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Paradoxes-Turning Points-Creativity-Nancy Hillis

Paradoxes-Turning Points-Creativity-Nancy Hillis

The Paradoxes of Creativity

You were born to be a creator, to express your most meaningful and creative life.

And, as you say yes to a life of creating, you realize that creating is rampant with paradoxes and dichotomies.


Quote-Paradoxes-Turning Points-Creativity-Nancy Hillis. Creativity is paradoxical, reconciling the mysterious with the rational. Without creative discipline, creativity remains in the realm of unrealized dreams.


The Spontaneous and the Considered

In abstract expressionist paintings we talk about the relationship between the spontaneous and the considered. We yearn for unfettered self expression, wild mark making and brushstrokes that surprise and enthrall us, yet we also desire to experience an underlying structure, a tethering of this wild energy in our art.

The ongoing tension between these contrasting experiences keeps us on our toes and asks us to make decisions in each artwork.

Will this piece have more structure or less? Will it be mostly filled with stream of consciousness mark making and a barely perceptible underlying structure? The range of possibilities for each painting is infinite.

The Paradox Of Ruining A Painting

Another paradox is around the issue of ruining a painting.

Here’s a rhetorical question for you: Is a painting ever ruined?


I’m serious.


We’ve all had the experience of creating a painting that felt fresh, immediate and alive only to doubt ourselves and go in and change it. We’re crestfallen when we realize that we undermined an astonishing art work simply because we second guessed it.


As creators, we’re constantly making decisions. Like scientists, we’re continually solving problems. We’re working with innumerable variables and any time we change one variable, it affects the entire work.


The word decision comes from the Latin decidere which means to cut through. We must decide on things, over and over…and it’s not uncommon to rue some of our decisions.


But I would say to you that it’s inevitable that you’ll make decisions with your art that you regret.


But that’s ok.


I believe that you never really ruin a painting because that painting, that work, that expression came from you and it lives inside you. You’ll express it again in some form, perhaps in many forms, if it’s meaningful to you.


While it’s true that we can never paint that exact painting again, we’ll paint something that is informed by this painting that we feel we’ve lost.


In that sense, nothing is ever truly lost.


Painting is riddled with paradox.

Do you fear losing the parts of the painting you love? If so, realize that you’ve become too attached to the outcome.

Here’s the paradox: we care and yet we’ve got to let go at the same time.


Yes…of course we care about the outcome.

We want our paintings to be amazing. We want people to ooh and ahhh over them. We want to love them!

We fantasize about selling out our solo exhibitions or some variation on this theme, and yet, we’ve got to let go of outcome.

Our most astonishing, wondrous, and alive paintings are those that are born out of exploration, experimentation, and searching.


If I already know what’s going to happen it’s all over

Michael Cutlip

The Paradox of Letting Go


When you finally let go of needing to create a masterpiece, when you release perfectionism, when you abandon the idea that there’s a “right way”, an approved way of creating…


You open up an experience of playfulness, curiosity, awareness and inquiry.


Paradoxically, when you let go of outcomes, you’re more likely to create art that surprises and delights you.


A student wrote to me: I feel much more relaxed now that I know more of the process. No right or wrong, some of them will work, some will surprise and some will be downright ugly, and its ok!


I have my moments of uneasiness and feelings of ‘this is not right and thinking I am getting this all wrong’!


I’m one week into the course and sensing a feeling of aliveness, probably because there is no pressure to do a ‘good or acceptable’ painting.


I find I’m even listening to music differently, looking around with new awareness and curiosity!


The Paradox of the Ugly Painting


You fear ugly paintings, yet, they may be the source of your most potent work.

Indeed, ugly paintings are often the nascent, embryonic forms of new work emerging.


The paradox is that oftentimes, the works you hate, the ugly ones, are the nidus of an evolving body of work but you don’t know it at the time. You’re at the precipice of the adjacent possible. It’s knocking quietly at your door but it’s easy to miss.


So beware of your initial allergic reaction to the unfamiliar and awkward work that appears unbidden. What you deem ugly may be the genesis of astonishing art. Meanwhile, the paintings you approve of may be variations on the theme of staying with the familiar, playing it safe.


The Paradox of Constraint

What do we mean by the word constraint? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as: a limitation or restriction.


When you work with limits, for example a limited palette, you begin to see the unlimited possibilities within that constraint.


The concept of constraint is so rich and diverse that we could spend a lifetime on it.

