How to be creative

Artistic Director Jon Potter writes:


Jon Potter leads a workshop as part of the Thames Valley Partnership skill sharing event called 'Barnstorming Day'

One thing that I have been exploring recently in sessions with students is the issue of creativity and ideas. One principle of my training I have always stuck with is: any idea is good. They’re all part of a process. What’s harder and takes experience is knowing which ideas are excellent.

Something I have done recently is called THE MORNING PAGES. This comes from a book about releasing creativity called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. She believes – and I do too – that everyone has a creative spirit. In the past, many artists believed it to be God – the composer Brahms said “straightaway the ideas flow upon me, directly from God”. For me, it’s a kind of spirit - there, but not always easy to find. None of us are striving for something unattainable. Excellent ideas and art are part of each and every one of us, if we are able to access them. Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages are for all artists, not just for writers. She has helped painters, musicians, performers and so on.

She writes: ‘Put simply, the morning pages are 3 pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness. “Oh, god, another morning, I have NOTHING to say. I need to wash the curtains. Did I get my laundry yesterday? Blah, blah, blah . . .” They might also be called brain drain, since that is one of their main functions. Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid or too weird to be included.

'Nobody is allowed to read your morning pages except you. And you shouldn’t even read them yourself for the first 8 weeks or so. Just write 3 pages, and put them in an envelope or close the book.


Groups work on writing exercises together around a large roll of paper

'Although occasionally colourful, the morning pages are often negative, frequently fragmented, often self-pitying, repetitive, stilted or babyish, angry or bland – even silly sounding. Good! All that angry, whining, petty stuff that you write down in the morning stands between you and your creativity. Get that stuff on the page! Why? Because it will get out all the stuff that muddies our days. Also, because it’s a means of evading our Censor.

Because there’s no wrong way to do the morning pages, we evade the Censor. 'Morning pages are non-negotiable. Never skip or skimp them. Your mood doesn’t matter. In any mood, your pages will get you to the other side. To get you past the Censor. To get past your Logic Brain (or Survival Brain). To get to your Artist’s Brain, your inventor, your child. Morning pages teach Logic Brain to stand aside and let our Artist’s Brain play. 'Aaron Copeland says: ‘Inspiration may be a form of super-consciousness, or perhaps of sub-consciousness – I wouldn’t know. But I am sure it is the antithesis of self-consciousness”. 'The pages are a kind of meditation. Over time, they help us to go deeper – they are the pathway to a strong and clear sense of self.' I’ve tried to cover everything here – though of course it’s a bit sketchy. Obviously the book is recommended, but if you can’t get it I think I’ve given enough to get a good start into her system. Let me know if it’s of interest. I can always fill more in. I hope it may be useful.