The desire for creativity

I have been driven by my desire to create art for as long as I can remember. From drawing, building ceramics, to painting and printmaking. Growing up, my father built two kilns in the backyard for my mother to fire her ceramics. All through my childhood we entered the Royal Easter Show in Lapidary and Painting, and my mother taught ceramics at primary school. Creativity has always been part of my life. Yet it’s taken a while to recognise the importance of fulfilling my creative desires in life. My drive to give it further prominence necessitated a move to Melbourne after doing a course in Stone Lithography here. Once here, it was two more short courses in Etching and several more years before I finally accepted that formal training was necessary to further my printmaking practice and enrolled in art school. Three years of art school was fantastic, hard work and mind extending in ways that are still influencing my creative output. Learning new techniques, and re-learning old techniques, staying true to the creative journey and being brave were all things I learnt from art school. Being open to criticism and feedback was often challenging, but once processed – always useful. I will never forget ‘the mistakes or unintended results bring about some of your best works’ feedback at assessment. Being asking to repeat my mistakes in a more structured and nuanced way gave me license to chase my creative desires uninhibited and it was powerful advice that stays with me even today when I am in my studio.

I have always been an open and curious person and I must admit that coming to Melbourne augured changes within me, opening me further and providing stimulus for fulfilment I never knew possible. The move delivered more challenges, and with that, more desires to meet. It provided me with more creative inspiration and energy than I have had in any other city or country I have lived. And as part of my creative evolution, I have become more open to experiences I would have previously shunned or feared. At the same time, over the last few years I have been fortunate to work for some highly intelligent, brilliant, articulate people who have supported and nurtured me and my work. To a greater extent, this exploration on desire is due to their encouragement. They push me to learn, they push me to embrace my creativity and produce more art, they help me get back onto the path that they see I struggle to stay with. Normalising my tendency towards over achievement, they encourage me to slow down, be mindful and seek out experiences that open and extend me. All the while, providing space for me to study an undergraduate degree and produce art so I can best reach my potential as a human being, individual snowflake and artist.

Attending art school legitimised my ‘creative ways’ – providing explanation for some of my more quirky ‘artistic’ tendencies and so it was with much amusement that I read the following articles exploring why creative people might be unhinged (psychotic) or how as this article on Fast Company puts it ‘the amount of information that’s getting into your mind determines how creative -or crazy- you might be” 

Or as Shane Parrish on Farnam Street puts it, in a slightly different way here: “why creative people tend to be eccentric”

And as Eric Barker puts it on Barking up the wrong tree here: ‘are great artists more like to be crazy?’

The intensity of the creative mind and the subtle differences between creative people and the rest of the world was covered in some of the lectures in art school. Yet there was no advice for killing off the crazy, just advice for handling its intensity while following your passion in a measured way, as to not drive yourself insane focusing on only one thing -fulfilling your creative desires – to the exclusion of everything else.

So it is with this in mind that I actually wonder when I indulge my ability to quickly collate and process high volumes of information I may be skewing my perception of time? Taking this a step further – I wonder whether this perception of time effects my view of permanence and impermanence? I have always thought fast, talked fast and been quick to judge, and while I can be patient, I do tend to start looking for the next point of stimulus just after finishing with the last. You could say I get bored easily. But it’s more than that. I get through one thing and go looking for the next thing, it is now second nature to feed my desire for going fast. This is a good skill for some work, like processing high volumes of information, scanning uni readings for key messages, and quickly creating a critical commentary or urgent briefing. Yet I find it challenging in my personal life, particularly around interactions with men I desire to be desired by. If I can process a large volume of information and articulate thoughts in what seems like an instant, imagine if you will, what it feels like waiting 20 mins, three hours, or a day for a response to a message. Perhaps it is just a matter of focus. Perhaps my desire to be desired acutely blunts my focus. I am not certain, but I believe that to be free of this desire would be wonderful and liberating and perhaps allow more space for my quest to find more meaning and purpose in my life. So perhaps as part of this exploration on desire it is time to turn my attention to sharpening my focus, as suggested by Daniel Goleman in this article for the Huffington Post here: ‘7 ways to sharpen your focus’ and improving my attention span as suggested by Eric Barker here in ‘stay focused’, so I can focus on what really matters and live a better life. We will see.




The desire for spiritual fulfilment

Another Natural and necessary desire I have is to become more spiritually fulfilled. I find myself seeking something more from life that perhaps spirituality can provide. For years I’ve done yoga as the physical embodiment of this spiritual quest, however I’m yet to properly join together or yoke the spiritual side with the physical side, and perhaps this exploration will yield more clues as to how to fulfill this desire. I’ve recently started following Phillip Moffitt on Twitter, and the links to his teachings on his dharma wisdom website are phenomenal. Here is one from I particularly liked on Balancing Priorities where he posits:

If you hope to find lasting happiness, you must answer the question, what is your true priority—your inner life or your outer life?

