Self Help

The Creative Act A Way of Being - Rick Rubin

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Matheus Puppe

· 22 min read



  • Creativity is a fundamental aspect of being human. We are all creators in the most profound way, creating our experience of reality.

  • The universe functions like a clock, with rhythms and seasons that we do not set. Ideas exist in the aether and ripen on schedule, ready to find expression through artists.

  • Great artists tend to have sensitive antennae to draw in the energetic information resonating at a particular moment. Art often arrives in movements or waves.

  • Most of the time we gather data through the five senses. But creative information is transmitted on higher frequencies and is energetic, intuitive, and subtle.

  • To pick up these creative signals, we don’t look for them or try to analyze our way into them. Instead, we create an open space that allows them, free of preconceptions and expectations.

  • The key is tuning in through awareness and being receptive to inspiration from the unseen realms. Creativity can flow through us when we get our limited selves out of the way.

In summary, creativity originates beyond the senses, and we can access it by tuning in, opening up, and allowing it to flow through us. The passage explores this energetic, mystical aspect of the creative process.

  • As children, we are more open to new ideas and experiences. We live in the moment rather than worrying about the future. Artists who can preserve a childlike curiosity and wonder can more easily create great works throughout their lives.

  • Creativity arises from a universal Source outside ourselves. We tune into this Source, combining the ideas in new ways. Art circulates these energetic ideas.

  • Awareness allows us to perceive the world without attachment or intervention. It expands our perception of the universe.

  • We each uniquely filter information from the Source through our senses, memories, and belief systems. As artists, we aim to open our filters to take in more raw data.

  • Creating is an attempt to share glimpses of the unseen inner world. Spirituality provides open-mindedness and a sense of more profound meaning and possibility.

  • Faith in being part of something larger can guide and elevate creative work. Coincidences may appear as guidance from this intuitive inner knowing.

The key points are:

  • Broaden your awareness to take in more of the world around you: notice details, sights, sounds, sensations.

  • Make a daily practice of small rituals that help you be mindful and present.

  • Imagine experiencing great art, literature, architecture, and nature. This calibrates your sense of quality and possibility.

  • Nature is an endless source of inspiration and wisdom. Observing it closely awakens your creative nature.

  • Don’t try to mimic greatness, but allow exposure to excellence to elevate your work. Stay open and let nature’s infinite variety inform your choices.

  • The artist’s real work is a way of being, a continual practice of expanded awareness, not just the output. Live your life as an artist.

The main themes are: The importance of awareness. Being present. Exposing yourself to greatness. Communing with nature. Embracing creativity as an ongoing practice rather than a result. The key is opening your senses, mind, and spirit to receive inspiration and guidance.

  • Nature is far more prosperous, interwoven, and mysterious than we are often taught. Deepening our connection to nature serves our spirit and our art.

  • The world is constantly changing. Even if something seems static, there are always new details to notice when we practice awareness.

  • Focusing inward and tuning into our sensations, emotions, and thoughts provides abundant creative material. Our inner world holds excellent wisdom.

  • Accessing the subconscious through practices like stream-of-consciousness writing can spark new creative sources. Dreams and memories are also rich creative wells.

  • The information we seek is always out there. We need to tune into it through awareness. The opportunity for understanding is renewed each day.

  • Finding environments conducive to creativity is personal. Both isolation and immersion in culture can be helpful depending on the intention.

  • It’s essential to notice cultural currents without feeling obligated to follow them. Maintaining a connected detachment allows you to move within while not being of.

  • Self-doubt is a natural part of being human and can add depth and humanity to art. Perfectionism gets in the way of the creative process.

  • Lowering the stakes and approaching creativity as play and Experimentation can help overcome blocks. The goal is to find joy in the process, not seek perfection.

  • Labeling self-doubt and negative self-talk (e.g. as “papancha”) can help separate yourself from the thoughts and continue moving forward.

  • Gratitude for the ability to create can motivate you past fear. Ultimately, desire must be greater than fear.

