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While creativity can be something that you either have, or you don’t, it also doesn’t mean that you can just turn it on and off like a faucet.

For me, the most important thing to allow my creativity to flow is the ability to quiet the outside world. This means more than turning off the tv or avoiding checking-in on my smart phone.

For me, it requires a quieting of the world that, even after these external resources have been powered down, exists in the mind.

I can quickly overwhelm myself with thoughts, expectations and pressure to live up to a certain standard, be a certain way and to create a masterpiece.

With this pressure screaming at me loudly, banging its fists, stomping its feet and demanding that I perform, I will, inevitably, clam up and produce nothing.

I become like a flower under extreme heat. I wilt and lose my luster.

Many years ago I had the privilege of sitting in a small group of people and free writing. The guy leading the group was an editor for a non-profit magazine at the time. He instructed us to just write for 1 minute, 5 minutes and then 10 minutes without stopping or going back to correct or edit while we were writing.

This was an incredibly valuable experience for me. It is difficult to allow yourself just to write without allowing the drive to self-edit take over. When we start to edit ourselves our thoughts change direction and we can lose something really beautiful, honest, vulnerable and powerful that was about to come out because we have choked freedom in exchange for perfection.

This little lesson was only a couple of hours long, one evening, 7 or so years ago, but I am amazed at how many times, when I’m sitting down to write, I close my eyes and bring myself right back to that room. I picture the tables set-up in rows, the others in the group sitting around me, the darkness in the sky outside the window, the pen and paper in front of me, and this person standing before us telling us to write.

I keep my eyes closed and I can hear a clock ticking, ‘tick, tick, tick’, counting down the 60 seconds for the first minute to be finished and as I allow the gentle ‘tick, tick, tick’ to clear my mind of all other thoughts, I suddenly find myself writing. Freely, unedited, messy, jumbled, inspiring, terrifying and beautiful.

To the person who changed my life so many years ago, thank you. I know it was just a blip in time and may have felt fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but for me it has been a lesson that has held priceless value as it continues to help me be able to freely express myself time and time again.