Writing Motivation Mondays: The Tao of Creativity, Part Three

We all have a desire to learn new things.  It’s in our nature to seek out new information, to find out how things work, and to learn the process used to create works of art.  Often, we can get trapped in a cycle of learning about something we want to do instead of actually doing it, which ties into our Tao of Pooh topic for today: Knowledge versus Experience.

In this post, I’ll be using cooking as the primary example for each point.

It’s Harder Than It Looks…At First

“[S]ometimes the knowledge of the scholar is a bit hard to understand because it doesn’t seem to match up with our own experience of things” (29).

It’s easy for us to see an expert like Julia Child and be perplexed about how easy she makes cooking seem.  We don’t see the thousands of hours Child took to make her craft appear effortless before the cameras.  

When we start out on a new endeavor, a part of us believes that we will achieve expert status as soon as we dive in, which is almost never the case.  We can become frustrated by this notion; we should be able to cook as well as Julia, she makes it seem so easy.  But her years of experience and many failed attempts have made her the expert and cooking legend she has become.

Over time, you can achieve expert status in whatever you’re hoping to achieve.  The key is to release yourself from the disillusionment of perfectionism and allow for trial and error, failure, and less-than-stellar moments to occur.  From those moments, you gain insight.  Insight produces hands-on knowledge.  And that hands-on knowledge gives you the expertise you need to become a master of your chosen craft.

Book Smart or Street Smart?

“Knowledge and Experience do not necessarily speak the same language” (29).

Being interested in a topic inevitably leads us to want to learn more about it.  We can do this by reading books, articles, blog posts, or watching YouTube videos.  No matter what your interest, you can find information about it.  The more you learn, the more you either become excited about it or realize you were just curious in the moment.

Let’s say you are fascinated by the art of cooking, and you begin to read about it, watch videos about it, and binge every Food Network series you can find to learn everything you can about cooking.  You’ve read Julia Child’s books cover-to-cover, but there’s one thing you haven’t done: cooked anything.

Knowledge of cooking, whether it’s terminology, recipes, food facts, etc., doesn’t make you an expert chef.  Watching thousands of hours of Food Network shows and reading cookbooks won’t make you any better at cooking a delicious meal.  

What does matter is your experience with cooking.  Taking the time, the effort, the patience, and the action of doing it for yourself.

The quote speaks to this since knowing about something doesn’t equally translate into the experience of actually doing it.  Reading and knowing how to prepare the 7-course meal is a far cry from the experience of making it yourself.  

Time to Get Your Hands Dirty!

“But isn’t the knowledge that comes from experience more valuable than the knowledge that doesn’t?” (29).

The very thought of getting off the couch and instead of watching people cook, actually cooking, can be a scary concept for many.  After all, what if you aren’t perfect that first time?  What if what you made is burnt?  Or undercooked?  Or it tastes too salty?  

Watching experts at a craft can be intimidating.  But what we’re seeing is the outcome from years and decades of experience, trial and error, failures and successes.  It’s important to keep that in mind as you watch masters of their craft engage in what they do.  They weren’t always at this level of culinary expertise.  They weren’t always ready to cook in front of the camera.  They started at level zero and worked their way up the expertise elevator.

You can, too.  Think about it.  If Julia Child had only read about French cooking instead of going through the experience to learn how to do it, would we know her name all these decades later?  I would say no, we wouldn’t.  But because she applied what she did learn and had the experience of cooking French food, we do. 

And as I said before, I guarantee that Julia Child experienced many setbacks and failures along the way in her cooking career. But she persisted.  She used those failures as part of the experience and moved forward, not looking back and wallowing in self-pity or frustration over a burnt souffle or a poorly made dish.  

As you actively pursue cooking, you’ll notice something about the process and about your skills: it gets easier.  True, challenges will always pop up, but you’ll have hands-on experience to rely on that will help you become a better chef in the long run.  Sitting and watching won’t achieve that goal; in fact, it only prevents you from reaching your ultimate goal of knowing how to cook.

Final Thoughts

We all have a creative interest in our lives that we either wish to pursue or have and run away from after a failed attempt.  Maybe you’re fascinated by sculpting and read dozens of books about it.  You are a human library about the sculpting process, famous sculptors, and the art form’s history.  So, what’s stopping you from getting some clay and trying your hand at it?

The next time you pick up another book about something you want to do, think about how you can actually pursue your dream of actively doing it.  You’ll never know how great you can be at something until you actually try it for yourself!

Happy Creating, and I’ll see you next week!

Writing Motivation Mondays: The Tao of Creativity, Part Two

Last Monday, we discussed transforming negativity into positive, creative energy.  We looked at how to use our creativity to escape the world’s negativity and explored a different perspective on writer’s block.

Today, we’ll continue to explore a few more concepts from the book The Tao of Pooh.

Simplicity and Creativity

The creative process works best when we turn off the critical part of our brain and allow thoughts and ideas to flow freely.  This taps into the concept from the book about The Uncarved Block.  The author states, “The essence of the principle of The Uncarved Block is that things in their original simplicity contain their own natural power” (10).  

Brainstorming and creating a new story, work of art, or dance is best achieved when we go back to basics and create for the sake of creating.  This is a time of fun, experimenting, and freedom since we are giving ourselves the power to create.

By giving our creativity complete control, we can keep negative thoughts and doubts away from the process.

Easier said than done. 