So, I hope to find the answer to this as I continue this exploration. There’s a lot of ground to cover: from the philosophical: Schopenhauer and Hegel, to the spiritual dimension – Buddhism and psychology, I will be vigilant and keep exploring until I reach a satisfactory conclusion. Just where it ends, I do not know. And perhaps to make it more interesting for me as I tend to be easily distracted, I will add novelty- make it a challenge, something that doesn’t put me into the sure to fail New Year’s Resolutionist zone but something that adds meaning. I love added meaning and I love a challenge, so I will be sure to check out Eric Barker’s Barking Up the Wrong tree blog for some of the best how to be awesome at life advice I have ever seen, and in particular study up on his entry on New Years Resolutions.

I will also be exploring Charles Duhigg‘s new book The Power of Habit, and keep referring back to this excellent flowchart, reminding me what I already knew and had read last year in Shane Parrish’s Farnam Street blog entry 66 Personal Development habits for Smart people. I say it again – there’s a lot of ground to cover, and I think it’s time for a glittering prize: a nap!

The desire to be loved

So if I am honest, I am strongly motivated by the desire to be liked, and let’s face it – the desire to be loved. Who isn’t? But sometimes I feel like this desire to be loved is detrimental to my sense of inner peace. It’s not helpful to spend time and energy helping people if it’s going to increase my suffering. So it is with all of this in mind, that I commence this quest to see whether I can master the sometimes disruptive, sometimes corrosive influence in my life – or at least contain it to a more manageable form where I feel more at ease with myself and at peace in this world – or as the Stamford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says about Schopenhauer here:

emphasizing that in the face of a world filled with endless strife, we ought to minimize our natural desires for the sake of achieving a more tranquil frame of mind and a disposition towards universal beneficence.

Universal beneficence – seems like an ambitious and worthwhile goal. An interview with the Dalai Lama comes to mind here, where he suggested that if everyone was working on their true purpose there would be no war, because there would be contentment, perhaps the universal beneficence that Schopenhauer is suggesting. But don’t get me wrong – I love my life and almost everything in it, but I also feel like there is something missing, like I can do better and develop further as an individual snowflake, with more meaning and purpose to my existence.

Desire is an important element in the human experience, it is not all bad per say, as Epicurus suggested some is necessary and natural – some desire leads me to help others, be kind and good, to fit into societal expectations and go with the flow disturbing as little as possible as I journey. One could say these are all useful ways to relate to others and a good measure of success for life. However, some desires are neither not necessary, some desires, if I am honest, such as my strong or overt relational / sexual desires, demand my attention and distract me from other meaningful endeavours –namely the desire to be happy and find meaning in my life, yet I am not alone in this. Lama Surya Das explains in Awakening the Buddhist Heart:

..many are the errors in judgement committed in the name of love. Who would argue that many of our sufferings are due to romantic attachments? …

Our need for romance, passion, and love often get corrupted by greed, jealousy, fear and the shadows of our personal histories. If we are not conscious and awake, an unrealistic search for romantic love can rule our lives- often at the cost of our happiness and fulfilment.

So when I really think about it, I can choose not to follow every desire to be loved or fulfilled by someone else namely, a sexual partner. And I can choose to stop, look and listen to what is really going on around me and within me and seek fulfilment in myself. Perhaps this journey will help me do this better– we will see.


I have a confession to make: I am almost completely (and unashamedly) driven by desire. The desire to fill my life spending time accumulating more knowledge and experiencing more beauty – which broadly covers fulfilling the desire to be happy, to be free, to be desired, to be loved and ultimately, one day to become spiritually enlightened. Fairly normal human experience stuff, but I am curious about it and how much it drives me.

Much has been written on desire and I hope to unlock some of the lessons and see how I can apply them, so I can learn and grow. In the Consolations of Philosophy Alain de Botton quotes Epicurus in the Consolation for Not Having Enough money:

To highlight what is essential for happiness and what may, if one is denied prosperity through social injustice or economic turmoil, be forgone without great regrets, Epicurus divided our needs into three categories:

Of the desires, some are natural and necessary. Others are natural but unnecessary. And there are desires that are neither natural nor necessary.

Viewed under the Epicurus lens, I have desires in all of these categories and perhaps it is a good way to start this investigation. Natural and necessary according to me, is the desire for accumulating more knowledge. My thirst for knowledge is seemingly boundless. I value learning so highly I sacrifice a multitude of things in order to satisfy the desire to learn, adapt, grow, change and ultimately be a better person today than I was yesterday. I hope that through this investigation – in reading, researching, reflecting and talking it over with a friend I will really come to understand my desires and the role they play in my life.

Several years ago, after months of significant challenges, both personally and professionally, I turned to a couple of Mark Epstein M.D books for guidance: Going to pieces without falling apart, and Thoughts without a thinker. After a bike accident my life was in turmoil, I took on too many projects, and I lost my self. I could feel my heart and mind closing in to protect me, yet I sensed it would be more useful to stay open to experiences lest life pass me by while I wallowed in self pity. Epstein put it eloquently when he explained the importance of staying open:

The next important quality of bare attention -openness- grows out of this ability to take whatever is given. Requiring the meditator to scan with a wide lens, not a narrow one, this openness establishes a receptive intrapsychic environment for exploration of the personal and private.

And so bare attention -mindfulness – and openness are all key features of this exploration. No matter where it takes me, it requires me to be open. Open to the idea that I could be wrong about which desires are necessary and the prominence I give them. We shall see.