  • Doubt the work, not yourself. Questioning the quality of a job can improve it, but doubting your inherent abilities creates hopelessness.

  • Imperfections often make a work great. Avoid over-perfecting to the point you lose what made it special. Accidents and flaws give interest.

  • Progress by completing small works to build confidence. Each piece leads to the next in an ongoing creative rhythm.

The key is accepting self-doubt as part of the process while finding ways to move forward with curiosity, playfulness, and gratitude for the privilege of creating.

  • Rules in art are not absolute laws, they are assumptions and guidelines that can be tested and challenged. They are only helpful for as long as they serve the creative process.

  • When rules become limitations that stifle creativity, it’s time to break them. Great art often emerges when artists break conventions and establish new ones.

  • There are no rights or wrongs in art, only results—judge rules and techniques by their outcomes, not their conformity to tradition.

  • Creativity thrives under limitations and constraints. Restrictions can spur novel solutions. Too much freedom can be paralyzing.

  • Rules come from various sources - culture, genres, mentors, personal experience. Test them against your intuitions and goals.

  • Absorb a principle entirely before deciding to reject it. Fully understand a technique before subverting it.

  • Breaking rules without mastery of them often leads to mediocrity. Great rule-breaking builds on deep knowledge.

  • Rigid rule-following stifles growth. Blind rule-breaking leads to chaos—balance structure with rebellion.

  • Use rules as tools, not commandments. Let them guide and support creativity without dominating it.

The key is maintaining a flexible, nuanced relationship with rules - utilizing them strategically but not getting constrained by them. The artist’s role is to create, which often necessitates reinventing rules.

  • Rules can direct us to average behaviors, but exceptional works often break conventions. Aim to amplify your unique perspective, not fit in.

  • Develop and cherish your voice rather than sounding like others. The most interesting work often needs to follow conventions.

  • Approach your work with as few rules and limitations as possible. Genres come with expectations, but thinking beyond what’s been done before is helpful.

  • Be aware of unconscious assumptions based on conventions. Consciously challenge your methods and rules - you have nothing to lose.

  • Avoid getting rigid about formulas that have worked before. Be open to new approaches overlaying your skills.

  • Consider the opposite or extreme of your accepted rules. This can reveal imbalances and new possibilities.

  • Listening fully involves the whole body, not just the ears. Be present with sounds without judgment to deeply connect.

The key points are:

  • Listening fully with your whole self expands your awareness and allows you to absorb more information. Being present with what someone is expressing without judgment is authentic listening.

  • There are no shortcuts to developing your craft. Patience and deep engagement are required to create meaningful work. You are rushing, which leads to superficial results.

  • Beginner’s mind allows for pure creativity, unconstrained by preconceived notions and established practices. Approaching your work with the openness of a beginner enables innovation.

  • Limiting beliefs hold us back from seeing the full spectrum of possibilities. Letting go of assumptions opens up your creative potential.

  • Nature and wilderness reconnect us to our intuitive wisdom. Removing ourselves from human constructs reveals the truth.

  • Stillness cultivates presence and awareness. Making space for quiet reflection is vital for the artist.

The key themes are patience, beginner’s mindset, listening deeply, limiting beliefs, and connecting to nature and stillness to fuel creativity. The overall message is about freeing oneself from constraints to access pure imagination.

Here are a few critical points about inspiration and beginner’s mind:

  • Beginner’s mind involves letting go of preconceived ideas and seeing things freshly, like a child would. This openness and lack of fixed beliefs can spark innovation.

  • Experience provides wisdom to draw from, but can also limit possibilities. The more ingrained your approach, the harder it is to see past it.

  • Accessing childlike spirit and awe can help tap into inspiration. Train yourself to see the world as if for the first time.

  • Inspiration can’t be controlled but can be invited through practices like meditation, contemplation, and creating mental space.

  • When inspiration strikes, ride the wave as long as possible. Make the most of those creative moments.

