Opening to the Creative Process
Discovering Creativity as a Guide to the Human Journey
Creativity is an essential feature of the human experience. We tell stories to entertain and to understand; we use symbols to share and learn; we craft objects to mark our tiny presence in the vast cosmos. The creative process is deeply interwoven with personal and cultural development. Through the work of the imagination, through music, movement, writing, and all the varieties of human inquiry, we are guided by the creative process toward what it means to be human. In our modern age we tend to think of creativity as grounded in arts, or in entertainment; and yet, every development of our human odyssey, in the sciences as well as the arts, has come about because of the creative spark.
My own deep interest in creativity is grounded in the role of creative practices in healing. For as long as we have utilized creativity, the stories and symbols we create have acted as touchstones and maps of our own healing from trauma and distress. I was initially drawn to these ideas as a child seeking solace in stories, then as an undergraduate discovering the work of Joseph Campbell, then as a clinician working with trauma and addictions. At each of these stages I held a different perspective about what creativity can do, how it can help.
As I gained more experience and skill as a clinician, I began to see that creativity is foundational to personal healing even if we don’t call it creativity. Modalities that focus on thoughts and cognition use the imagination to do so. Modalities focused on models of the self use creativity to develop and shape those models. Movement and art therapies are explicitly creative, but the entire spectrum of psychotherapy — as I eventually came to see it — is one vast continuum of creative practice.
In 2000 I completed a PhD focused on the therapeutic value of the creative process. I later adapted my dissertation into a book, Grain of Truth, which subsequently became a national bestseller. The creativity resources on this site are adapted from the book and from my subsequent clinical work with creative modalities (in psychotherapy, in education, and in the community). Creativity is a field of immense complexity and depth, and it is also somewhat mysterious. So, these resources are not focused on steps to become more creative, or tips for healing through creativity. Each person is unique, and the first lesson of creative practice is that we must each find our own distinct pathway. There are no definitive steps, no secret keys, no magic doors. Creativity is the path inward. It is how we discover ourselves.