The topic of constraint is paradoxically limitless.

Even science is about constraint and abstraction. Science gets rid of the extraneous and boils it down to the essence of truth. And doing so does not disrespect the complexity and richness of the natural world. Quite the contrary, it’s a way of more deeply appreciating it.


The Paradox of The Dark Night Of The Soul


The dark night of the soul, the moment of greatest self doubt when all feels lost, is the moment pregnant with possibility.


It’s the moment of transformation because it’s when you finally face yourself and learn to trust yourself, even if just a little bit.


Paradoxically, facing your darkest moments illuminates your relationship to yourself and invites you to dig down deep and trust that you have what it takes to create your most meaningful life and art.


Winter Solstice: Light and Becoming

Last night, 8:21 pm Pacific Time (11:21 pm Eastern Time) marked the precise time of the Winter Solstice. This is the moment when the Earth’s North Pole is tilted its maximum amount away from the sun.


After that the sun climbs in the sky, days get longer, seeds and organisms register the changes, roots extend tentatively into the dark and cold soil.


The transformations are subtle at first. Each day stretches only a few seconds longer than the one before, but the changes accumulate, faster and faster.


For millennia, people have marked the solstice with festivals, feasting, singing, dancing and bonfires. 

One of the most famous festivals is the Roman Saturnalia, held around the Winter Solstice to honor the god Saturn.


In Roman mythology, Saturn was an agricultural deity who reigned over the world in the Golden Age,  when humans enjoyed the spontaneous bounty of the earth without labor in a state of innocence,  much like the Garden of Eden.


But the longest night was not the only event in the heavens. Some civilizations marked time with a lunar calendar, others with a solar calendar. These two calendars did not quite agree. After 12 months, the moon rotating around the Earth came up short compared to the Earth rotating about the sun—by approximately 11 days.


What can you do with an extra 11 days? How about a big party!


But there’s more to this astronomical reconciliation than an excuse to party. Throughout history, the sun has been associated with reason, order, and male attributes and the moon has been associated with mystery, disorder (“lunacy”) and female attributes. The sun drives agriculture by seasonal cycles, the moon is associated with the menstrual cycle and tides.

But there are aspects of life that unify the two influences—For instance, farmers abide by the seasons, but they often follow phases of the moon within the confines of those seasons to know when to plant seeds for the best crops. In our last blog post we talked about the magic of seeds and their relation to creativity. 


The Union of the Mysterious and the Rational


The reconciliation of the two spiritual forces represented by the Sun and the Moon in the form of calendars is powerfully symbolic, the union of the mysterious and the rational before the coming of the light as well as the union of male and female.


Novelty is birthed by this coming together.


Isn’t creativity about reconciling the mysterious with the rational and bringing it to light? 

The creative urge is brought to light by the discipline of creation—painting the painting, working out the song, writing the chapter of the book. The moon is seen by the Sun’s reflected light.


One’s internal calendars must be reconciled to live an integral life as a creator.


Without the discipline of creation, creativity remains in the realm of dreams-unrealized and unshared.

Paradoxes and dichotomies are woven into the fabric of our being.

We’re part of the cosmos.

Without the mystery of disorder fomenting creativity, the world becomes a vast clockwork, completely predictable and utterly dead. 


With gratitude from my studio to yours, 



P.S. I’ve made a special webinar for you as you get ready to step into the new decade


The 3 Invisible Paradoxes To Activating The Creative Life Of Your Dreams


There are 3 invisible paradoxes standing between you and your fullest creativity. In this training you’ll discover:

  1. The one thing you must do in order to create (it’s a game changer from mathematics but you don’t have to be a math whiz to implement it)
  2. Stories you tell yourself that keep you from experiencing your most meaningful and creative life
  3. And finally, the Holy Grail of creating…and how uncovering this secret will transform your life
You were born to be a creator, an artist- to express YOU in your art and life.
The paradox is when you reject your creations- your ugly art, your first draft, your sequence of moves in your choreographed dance.
Be excited….This is where you want to be!

This is the paradox of creation.

The 3 invisible paradoxes of activating the creative life of your dreams

Webinar-3 Invisible Paradoxes Of Activating The Creative Life Of Your Dreams



P.S. Say YES to your most creative decade ever. Click on the button below to see the training now.

The 3 Invisible Paradoxes To Activating The Creative Life Of Your Dreams



P.S.S. Leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts and how you plan to open up creative channels in the new decade.

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