The Swoon Recordings label boss shares three books he reads, three meals he eats & three everyday practices he uses to enhance the creative process.
Three Books I Read When I’m In A Creative Slump
Creativity – Osho
This is sort of an esoteric manifesto on creativity. There is definitely an undertone of new age spirituality in all of his teachings, but I find them uniquely authentic and actually quite practical. There are 3 major takeaways from the book:
- Ego is the enemy of creativity.
You function at your creative peak when you do things that you inherently find enjoyable, because it has an inherent value to you. When you do things with the purpose of gaining validation, acceptance or attention (and hence satisfy your ego), creativity is the first thing that suffers. Our need for external validation for our work stops us from being receptive, and open and empty enough to receive creative answers from the environment around us
- Creativity is a paradox.
The more you TRY to be creative, the less creative you will be. Conscious effort to be creative often results, ironically, in less creativity. The trick is to create an environment in which creativity is more likely to occur but then to enter into it with almost no fixed agenda, and let the process flow.
- Creativity takes courage.
My favourite quote from the book is “creativity is an act of rebellion” – I think what he means by that is that the system is almost designed to keep you working a job you hate so you can buy things you don’t need, and the simple act of sitting down to create art with no other agenda is in itself a very empowering pursuit. If you manage to make a living from your creative work and manage simultaneously to keep your integrity intact, that is one of life’s most glorious victories.
The War Of Art – Steven Pressfield
A manual on how to escape writers block, the fundamental premise is very simple: show up every day and wait for the muse! So many creatives are their own worst enemy, procrastinating and being disorganized with their approach to their art, this book is the antidote!
Here are the 3 biggest lessons you can learn from this book:
- Every single artist and creative battles with resistance and procrastination – you’re not alone!
- You have to commit fully and treat your creative dream like a full time job – in fact you need to be more committed to a creative pursuit than a normal job because there are so few guarantees.
- Find your territory and commit to it – that means you need to know your niche, the type of art you’re good at, where it fits into the market and how you intend to monetize it without compromising creative integrity.
The Lost Language of Plants – Stephen Buhner
Although this book isn’t directly on the topic of creativity, I do think it’s quite easily one of the most profound and earth shattering books I’ve ever read. Stephen Buhner discusses how our fundamental worldview in the west (that we all evolved from algae and that life is fundamentally a meaningless accident devoid of any spiritual value, and consciousness itself is nothing more than an illusion caused by the firing of the neurons in our brains) – has disconnected us from our place in nature, our role as custodians of the earth, and made us believe that the world around is dead and unconscious. He explains the grand mystery of the communication taking place between plants, animals and the ecosystems they make up, and suggests that by embracing a more holistic and interconnected view on nature and our place in it, we will return to our natural state of childlike curiosity and wonder. I was honestly brought to tears by this book multiple times, I can’t recommend it enough.
Three Nutritional Powerhouses To Fuel The Body For Long Creative Nights
My absolute staple in the studio – I make it extra strong, with a few bags of organic rooibos tea, raw peeled ginger and raw honey. It’s fiery enough to give a kick like coffee but it’s very relaxing, and it makes your skin glow like a mofo! Fun fact: the active alkaloid in ginger has very strong anti-anxiety properties, and a few clinical studies have shown that it can curb anxiety more effectively than Valium.
Jackson’s Real Food Market – Rainbow Bowl
As healthy as a salad but it doesn’t taste like one, beautiful edamame beans, and lots of healthy veggies but cooked Asian style and very tasty, I add the grass fed beef strips on top of it and it changes lives. I’ve been known to order this AND a grass fed burger AND sweet potato fries if I’m hungover – don’t judge me!
My Ultimate Meal Replacement Smoothie
I’m often pretty strung out during deep creative deadlines, the projects can go on for months at a time and it can really leave you feeling drained, while the stress reduces appetite – that’s when I need high nutrient food that’s easy to eat and doesn’t require any prep time. I’ll chuck a few bananas, raw almonds, coconut milk, some cocoa, a bit of honey and a few dates into my Nutribullet and boom I’m back in the game.
Three Practices That Keep Me Sane On The Road!
Sauna and Cold Exposure Therapy
I’m a huge Wim Hof fan (google, now!) and since I started incorporating his breathing method and hot/cold exposure therapy, I’ve seen results across the board – for me that means better recovery from exercise, decreased stress and muscle tension but also just a very calm and zen state of mind on the days I do sauna/cold. It definitely makes you feel more peaceful and creative and gets all the days stress out of the body and relaxes the muscles before a long session in the studio. It’s also fantastic before a show to relax me and ease my social anxiety.
Pro tip: hot and cold therapy can make you a bit tired if you over do it, not recommended on days you have long hours to get through but perfect the day before or after!
I really believe that most creatives lack discipline, and this is one hell of a shortcut to increased self-control. I love the intensity of boxing, kickboxing and jiu jitsu training and the off-label benefits include a major increase in self-confidence and general improvements in mental state and situational
awareness in this crazy world we live in. Also, as Joe Rogan says, when you do something very difficult (like getting punched in the face on the reg) it makes the day to day stuff seem so much less stressful. Also, if you’re planning on making money from your art, you had better get used to dealing with conflict effectively, and nothing will help more with that than a bit of self-defence training. If you’re not into that sort of thing, hot flow yoga is my second preference and has most of the benefits with none of the violence!
I know it’s a cliché by now but I had my entire life changed for the better by using shamanic plant medicines like San Pedro, mushrooms, and ayahuasca. I’ve travelled to the amazon for intensive ceremonies using these amazing medicines and I’ve also made a regular habit of using micro-doses and doing my own small sessions in nature, where I just reconnect with my purpose and integrate all the stuff I’m doing in the real world and make sure I’m connected to the higher self as much as possible. Fear and anxiety are the moral enemies of creativity and these medicines can help you deal with past traumas, unintegrated psychological habits and addictions as well. It’s not for everyone but if you are curious, I’d start by reading ‘How to Change Your Mind’ By Michael Pollan, which is a great book on his journey into these plant medicines and how they changed his life for the better.
Aero Manyelo – ‘Hold You Forever’ EP (including Ryan Murgatroyd Remix) is out now via Swoon Recordings.