Robbie Maltby

September 27, 2022

The Orientation of the Creative

What makes us want to create things? What makes some people more 'Creative' than others?

In my line of work, the designers are called Creatives. They're actually Artists, most often digital artists. I believe the term Creative may be used to offload the responsibility that being creative brings. Let me explain...

Anyone who thinks of something they want to do, then brings it into reality is a Creative. They are creating the results they want to see.

Anyone who starts up a business because they want to bring something new or nuanced into the world is a Creative. They don't have to be the product designer, or the copywriter. Encouraging people to take action can be one of the most Creative pursuits around.

But the life of a Creative person is quite different to the life of someone who simply solves problems. The problem solver sets up tasks for themselves and knocks them down, just like the Creative does. Only the problem solver isn't doing what he or she wants to do deep down. They are doing it because they set up their life so they HAVE TO. They have no choice but to do it.

Robert Fritz, in his book The Path of Least Resistance, calls this Manufacturing Conflict.

What he means is that people consciously and subconsciously create problems in their life to solve, so they don't have to face their own raw creative potential.

It's not all that surprising. Most of us were told how to fit into society; how to get good grades, good jobs, and be a good person. Most parent's number one priority is to keep their kids safe. Encouraging them to pursue what they really truly want, regardless of the monetary or social rewards, is therefore pretty uncommon. And if it was encouraged, parents are usually ill equipped to guide them to find out what that is.

More commonly, we're brought up to believe that spending too much time asking what 'I' want is in some way selfish. Or that we must choose quickly or be left behind.

A lot of people pretend or justify to themselves what they have right now is what they truly want, but in reality they've never learned how to ask...

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[Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash]

Around 3 months ago, I was in a nearly fatal bicycle accident in Italy. I was speared by a piece of metal rebar the Italian's use to delineate paths in winter.

In this particular stretch of path, the rebar had fallen from it's original upright position, and as I came careering past, it caught me in the side like a knights joust and dumped me on the ground, bleeding inside and out.

I managed to crawl back to the villa, get help and a taxi to the local hospital where the surgeons performed an exploratory laparotomy to check which organs I'd damaged.

By the grace of something holy, the metal rebar missed all my organs so, after stitching up the burst blood vessel which was causing the internal bleeding, I was good to go.

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The moment I woke from surgery and the morphine started to wear off I knew instantly what I wanted to do.

I had been exposed to the concept of the event while travelling the States and Central America but years had passed and I hadn't the guts to attend one.

Now that my guts had been removed and replaced (!) I knew right there and then I wanted to go on a Vision Quest - a pan-cultural rites of passage. An event that’s been held all over the world for tens of thousands of years.

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The Vision Quest, or Deep Nature Immersion as our guide calls it, was like nothing I've ever experienced.

It involved 4 days of fasting, on my own, under a tarp (a waterproof sheet, not a tent) in an island forest in the Scottish Highlands. There was a 3 day build up and a 3 day incorporation afterwards.


The fast was one of the most intense and interesting periods of my life. I wrote a story in the 3rd person about it every day to remind myself what happened. I might share the full story sometime but the point is, it allowed me to be as objective as I could about my experience.

It was part way through the 2nd day that something significant happened.

It came out of nowhere. I was swinging on a hammock after a day of wandering the forest; playing around, singing, rapping, acting like a kid. Bear in mind there was no one to talk to, no phone (I took that pic above beforehand), no books, nada, zilch to do.

Then out of the blue, I jumped up and started off in the direction of my camp to sort something, or tidy something, or....then I stopped dead. What was I going to do? There was literally nothing TO do. Some part of my brain had just got a bit worried and sent a message to the other part saying, "Stop playing. Behave. Wise up!"

Since the contrast was so great, it was easy to spot. Part of my brain was playing tricks on me. It was COMPLETELY UNECCESSARY to do anything other than play around. And that's exactly what I continued to do, albeit with a slightly closer eye on the part of me that wanted to curtail my fun 👀

Now you might be thinking this man had gone mad at this point, but you'd be wrong. What I saw in close-up was the part of me, the part of most of us, that's been running the show without me / you really knowing.

It's the part of us that's been creating situations to be in, to get out of, or run AWAY FROM. It's the part that's only job has been to keep us safe...not to teach us what we really want.

So what is 'The Orientation of the Creative'? As Robert Fritz puts it in his book, it's choosing to be the predominant creative force in your life.

What does that mean and how do you do it? I'd very much recommend reading the book but it starts by learning to answer the question, "What do I truly want?" "What are my deepest desires?"

Only when we start learning how to ask and answer these questions can move towards it, forgoing the usual conflict and pressure 'We' create as an excuse.

What that looks like for me is still shaping up but I have a sense the future will look quite different.

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[Photo by Nathan Lindahl on Unsplash]

For one, I know I want to work with more groups of people, especially in an outdoor setting. I also get huge satisfaction from working with young people and seeing them become more grounded, inquisitive and playful, when removed from their technology dependant existences.

I'd also like to create / be part of a community of people who are all living their lives more creatively every day, because being truly creative is a skill and I've got a lot to learn.

About Robbie Maltby

Founder of Northbound Digital. Author of New Work.