Where do creations come from?

People often say we’re creating from ego, but what does that mean?

Instead of the negative connotation of “egotistical,” let’s instead think of the ego as the part of the self that’s always looking at the self. It’s the part of you concerned with self-improvement, with being right, with being attractive to others. It’s the part of our thoughts and feelings that’s concerned with how others perceive us. It’s the part worried about being “good enough.”

If we allow ego to have a negative connotation, it gives the creative act the same negative connotation. I, however, don’t think the ego is a bad thing, it just doesn’t have the right job when it comes to creating.

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What is Ego?

Ego, to me, is the part of us called upon to carry out a task. It is focused on end results, not on process… And to truly create something meaningful, we have to explore and falter – but the ego doesn’t want that.

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How can we mitigate Ego and Creativity?

What if we put the self in the passenger seat when we create? Instead of using creation as an attempt to “be someone,” we simply create from love? What if, instead of organizing out of the past and who we want our ideal ourselves to be, we put ego aside and create from the soul?

When you do this, you can think about what the work is asking of you, what is needed. To get there, it takes humility and a way of listening to the work itself to discover what is truly required of you… And that kind of listening can’t be done if you’re focused on what the work is doing FOR you.

Creating with love and vulnerability is a different temperament than “what’s in it for me?” This “what’s in it for me” is missing LOVE – not the love we receive from others, but the love we create with, the passion and joy we put into our creations that imbues them with meaning.

When you create with love, it connects with the larger context, what matters, what adds value to the world. The other way means thinking about what we “should” be, how others perceive us, what the creation can do for our reputation, how it will elevate status, and so on – but all of that goes back to the ego, and not creating with honesty, exploration, and love.

So then, the ego must be the apprentice, not the source driving your creations. That doesn’t make the go BAD, it just means that there’s more to the puzzle.

When we move the ego over and create with love and soul, the goodness of the work emerges on its own. It’s no longer driven by what “should be” or end result expectations. It unfolds naturally and gracefully, unforced by the ego that demands finality and approval.

To create with love and authenticity, fire and rehire your ego – instead of letting it drive the vision of your creation, simply check in with it from time to time. It’s not the enemy, but it can drive you to make choices that serve preconceived notions. Ego wants to know that things are going to go well, that everything will work out… But if we’re creating something of value, there has to be an element of the unknown. It’s a process!

Creating is (at least in part) about failure – the failing and feedback process that has as much value as making successful work. Ego wants to protect you from feeling humiliated, but we have to get it out of the way!

We aren’t good creators when we’re focused on ourselves. We can’t observe the work objectively, and trying to “fix ourselves” takes attention away from the creative acts. We often get it backwards: we’re worried about “being somebody,” so we put all of this attention into ourselves… But if we look at most of the world’s greatest creators, they don’t necessarily think highly of themselves, or try to fix themselves. Instead, they focused on creating from the soul.

They are creating meaningful work despite their imperfections.

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What does that mean for us as humans?

We all have these ego-driven troubles. It’s not about getting rid of them entirely, it’s about coming to terms. Creating is a process of personal mastery, but it can be done even with deep, deep personality flaws. In fact, creating is it’s own reward – it’s bringing something into the world simply because you love to do so. You don’t have to be ready, or perfect, or educated, or any of the things your ego might suggest. You can just… Create! Chances are, the act of doing it will make you feel better about yourself too.

Still, the ego isn’t the enemy. Instead, it’s a tool that we can use to see if we’re operating from a place of fear, expectation, or any other state that is constricting the flow of creative ideas.

The response to plenty of this ego stuff can be “so what?” When questions arise, internally or externally, the point toward the ego, you can brush them off. Some people might not like your work, or not get it, or disagree with your choices, but all of that only matters to the ego. It has nothing to do with the creation – only how you feel about the way others perceive you.

We can and should acknowledge and recognize the skills we have. The ego does have a job here – it can remind us of our ability to follow through, to complete the ideas that come from a place of love.

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Understand that the ego doesn’t need to be removed entirely, it just usually isn’t given the right job. Ego doesn’t want us to take risks, to feel vulnerable, to learn by doing, to follow a path of uncertainty… And yet, you can check in with the ego from time to time to see how you’re doing, how you’re feeling.

Trying to “be somebody” or live up to our own (elevated) standards is not a reliable creative process. Love and exploration always is.

Learn more about my thoughts on Ego and the creative process by clicking here.

Read more of my thoughts in my book Stay Longer Listen Deeper, available on Kindle.