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Trusting Your Instincts to Be Creative

the lightness of being ~ Alice Popkorn

Being creative, realizing our talents and crafting a fulfilling life involve self-awareness and respecting who we really are, including our unconscious depths. Many artists, psychologists and others refer to access to our creative inner depths as instinct or intuition.

Actor Jodie Foster describes what many artists want in their work:

“You look for films that hit you in the gut, in this unconscious place that really moves you, then you can’t help but make the movie because it’s something that you fear and you want to know more about it.”

Quoted in my post Dancing With Our Unconscious.

In his article What Is Intuition, And How Do We Use It?, Francis Cholle gives some perspectives on these terms:

“Instinct is our innate inclination toward a particular behavior (as opposed to a learned response).

“A gut feeling—or a hunch—is a sensation that appears quickly in consciousness (noticeable enough to be acted on if one chooses to) without us being fully aware of the underlying reasons for its occurrence.

“Intuition is a process that gives us the ability to know something directly without analytic reasoning, bridging the gap between the conscious and nonconscious parts of our mind, and also between instinct and reason.”

Book: The Intuitive Compass: Why the Best Decisions Balance Reason and Instinct, by Francis Cholle.

Cholle comments: “Recent neuroscience research has proven that instinct plays a key role in complex decision making, 80% of our grey matter is dedicated to nonconscious thought, and imaginative play is one of the most direct ways to access our creativity and problem-solving abilities.” (From author interview on

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For many of us who are trained and inclined to be primarily analytical, making use of this non-rational stuff may not be so natural or easy, but many leaders say it is worth the effort.

For example, entrepreneur mentor Ali Brown writes about how one artist shifted away from “acceptable” conventions:

Picasso-self-portrait-1900“The painter Picasso spent his teenage years at home in Barcelona studying the masters in art school. (Isn’t it hard to imagine Picasso in art school?)

“No surprise, his early paintings look nothing like the masterpieces he would eventually create. He churned out realistic and serious portraits of grizzled peasants and members of his own family.”

[This is a self-portrait from about 1900.]

“It was all in the genre of the day and based on the RULES he learned in class—the same rules he would expertly BREAK later on.

“Along the way in Paris, he went bohemian and dabbled in different styles — impressionist like Monet, still life like Cezanne, colorful works like Matisse. He modeled all of them at different times.

“Then, he finally trusted his instincts. He emerged from the constraints of convention, and painted his own way to being one of the most lauded artists in the world.”

From her post 6 BOLD Ways to Start Breaking Away From The Pack, on her blog.

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Judith Orloff, MD, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, notes:

“As much as I respect and enjoy the fact-finding, analytic mind my training emphasized, we must tap other kinds of intelligence. Doing this is an enormously satisfying form of creativity when you can go with it. Material reality doesn’t always impress me or convey the depths of human nature.”

From her book The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life.

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The image at the top is by digital artist AlicePopkorn / Cornelia Kopp – who commented about stepping away from thinking and over-thinking:

“I can only be creative when I’m empty on the inside, free of thought loops and everyday stuff. Oftentimes I sit in my garden in meditation so that the ‘Everyday Movies’ can fade away.”

From An Interview with Photographer Cornelia Kopp by Jasmina Tacheva.

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Over the years, I have found a number of quotes by psychologists, actors and other artists on this “other kind of intelligence” – such as:

Rachel Weisz with her Oscar“You have to stop thinking too much and just use your heart and your gut and your instincts [when acting]. Any intellect just gets in the way. You just have to go with the feeling and not over-analyze.” Actor Rachel Weisz. []

That could apply to other forms of creative expression, of course, not just acting.

But intuition or instinct is not infallible.

Social psychologist David G. Myers warns, “83 percent of Nobel Prize-winning scientists claim frequent or occasional assistance from unconscious intuitions, but only 7 percent say that such hunches were always correct… Albert Einstein once said he lost two years on an erroneous intuition…”

Quoted in my article Intuition: powers and perils.

Myers is author of Intuition: Its Powers and Perils.

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Do you use your intuition or instincts to be more creative?


Trusting Your Instincts to Be Creative

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2019). Trusting Your Instincts to Be Creative. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Mar 2019
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