  • Inspiration comes before anything else. Be willing to drop other obligations when the muse calls.

  • Varying your inputs and breaking habits can stimulate new inspiration. Look for novel connections.

  • The key is maintaining beginner’s mind - a state of openness, presence, and childlike curiosity. This allows inspiration to flow freely.

  • The “Seed” phase of the creative process involves being open and collecting anything of interest that could grow into something more. Seeds can include phrases, melodies, characters, plot points, materials, shapes, etc.

  • Collecting seeds requires active awareness and curiosity rather than effort. It’s more about receiving transmissions and noticing things. The artist casts a wide net to the universe.

  • Seeds should be gathered without judging their value at this stage. The goal is to collect possibilities to explore further.

  • Over time, patterns emerge and seeds cluster around themes. Related roots can be woven together into something coherent.

  • Not every seed sprouts, but the more seeds gathered, the greater the chances some will germinate into full creative expression. The process involves patience.

  • Seeds come from within and without. Inner seeds arise from the subconscious, sensations, emotions. Outer roots come from the external world through research, experiences, conversations.

  • Gathering a surplus of seeds prepares the ground for something to grow. The roots hold potential that can unfold through care and cultivation.

  • The Experimentation phase is fueled by the initial excitement of discovering a starting point or “seed” idea.

  • In this phase, we play with different possibilities to see if they reveal how the seed wants to develop and take root. We are cultivating and fostering growth through Experimentation.

  • There are no rules. Try mixing forms, changing settings, exploring backstories, and writing from different perspectives. Allow creativity and possibility.

  • Conclusions are often stumbled upon and surprise us more than fulfilling expectations. Remain open to the new and unknown.

  • Only some seeds will grow. Some may lie dormant waiting for the right season. If a source isn’t developing, consider storing it rather than discarding.

  • When a seed flourishes, excitement and delight are often the best signs. Follow the energy. Base decisions on feeling moved.

  • Failures provide information to get where you’re going. Try everything - what seems unworkable in theory may work beautifully in practice. Dismissing ideas prematurely limits possibilities.

  • Ask “what if?” questions. Explore extremes. Surprise yourself. Allow the work to guide you.

  • The outcome is not up to us. Trust the process of Experimentation. See where the seed wants to go.

Here is a summary of the main points:

  • The Craft phase involves building on the foundation and ideas developed in the Experimentation phase. It is more focused and involves more labor.

  • It can be tempting to go back to the excitement of Experimentation, but completing the work is essential for the artist’s evolution.

  • Working on multiple projects can provide helpful perspective. Move between projects fluidly.

  • In Crafting we apply our filter, drawing on our experiences to develop the work further. It involves both building up and pruning down.

  • Outsourcing the Craft phase is an option. Not all artists need to do all the labor themselves.

  • Treat Crafting as play and opportunity. Set deadlines for momentum but remain open.

  • The core vision should drive choices on details. Refer back to the original blueprint.

  • Deadlines at this stage are flexible. New directions may appear up until the end. Avoid fixed external deadlines.

  • Finish Crafting before setting public release dates. The goal is excellence, not just production.

  • Creating art requires patience to avoid rushing the process, working quickly, and preventing excessive delays.

  • Staying too long in the crafting phase can lead to disconnection from work or becoming overly attached to an early version (demo-itis).

  • To avoid demo-itis, avoid repetitively listening to or viewing unfinished work. Keep moving forward.

  • If you get stuck on the part of the work, skip to other sections and return later with more context.

  • Finish a complete first draft while momentum is high. Seeing the whole piece makes placing the details easier.

  • Perfection is not the goal. The goal is honestly sharing your perspective.

  • Your unique point of view comes through unconsciously and is what draws people, not the coherence of your energy.

  • Conformity stifles excellent art. Embrace your singular perspective as a gift, even if others don’t understand it.

  • Imitation can lead to innovation when filtered through your lens. Stay true to your inner voice.