The Evil Scourges of Overthinking & Ego

There’s a second part to the quote above: “The essence of the principle of The Uncarved Block is that things in their original simplicity contain their own natural power, power that is easily spoiled and lost when the simplicity is changed” (10).  And what can alter that simplicity and affect our power to create?


Yes, overthinking can cause a fun and energized creative event to grow sluggish, frustrating, and even stop altogether.  This barrier can very effectively cause a person’s creative process to be “spoiled or lost” thanks to its intrusion into their minds.  

This scourge can come in the form of second-guessing oneself or doubts, but it can also be caused by one’s pride or ego.  It’s okay to be proud of your work, but being narcissistic can blind you to feedback and ways to make your work better.

Both have no place in the creative process.  While I’m sure most of us aren’t arrogant or egotistical about our work, many of us overthink ourselves into creative paralysis.  

Fighting Back

When in doubt, write it out.  It’s a silly rhyme, but it does help to write through your thoughts and feelings to push through the overthinking blockade.  What’s causing you to overthink?  Where in the creative process does the overthinking popup?  

You could have an Overthinking Journal where you sit and write down your counterproductive overthinking thoughts; then, you can jump back into the creative process.  Give yourself 15 minutes to get it all out on paper, then move on.

Heck, make it symbolic and write your thoughts down, then rip up the paper or shred it.  This physical act of destroying your overthinking may do wonders to get you back on track and show yourself that you have the power in this situation.

This links to another point made in The Tao of Pooh: “When you discard arrogance, complexity, and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike, and mysterious secret known to those of the Uncarved Block: Life is Fun” (20).  By taking the time to productively eliminate the negative things preventing you from being creative, you’ll quickly discover that the process is fun and enjoyable (which it should be).

Getting Back to Basics

The creative process can be complicated, and that’s okay.  Once you get into the heart and soul of what you’re creating, you’ll want to be more mindful of the final product.  

But initially, you want your imagination and creativity to be free, untethered to run wherever your thoughts and ideas wish to take you.  Not all ideas may work, but you’re not concerned about that at this stage.  Your goal at this stage is to enjoy the process.

“From the state of the Uncarved Block comes the ability to enjoy the simple and the quiet, the natural and the plain.  Along with that comes the ability to do things spontaneously and have them work, odd as that may appear to others at times” (21).  The creative mind is a mysterious and powerful entity.  Left to its own devices, it can deliver stories, works of art, or choreography that elevate an artist’s skill and confidence in their craft. 

It all starts by stripping away the negative, the critical, the egotistical, and the overthinking and just allowing yourself to create and be in that basic space.

This week, give yourself permission to create.  No barriers.  No restrictions.  No censoring.  Just creation.  You’ll be amazed at what happens.

Happy Creating, and I’ll see you next Monday!

Writing Motivation Mondays: The Tao of Creativity, Part One

Last month, I read Benjamin Hoff’s book, The Tao of Pooh, and realized many of the concepts and ideas presented could apply to us as writers and creative individuals.  So, after I was done, I went back through the book and pulled some insightful quotes to explore with you from the perspective of being a writer or other artist.  

Let’s get started!

Changing Perspective

Early on in the book, Hoff explains, “[T]hrough working in harmony with life’s circumstances, Taoist understanding changes what others may perceive as negative into something positive” (6).  In a world where we are constantly bombarded by negativity, hate, and pessimism, it can be a chore to push all that aside, clear our heads, and dwell in a positive and healthy space that enables us to create.

But what if we used those horrible things to our advantage?  What if, instead of being a distraction, they were the reason we needed to escape and create?  What if we pushed them away and allowed ourselves several hours to write, draw, dance, sculpt, and do what we want to do for the joy of doing it? What if we allowed ourselves to create something good in the world?

The world and its events are ever-present, but you have the power in your personal space to do something for the good of yourself and the enjoyment of others.  When we doomscroll the headlines on our phones or listen to the news, it negatively impacts us whether we realize it or not.  

Allow yourself to break free from the world’s negativity and do something positive through your creativity. 

Is it Writer’s Block or Something Better?

In keeping with the theme of the quoted passage above, we can also look at writer’s block from a different perspective.  We usually consider it an evil force that prevents us from writing, but what if we considered it a challenge to overcome instead?

Writer’s block always has a root cause, and part of breaking through the block is discovering what that is.  So, instead of focusing on the negative, explore the positive aspects of writer’s block.  Yes, that’s right, the positiveaspects.

What is your writer’s block trying to tell you?  The easiest way to find out is to write about it.  Writing about the possible causes of your writer’s block can help you find perspective and hopefully assist in getting you through the block and back to your writing.

Is the block caused by fear?  Caused by a story problem?  Caused by outside forces?  How can you spin those into positive and productive actions that will get you back to writing?  

The key here isn’t to fight against writer’s block.  As the quote says, we want to be “working in harmony with life’s circumstances,” which means finding ways to positively address and overcome the block so you can move forward with your creative process.

Take the time to explore the possibilities and find a positive solution to the problem.  You’ll be back into your story in no time!

Final Thoughts

It can be tough to find the good and positive in the world today, but as creative people, we must take a step back and allow ourselves the ability and opportunity to do what we enjoy.  Turn the negative news into the motivation you need to escape into a positive and productive work environment.  Permit yourself to take a break from the real world and indulge in the creative process you need for your sanity and mental health.

By giving in to writer’s block and exploring its causes, you can begin to break through and get back to writing sooner.  Allow yourself to positively push back at this force of negativity, and see how quickly you can climb over this obstacle to creativity.

Happy Writing and Creating, and I’ll see you next time!