Monday, October 11, 2010

Creativity: Inspiration or Emptiness?

Strange title, I'll admit. But I wanted to talk about one of my favorite subjects . . . Creative Process. I think it's safe to say that many artists get caught up in the idea of being "creative". The idea that we have to "do" something to access our creativity, or we have to "be" something or "try" to be creative. It's an easy trap to fall into.

In my experience, true creativity is more of a result of "undoing" rather than doing.
"True" creativity comes, initially, from an empty place or a void. I don't mean "emptiness" like something that is lacking. I'm talking more about a womb or fertile place. An undefined place of "possibility". I don't really think there is an accurate word for it because it is a place that exists prior to any kind of definition. It exists prior to any kind of creativity. I think the best way is to describe it as some kind of Void. However the void, in and of itself, is no more than an Invitation for creativity.

I learned a long time ago that, in performance, if I'm not having an experience, then the audience isn't either. So, how does one "plan" on spontaneously having an inspired experience? In the mid-1980's I used to do a 3 day water fast before every one of my larger concerts. And during those 3 days I'd do lots of meditating, Tai Chi and centering before each show and then I'd do the concert while fasting. I wanted to be a clear channel for as much energy from the Universe to pour through me, into my piano and out to the audience as possible. But I quickly got tired of all the "prep" work and decided that I didn't want such a huge distinction between my more "ordinary" daily life and my "special" creative life. I was tiring of the distinction between the sacred and the mundane and realized that it was separation that I was creating and that it really wasn't necessary or even a true reality.

After many years of "working on it" through various techniques, therapies and practices I feel that I've, to a large degree, integrated my creative life into my entire life and at this point my music grows as I grow, whether it's me doing the dishes or laundry; walking on the beach, writing a blog or recording in my studio. I'm almost always involved in my creative process. My life IS my practice. I DO still have certain activities or practices that I feel nurture my more "expanded" or "spiritual" self more than other activities, but they are more like reminders throughout my day rather than a real departure from my normal routine. Some of the practices are ones of re-membrance that I can do during any other activity I'm involved with and other practices are more involved like my yoga practice or my love for sitting and seriously focusing on the sunset for an hour or two. Basically, it's all about "emptying". Stripping down the layers of thought, identity, desire, expectation and judgement until what's eventually left is just "being". Just "listening". And when we get to a place of truly being able to "listen" (because we're not filled up with all our thoughts and ideas of what things should look and feel like) then, finally . . . we've just sent an Invitation out to the Universe. In fact, the Universe (or God) is always seeking us. We just need to learn how to listen and allow access. Actually, recently I'm also noticing that there is a way of "seeing" that is very powerful as well and completely aligned with what I'm talking about regarding "listening".

In my experience, the Universe, God, the Creator, the All that IS, loves to fill us with it's energy. It can't help but to fill up a Void. We're usually generating so much of our own thoughts, concerns, expectations, desires and judgements that there's literally NO room for divine inspiration. I'm serious. True creativity only comes when a welcoming (open, empty, void) space is created. However, emptying ourselves of all that "extra" stuff that we usually think IS "us", is often challenging and sometimes confronting. Sometimes in stripping away the layers we need to let go certain believes or associations that we've taken comfort in for a long time. These are both positive AND negative identifications. Sometimes we need to feel things we'd rather avoid, like sadness, loss or fear of various kinds. These things take up our inner "space or Void" and interfere with truly being "present". But after we feel and release the concepts, wounds or pain that occupy our inner sanctum, the Universe rushes in and fills us with it's energy. That's why we feel so good after some kind of emotional or cathartic release.

And when I come to the piano to play, perform, write or record, I try and empty myself first, then I play a note or a short phrase that is an expression of how I really feel at that moment. If I feel good, then I play "I feel good". If I feel nervous and insecure then I play "nervous and insecure". And then I listen to what I just played and then I respond to that in an honest, whole hearted way with another musical phrase. Then I listen to that and so on. I never try to mislead or lie to my piano or to my audience. I always start exactly where I really am. If I don't play from where I really am then how can I be present? If I'm pretending to feel good and confident when I'm not, then I'm deceiving my audience and not being honest with my self or my instrument. I'm not aligning my Self with what IS. If I DO start from and express from where I am, for better or worse, then I know it'll change. The "moment" always transforms into something else. It never stays the same. If I'm honest and expressing mySelf truthfully then I can align mySelf and music with the present moment. It feels literally like dropping into "the moment". And in the present moment there's all the energy and all the creativity of the entire Universe. It's like being swept away by a huge current that I can only keep up with if I continue to stay present and not think about it, not define it or categorize it in any way. And that's always so much more interesting and moving than what I could ever bring to the table on my own.

And don't forget, a key element to any relationship with the Universe/God or one's creative muse, is a healthy dose of humility and an awareness that this all really IS a mystery . . . a miracle that will never really be understood by our rational minds through words and explanations. There's so much more to this way of approaching life and creativity. I'm writing a book to discuss the process and journey in much more detail and to provide tangible exercises to facilitate an experience of what I'm talking about. But for now, this is just a little blog to share some of my thoughts. Please feel free to comment or ask questions. This is one of my favorite subjects. Thanks for reading!!


  1. Hello... your music is full of present, I can feel that and in some way I think that your action, the fact that when you play you ARE, it can help us (the listeners) to go to that place to, or in other words, to be in THE unique place that we are, but we dont accept.

    I really like the idea... the reality, that in that void there is all the possibility, all the energy, to do whatever we want, but because of the fact that our mind is always everywhere but in that place, we are not able to use it.
    We are always anxious, worried, sad or too happy, too excited... that we lose serenity, we loose mildness... we are always expecting but we are not creating, we are not giving all that it is possible to give because we are so tied up with our own hands, with our own heads.

    I'm 21 and i'm begining to wake up, to dare to open my eyes, I can tell you that it's scary... I dont know what your road was or what your road is but I'm sure that you've worked hard to have that knowledge, but not only to have the knowledge but to LIVE what you know so... I just want to tell you that it's really conforting to see the result of a good work.

    Thank you for the love you spread with your music and with your words... it's easy to feel that it comes from all of your being.


  2. wow... i just endend to write you and I read another article that said this:
    Silence is a form of sacred word. =)

  3. Dear BMP (anonymous),

    Thanks for your comment. I was very moved by your perceptions and honesty. I wish you a very present and empty journey. :)

    All the best,

  4. Peter, Thank you for your thoughts on the creative process - as a composer you are right on the money - "If I'm not having an experience the audience isn't either" that RESONATES, and is true. The Piano doesn't lie. To us or for us. Thank you for sharing your process with us as well as your music.

  5. Wow, Peter, thank you for such a beautiful journey of truth. I'm full of tears at the moment. I'm moved by these words that remind me of my experiences in this mysterious dance, put in such a clear delicious way.

    Your music came to me at a time in my life when I began a lot of shedding and unfolding... it became a kind of soundtrack for my soul. I understand a little more now of how your music could have affected me so.

    Thanks for sharing...


  6. Thanks Warren, I was very moved by your comments. For me as an artist to move another human being in the way you describe is about as good as it gets. Thanks!! - Peter

  7. Peter,
    I align & connect with the creativity that is manifest in it's musical form through you & your colleagues. I have for many years. The music aids in peeling away much of what we are not, but tend to identify with as we journey in existence. Creativity is something that is born/made manifest of nothing, as in NO-Thing, that which is un-manifest/formless. We, in this existence are portals for creativity to pour through. Thank you & yours for the consciousness, opening & clearing space for it to be made possible.