  • When you hit a wall in your creative work, try exercises to break sameness and renew excitement, like writing one line per day or changing the environment.

  • Alter perspectives - turn up headphone volume extremely loud or have singers turn down their vocal volume to encourage different performance.

  • Write for someone else - imagine writing a song for your favorite artist to get out of your usual style.

  • Add imagery - describe a vivid scene to inspire your desired mood.

  • Limit information - Give collaborators minimal direction so they bring their full creativity.

  • The exercises are suggestions - feel free to modify or create your versions to shift perspective and break repetitive patterns.

  • The goal is to reconnect with the work freshly, access new approaches, and rekindle excitement.

In summary, when facing creative obstacles, designing experiments to gain new vantage points can help renew inspiration and break through stagnation. The examples illustrate a variety of techniques to spark fresh energy and perspectives.

  • Completion is the final phase of the creative process where the work is refined and prepared for release. It involves finishing touches to bring the outcome to its final form.

  • During completion, it can be helpful to get outside perspectives to experience the work anew, though the aim is not to get notes but to see the job through fresh eyes.

  • Knowing when a work is done is an intuition - you feel it is finished. Having a deadline can help with finally completing a job.

  • Letting go and releasing a work can be difficult due to fear of judgment or perfectionism. But each work reflects who you are in the moment, and there are always more works to come.

  • Have an abundant mindset that ideas flow through you rather than hoarding them out of scarcity. Sharing work makes room for more.

  • The audience comes last. Make work for yourself, release it when you feel it’s ready, and have faith that more inspiration will always arrive.

  • Artists tend to fall into two categories - Experimenters and Finishers. Experimenters thrive on possibility and play but need help to complete work. Finishers move quickly to finish projects but may need more time to explore. It can be helpful for each type to borrow strategies from the other.

  • Imposing temporary limitations or “rules” on a project can foster creativity by forcing you out of your comfort zone. Decide on a set of constraints to break your usual patterns. The limitations themselves will shape the work into something new.

  • Great art is created not for external validation, but as an act of devotion - making something magnificent simply because you can. It is an offering, a way to express yourself fully.

  • Our life’s work is a series of chapters. No one work defines you. Staying attached to old work can be limiting. Move forward into each new chapter.

An abundance mindset is critical. If you believe ideas are limited, you cling to work and resist releasing it. But there are always more ideas and inspiration. Let each piece go when it’s time.

  • Completing parts of a more extensive work builds momentum. Break big projects into smaller tangible goals. Finishing pieces gives knowledge to overcome obstacles.

  • The purpose of breaking rules or trying new approaches is self-discovery, not necessarily making “better” work. By challenging your habits, you gain insight into your past choices.

  • Success is measured privately, not by popularity, money, or praise. It comes when you’ve done your best work and are ready to let it go.

  • Focus on contributing your utmost to the art, not what it will bring you. Art made to fill a void rarely succeeds.

  • Popular success could be a better measure of worth. The stars must align for commercial success, unrelated to artistic merit.

  • Follow your changing passions, even if they diverge from past success. Your excitement resonates more than style.

  • View challenging events impartially, as a movie. Wonder what will happen next vs. sinking into pain.

  • Zoom out to see a more significant life context. No single experience is the whole story.

  • The ecstatic feeling during creation is the compass pointing to the true north. Follow it through a frustrating process.

  • Tiny tweaks can make the leap from mediocrity to greatness. Trust the ecstatic feeling when it emerges.

  • Stay open to inspiration striking at any point. The neutral zone may shift in an instant.

  • Detachment, zooming out, and trusting the ecstatic allows possibility amidst challenge.

  • Having a moment of engagement and feeling a rush of energy affirms that you are on the right creative path. It is your intuition guiding you.

  • These moments of creative epiphany often come from the subconscious, revealing emotions and ideas we didn’t consciously know were there.

  • There are different types of these ecstatic creative moments - a sense of calm confidence, being jolted out of reality, or gently transported into a dreamlike state.

