Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On being creative and cracking an egg

Here's an exercise to practice for breaking through resistance. Whenever I have done it, I have felt slightly heretical, as if I am doing something that I don't have permission for. It is from Eric Maisel's book Creativity for Life. All you need to do, before you start your creative work for the day -- your writing or painting or software designing -- is to crack an egg!

Just break it in a bowl, egg shells and all. Then, get up and go do your work.

Here's how Maisel describes this small act of power. "If you want to crack an egg because you are baking a cake, you whack it (carefully) on the side of your bowl, it breaks, and you drop the contents of the egg into the bowl full of flour. There's nothing simpler (though it takes a little skill to break the egg so that egg shells don't get into the batter). Your grandmother did it a million times; your young daughter can do it after a few minutes of false starts and small accidents. In the service of cooking, we are not reluctant to break that egg.

But if you are not baking a cake, an egg's shell feels remarkably formidable. There is something scary about cracking an egg for no good reason, something that makes us squeamish, something that feels like a violation of the egg. Trying to crack an egg for no good reason elicits the same sort of feeling that chalk scratching on a blackboard does. It is a physical reaction, rooted in some primitive fear and anxiety."

This feeling of resistance to actually begin is a part of the creative process, Maisel says. What can also be normal are the experiences where there is no hard shell to crack. This happens when we are really working on something. Everything becomes easy then, and we crack right through the beginnings of things.

But when we are stuck in an infinite loop -- feeling bad about not creating and yet not doing it -- cracking an egg can help us. "Experience the cracking of that egg as the cracking through of your resistance. Feel yourself exhale as you crack it, as if you had just survived something dangerous, then proceed directly to your creative work."    

What exactly is this resistance? What are we cracking through? Some of this resistance to beginning comes from our most primitive parts, where there is fear lurking in the shadows. Some of it is our rational mind telling us how difficult it will be to succeed. The dread we feel is these things and many other things besides.  

Try cracking an egg for a week and see what comes up for you. Does it feel like a subversive act? Does it make you feel powerful, as if you are naming resistance as a normal part of the creative process and using your will to crack through it? Do you feel like you don't have permission to act on your own behalf? Or do you, like me, sometimes feel you just can't waste an egg in the name of letting myself be more creative? If we can't even do this, how much permission do we then have to experiment, to be ourselves, to be an artiste?

Try cracking an egg, and observe how that makes you feel.  


  1. Can't wait to try it! I love the conclusion "If we can't even do this, how much permission do we then have to experiment, to be ourselves, to be an artiste?"

  2. indeed I will try this thank you...