that we either don’t know or that the answer isn’t within us, and hence, give up. Instead, the key is to ask the question and then stay present and listening, allowing time for the answer to bubble up.

The answer to your creative question or problem is in you, but it either needs time to simmer and boil into your waking consciousness, or it needs outside stimulus for you to recognize it as a possible solution. There are two things you can do to help this:

First, ask yourself the question, but remain open and listening, being patient and trusting that the answer will appear at some random moment, a few minutes, hours or days later. This flash of inspiration may in fact be a quiet voice that comes to you when you are in the shower, walking, driving to work, or sitting on the bus, etc. It happens when you least expect it, and more often when you are doing something mindless and automatic.

Second, the creative aptitudes of your mind need stimuli. Like a well of fish, you cannot keep plundering it expecting it to always be full of ideas, without refilling it on a regular basis. So, find the things that please your artistic fancy. These activities or stimuli are personal and unique to you, only you can know what these things are.

They could include anything from setting aside an hour to do nothing but listen to your favourite album; dancing around the room to one of those CDs or cassette tapes from the 80’s that you would never want to admit to anyone else that you’ve got, but that is joyously indulgent; a trip to an art exhibition; visiting a favourite café that you haven’t been to in ages, by yourself, just so that you can people watch; a DVD marathon of favourite movies from your childhood; a walk along the beachfront, through native bush, or a collection of pretty streets in your (or someone else’s) neighbourhood; wandering through an art supply store or even The $2 Shop, and picking up every second or third item and asking yourself “What could I do with this?” not with the intention to buy, but simply the intention to be inspired; an African dance class; treating yourself to a bag of your favourite freshly ground coffee beans, fresh berries or flowers from the supermarket that are not prearranged but which you have to arrange yourself; literally fishing; getting out all of your shoes and trying them on; a bath with oils; pyjama day watching chick flick movies; home-made pizza in front of an unapologetic testosterone filled action movie; the list goes on, fill in the blanks yourself.

By feeding your creative appetite regularly with beauty, fun, and play it will give your creative muscle fuel to fire your next performance, scene, or exercise.

Julie Cameron's - The Artists Way

For more information on developing your artistic instrument check out the seminal book on creativity by Julia Cameron, The Artists Way…

Or buy the book at

For information on courses available at The Wellington Actors Studio go to


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