  • Tune into these intuitive bodily reactions and let them guide the creative process, as they can lead to profound insights.

  • When we first experience radically new ideas, we may initially reject them because they have no context. But sometimes these become our most innovative work once we adapt.

  • Art is about the artist’s unique expression, not competition with others. We can be inspired by others’ great work to reach higher ourselves, which is a form of creative collaboration.

  • The only competition is with yourself, evolving and pushing your creative boundaries over time.

  • Every work of art has an essence or core identity. Refining to get as close to this essence as possible is a valuable practice.

Here is a summarized version:

Focus on the essence of your work. Remove anything that is not essential. Simplicity and minimalism often lead to more powerful art. If an element does not serve the overall piece, let it go.

Refrain from getting caught up in myths and stories about great artists. See them as flawed humans like yourself. Focus on your unique strengths and expression.

Learn to tune out outside voices and pressures as you create. Stay focused on the purity of the work itself. Clear your mind of self-criticism and expectations.

Develop self-awareness to connect with your deepest self and limitless potential—release attachment to ego and externally-perceived identity. Continually transcend perceived limitations through art.

Here is a summarized version of the journey from the beginning to now:

The artistic process often starts with a tiny seed of inspiration, even if it initially seems insignificant. We must nurture these fledgling ideas with openness and faith. When facing the uncertainty of a new project, release expectations and control. Mistakes and surprises will arise; trust in the unfolding creative process. Experimentation and exploration are key. Each step brings us closer to where we’re going, even if the destination could be more precise.

Have patience and keep moving forward with determination. Don’t judge yourself or the work prematurely. Allow your vision to evolve. Expect the unexpected. See both the strengths and weaknesses. Trust in a higher creative wisdom accessible to all. Stay open and attentive - creative insight can come when we least expect it.

Keep practicing your craft with grit and humility. The blocks and stagnation are temporary illusions if we engage fully with the ceaseless stream of ideas that are always there for us. Stay anchored in the present moment. Let each work become what it needs to be, not what you expected. Have faith in the process, faith in yourself as a unique channel. The outcome may surprise you.

The natural world used to be more dangerous, so humans evolved to make quick judgments to survive. Today, this tendency toward snap categorization persists, even though an overwhelming amount of information is available. Artists aim to move past preconceived beliefs and boundaries to tap into new creative possibilities. Open-minded curiosity allows us to explore different perspectives and solutions. Inspiration arrives in flashes but must be sustained through dedicated effort. Making art is not just something you do, but a way of being - noticing stories and beauty at all moments. Spontaneous works are not necessarily better than planned ones. What matters is the quality of the final product, not how long it took to create. The key is to remain open and let the work unfold through sudden inspiration or gradual Crafting.

  • The creative process is unpredictable and enigmatic - inspiration can come in a flash or take years. Stay away from any one way of working.

  • Making choices is integral to creating art. Use A/B testing to directly compare options and select the one that instinctively feels best.

  • Details matter immensely. The tiniest adjustments can take work from unfinished to complete.

  • Don’t worry about grand purpose or meaning while creating. Focus on the following inspiration. Meaning emerges afterward.

  • Attempting to send a message overtly can limit the work. Art serves a social purpose regardless of the creator’s intent. Freedom of expression is integral.

The creative process is mysterious, so we should avoid clinging to one approach. Trust instincts when making choices. Details significantly impact the final work. Refrain from constraining the art with mandated meaning or social responsibility. Stay open and accessible.

  • Art is decoding ideas from Sources and interpreting them through our chosen artistic craft. Our skill level affects how fluently we can articulate the translation.

  • As we develop our skills, we become more fluent and can experience greater freedom in making art. We improve our ability to manifest the best version of our ideas.

  • There is always room for improvement through practice, study and research. Every artist is ever fully developed.

  • Learning more tools and theory expands our capabilities but won’t necessarily make us great artists. The simple, pure expression can be compelling.

