A Clean Slate, an Empty Bucket, and a Blank Piece of Paper (#878)

When I first began doing radio shows over seven years ago, I thought we’d  have a shelf life of about three months before my “bag of tricks” was empty and people (including me) would start losing interest. My first attempt at addressing this problem was to expand my bag of tricks and put more tools into my “toolbox”, and I began reading at an ever more voracious pace to keep my head continually filled with whatever was a the cutting edge of psycho-spiritual thought.

Before each show, I would print off up to a dozen pages of tips and techniques so I had something to fall back on if not enough people phoned in for me to talk with. But then one week I got to the studio late and didn’t have time to print anything off for “just in case”. For the first time, I’d forgotten my toolbox and didn’t have my bag of tricks with me. To my surprise, the show not only went well, it went considerably better than many of my prepared shows.

Here’s what I realized that day:

You don’t need a toolbox or a bag of tricks if you have access to a well.

Once you see that the infinite well of creativity is always available to you, all you need to do is empty your mind, drop your bucket into that well and see what comes up. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to drink it – you can dip your bucket into the well as often as you like.

It takes a load off your mind when you don’t have to have a bag of tricks and you don’t have to carry a tool box around with you. And each time you go to the well, you trust it a little bit more and you get more of a feel for letting things come to you in that way. It’s not only easier, it’s more fun, and what comes through tends to be extremely relevant to what’s going on in the moment because it’s being created in that moment.

As I got more and more comfortable just showing up for each show and being open to whatever showed up, I began to see that what was happening was completely in line with the nature of creativity. Form always comes out of the formless; everything is created from nothing. So whether I was brainstorming possibilities, doing a show, or writing a book or article, the more willing I was to hang out in the unknown and show up with a clean slate, an empty bucket, and a blank piece of paper, the more likely it was that something fresh and new would come through me and out into the world.

In fact, when I got stuck and insecure about not having anything to say, it was inevitably because I was trying to re-purpose an old idea instead of just going to the unknown and hanging out in the infinite creative potential of the mind.

And this is true in every area of our lives. In any moment we have the opportunity to show up with our empty bucket and go to the well, yet as often as not we fall back on our bag of tricks instead. We think to ourselves, “well, this person/project is really important, so let me stick with what I’ve done before because I know that works.”

But each time we do, things feels a little bit more stale. Our stories start to feel like stories, our pitch feels like we’ve heard it a million times before, and we start to have to work at making things seem fresh instead of actually allowing them to be fresh.

Whereas if you’re willing to go back to the drawing board every single time, you know that things will never get dull. You won’t get into a rut or start dreading the fourth meeting of the day because every single time, you’re starting with a clean slate, an empty bucket, and a blank piece of paper.

And the best thing of all is that it doesn’t even matter if you’re not terribly fond of what you create.  Because you’re always creating from nothing, you can always wipe the slate clean, empty the bucket, crumple up the paper, and start again.

Have fun, learn heaps, and happy creating!

With all my love,
Michael

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