A participant in my current advanced creativity coaching training asked the group, “Why is it that so many creative people are convinced (guilty myself of this) that they need the most expensive, rare, or premium equipment in order to create something meaningful or of value?”

I replied, “This is a very interesting question and speaks to a complicated dynamic in the lives of creative folks and, sometimes especially, would-be creative folks. Van Gogh said to his brother, who was almost as poor as he was, “Send me the cheapest pigments! I can paint with anything!” He simply wanted to get on with his painting. Many artists who are resistant to doing the work they claim to want to do use the “fact” that they “need” some expensive piece of equipment to keep them from getting on with their work right now. They pine for that piece of equipment; they spend money on it that ought to go elsewhere; and then, when it arrives, they try it out once or twice and then let it gather dust, not unlike a piece of exercise equipment in the home of most dieters!

“To take dieting as an analogy, if you want to exercise, you can take a walk; you don’t have to wait until you purchase that fancy treadmill. If you are waiting for that treadmill, instead of just walking, you almost certainly won’t use that treadmill more than once or twice when it arrives. Of course, sometimes an artist really does need a piece of equipment; but very often that desire is connected to his or her basic resistance and when that piece of equipment arrives, it stands unused because the basic resistance has not been addressed.”

Weight loss resistance. Art-making resistance. All that resistance in life! I’ve argued in many places that one crucial key to dealing with this natural but supremely unhelpful resistance is raising whatever it is you claim to want to get done—lose weight, write your novel, etc.—to the “high bar” place of life purpose choice. It appears not to be quite enough to “want” to loss weight or write your novel: that intention needs to connect to a picture you are holding of what is genuinely important to you.

If nothing is—you won’t lose weight or work on your painting. You must decide about your life purpose choices; and until you do decide, it isn’t at all clear that you are living with sufficient purpose. If you are dealing with troubling resistance, try the approach of identifying your life purpose choices (your art making among them, no doubt!) and committing to living all of them.

I’ll chat more about this over the next few months, in connection with a new website and some new initiatives I’ll be launching. Keep an eye out ! For today, let me just underline one idea: you can wait for the fancy treadmill to arrive or you can take a walk; you can wait for the fancy watercolor paper to arrive or you can use the paper you have. It’s your choice.

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