  • Knowledge itself won’t undermine our voice. But how we use it may. New skills give us more options to convey ideas, including simplicity.

  • Technical mastery alone doesn’t guarantee connection and impact. But amateurism doesn’t either. Developing skills gives us more reliable ways to articulate our vision.

  • The goal is finding the right balance of learned technique and untainted expression to translate best the ideas we receive from the Source.

Here are a few key points I gathered from the passages:

  • Your craft and artistic ability is an energy within you that wants to grow and evolve, like all living things. Honing your craft honors the creative force of the universe.

  • Periodically take a break from work in progress to clear your perspective and see it with fresh eyes when you return. Time away allows learning and unlearning to occur.

  • Context dramatically impacts how a work is perceived. Experiment with different contexts around your main element to uncover new meanings.

  • Great works contain an energetic charge that pulls the artist in. Excitement and losing track of time are indicators that the position may be unique.

  • If excitement wanes, either back up or find a new seed. The creator and the creation rely on each other to thrive. Follow the energy.

  • Completing work allows new beginnings. Endings invite regeneration, like the natural cycles of life and death. Avoid becoming consumed by a single piece as your sole purpose.

Does this accurately summarize the main points? Let me know if you want me to expand on any summary part.

  • We inhabit many different versions of our changing selves based on our environment and internal state. There is no one “true self.”

  • Like a prism, neutral events enter us and are transformed into a spectrum of responses based on which aspect of self is active.

  • Different aspects will emit different “colors” or shades of art. Not every work can reflect all our selves.

  • We can intentionally tap into different aspects, like our darkest or most spiritual self, to create different types of work.

  • The more we accept our prismatic nature, the more free we become to trust inconsistent instincts while making art.

  • Any framework or label we impose on ourselves may limit us as much as open us up. Let our natural “color” emerge in each moment is best.

The key is recognizing the complexity of self and allowing our expression to flow naturally from whatever aspect is most present, without judgment or attachment. Our “true colors” will reveal themselves.

  • The friend played their current work for me and asked for feedback. The job sounded perfect as-is and needed no changes or additions.

  • I suggested not doing the usual refinement of balancing sounds and tones for the final mix. That process would only dilute this masterpiece.

  • Sometimes, the most valuable thing a collaborator can do is nothing. Just appreciate the work rather than trying to “improve” it.

  • The friend’s work stood beautifully on its own. My highest praise was recognizing it needed no changes from me. My role was simply to appreciate it and suggest leaving it as the masterpiece it already was.

  • The act of self-expression is not really about the self. Artists feel compelled to create as if by primal instinct. The urge to share one’s unique perspective is about sparking an emotional echo in others, not to be understood.

  • Art affirms our fleeting existence and connects us beyond language. Each work plays a role in creating our shared reality.

  • We express ourselves through art to remind us we are one, not separate.

  • The same mathematical ratios and invisible threads found in nature also create a sense of harmony and beauty in art. We intuitively tune in to these natural resonances.

  • Dissonance in the art can highlight harmony by creating tension and release. Though balance is pleasing, a lack of consensus may serve the art’s purpose.

  • Our inability to fully comprehend the universe brings us more in tune with its infinitude. The magic is not in analyzing but in wonder at the unknown.

  • The stories we tell about ourselves and our work are not who we are or what the job is. Efforts to make sense are just a smoke screen, an attempt to replace mystery with fact.

  • Stories and explanations are obfuscations that mislead us from the truth. We need to find out what’s significant.

  • What matters is the artwork and how it’s perceived, not the stories we tell.

  • Each person experiences art uniquely. It can’t be fully understood or explained.

  • The stories we tell limit possibility and truth. As artists, we must let go of these stories and have faith in the creative energy.

  • Art is the meeting point of the universe, the self, and transmuting ideas into form. Contradictions and chaos contain hidden order.

  • No story can fully capture the cosmic undercurrent in all things. The universe never explains why.



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About Matheus Puppe