ON CREATIVITY

Creativity is something I think about a lot.

I used to despise the word and avoided using it altogether because it seemed so pretentious. Mothers and friends hide their scrapbooks and journals using the word against themselves—“It’s not that good. I’m not creative like you.” People seem more willing to accept mistakes in life from creative people, as if creativity were an illness or handicap. When the word creativity is used, some people will wax soft, so as not to offend the artist or writer or whatever; like hitting a guy with glasses on. (I create and wear glasses. Yikes!) It still feels funny to me when people ask about my “creative work.” It’s a big word with a difficult definition—even the dictionary gives it a vague meaning.

There are so many things I have to say about creativity and how practical and functional it is across all walks of life, even outside of pictures, films, dances and books, but we’ll have to take things a piece at a time. A good piece to start with might be the brain of funny man John Cleese:

While this video isn’t particularly revealing or deep, a lot of great and important facets of creativity are brought up.

I particularly love John Clesse’s experience of losing, rewriting, and then finding a manuscript (around 3:00). “The most dangerous thing, when I was trying to write anything, was to be interrupted. Because the flow of thought that I had was not immediately picked up after the interruption.” Sound familiar to any of you writers out there?

He even goes so far as to answer the age-old question: ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ “I get [my ideas]from a mister Ken Levinshaw who lives in Swindon. He sends them to me every Monday morning on a postcard…He gets them from a lady called Mildred Small…”

He goes on to talk about creating a ‘Tortoise Enclosure’, or environment to promote creativity. “You have to create a kind of oasis in your life, in the middle of the stress…You have to create boundaries of space and you have to create boundaries of time. It’s as simple as that. It explains a great deal of life.”

Something I think about a lot (especially when knowing that I’ll be speaking in front of others or looking at other peoples’ portfolios) is how the artist or individual honestly feels about their own work. Not how it compares with other paintings or songs or writing, but how it measures up to their knowledge. “To know how good you are at something requires the same skills as it does to be good at that thing. Which means, that if you’re absolutely hopeless at something, you lack exactly the skills that you need to know that you’re absolutely hopeless at it. And this is a profound discovery.” It’s a sad problem in the world, that more and more leaders are cutting out the arts and physical education programs from education and government, and focusing more and more on science and mathematics, rather than integrating the various fields. These blinders aren’t just blocking out different perspectives—they’re blocking solutions. “The problem may be that they do not realize that they themselves are not very creative and, therefor, they may not value creativity even if they can recognize it.”

I can’t help but think that all of this is simply part of being disciplined, something I want to post more on later. In the meantime, what does creativity mean to you? Is creativity useful? Should we teach our children to be creative? Does it matter?

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Comments
2 Responses to “ON CREATIVITY”
  1. loz says:

    I think it’s sad about those people who do not understand creativity quashing it in other and not recognizing it. I think he’s a very astute man. I don’t know why I’m surprised at his level of insight but finding out that he went to Cambridge makes sense. There are quite a few footlighters out there.
    When I was young I was able to sit and think a lot, so much so that at one point in secondary school a couple of the teachers thought I had Petit Mal a minor form of epilepsy. Fortunately I didn’t have petit mal but this ability to withdraw was still present which is bizarre as I can talk for Britain sometimes. Anyway I think that ability to withdraw ones self and find that place where you can make those boundaries of time and space is very key to the creative process. Otherwise I’m not sure where it comes from. I don’t sit down and think “I’m going to be creative now,” sometimes it comes when you least expect it. I think my problem is I don’t give myself enough boundaries of time to put into practice the fruits of creativity.

    This was a cool video, thanks Jess.

  2. Alice says:

    Very interesting. I agree with you about creativity being important in all aspects of life, especially in problem solving.

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