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Keys to Creativity: Embracing the Unknown

The unconscious and the unknown are key to opening the gates to creativity

Creativity is a concept surrounded by mystery and vagueness because it functions in an environment outside consciousness (for the most part); we learn from a young age to seek safety and avoid the unknown in an attempt to protect ourselves from danger and what might be lurking outside our consciousness.

We seek creative solutions to problems because everything we know and we’ve tried to use did not or does not work. We go outside ourselves to therapy or to our friends with the hope of getting a new perspective, a different lens from which to look at what we’re dealing with. Similarly, to create requires us plunging into the unknown for inspiration and exploration which later becomes translated into expression.

Using science, one the most concrete ways of dissecting and quantifying concepts, we learn that creativity is a 4 step process to include: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification. While having this framework is helpful, in that it can give you a blueprint for action, this is not an instruction manual you could use reliably in order to create. These steps are only guiding in nature without promising a magic formula that will easily and safely take you from point A (the beginning stage) to point B (completion) of the creative process.

Similarly, since creativity is a subjective experience then that “formula” you’re looking for will differ tremendously from one project to the next and from one person to the other. Even though points A and B may be similar for those who engage in creative endeavors, the path to reaching a specific destination will be different. Many creative people find it hard to quantify or even put into words how they got to that destination and why they chose that particular direction rather than a different one. Some feel that they move through their creative process using their intuition, following a certain feeling, or simply just knowing where to go. All these areas are fairly easy to comprehend as ideas, but tougher to dismantle and analyze because they are abstract and take place within what we refer to as unconscious, or the unknown.

Creativity is a state of mind, one that you create for yourself and where you are in charge of setting the rules and drawing up boundaries, as long as you understand that all the decision making and boundary setting happens outside of the comfort zone and what you already know (are conscious of).

The path to finalizing a creative endeavor is inconsistent, unfamiliar and many times uncomfortable. Things that worked in the past might or might not work this time and it seems that the more comfortable and safe you feel when you create the less you challenge yourself as a creative: your vision and your creative potential.

It’s hard to define the unknown because the concept in itself has a different meaning for each of us. We’re all aware of its presence and while making a map for it is hard to attain, we can all recognize the difference between feeling comfort vs. discomfort, familiar vs. unfamiliar, and protected vs taking a risk.

Making this distinction and consciously choosing to follow the less beaten path is key to accessing creativity. Regardless of how you choose to express yourself creatively (writing, painting, music), pay attention to yourself and your emotions and make a conscious choice of gradually moving away from the comfort zone into the unknown, the birthplace of creativity.

Read about the other keys to creativity: solitude, self-awareness, honesty, vulnerability, and taking risks.

Keys to Creativity: Embracing the Unknown

Diana C. Pitaru, M.S., L.P.C.

“Diana” Diana Pitaru is a Romanian psychotherapist in private practice in Denver, Colorado. She writes about universal psychological issues that affect quality of life and impede the creative process. Passionate about psychology, philosophy, art, and culture and how these areas connect to improve mental health, Diana offers support and insight to creative adults and teens who struggle with identity/existential issues and in relationships, have a history of trauma, or suffer with depression or anxiety. You can find her Denver practice at

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APA Reference
, . (2015). Keys to Creativity: Embracing the Unknown. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 11 Jan 2015
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