With a whole column to wax about “Creativity”, that most hallowed of words for the left-brained, I think we can skip the usual design question and go straight for the jugular:
Q. What is creativity all about, who has it, who doesn’t, how does it unfold, and most importantly, how can releasing it change your life?
A. Baby, we have arrived! This query is the big Kahuna, the goddess of all things living, breathing and moving, undulating before us with beguiling, beckoning motions. Miss Creativity has always been the queen…she was there at our birth, and eventually she got stuff ed under stupid things like approval, socialization, and conformity. People like to think they are either creative or not: they forget that we all started with the same potential. I don’t buy into the notion that some adults claim, “I’m so uncreative”. They are simply unaware of how to reach it. Without it, riches are rags, wealth is poor, and success is hollow.
To clarify my defi nition of the word, I truly believe that creativity describes loving the process of creating, and not just the end result. It is my impression that children are natural creators, at least at the beginning. A child will sing a silly song, or paint an expansive mural on your wall, just because she wants to do so. The purpose is the process and it is her soul gratifying itself by expression. Thus, the child is making art for the love of the moment, and the focus will be on that rather than the approval of others. This window is rather small, though, as development will eventually lead the child to a place where praise will become a strong incentive, perhaps replacing the initial joy of the creation. That is why you often hear people claim that they are searching for the “inner child” in their adult lives: this reckless abandon of not concerning oneself with the opinion or approval of others is the most important step in freeing ourselves on just about every level. Whether spiritually, creatively, or intellectually, reclaiming your love of creation is pure expression. Dare I say, “godliness”?
Let me give you an example I learned from teaching a drawing class for a group of 4th graders a few years ago. Already at the age of 9, most children have set ideas about what a tree SHOULD look like (ditto an eye, or a stick fi gure, head, etc). They will draw the trunk with 2 straight vertical lines, and make a big cloudlike puff at the top to interpret leaves, and perhaps about 5 round red apples for detail. We all know that trees have thousands of leaves, but this is the universally accepted look of a grade school tree.
When you ask a student to look at a real tree for fi ve minutes (an eternity for them) and describe what they see, a crack forms in the concept that they have been drawing a tree for an accepted end result and not for how a tree actually grows. When we begin to learn to “see”, a new end result will evolve. We are touching a part of the process that uses the brain, and we need to support that connection in order to rediscover the creative process. This is the fi rst step to reconnect. Try this little exercise for yourself sometime. Spend 5 minutes looking at a tree, an eye, and a head.
Do you see the whole round eye or only half? Are your ears really up so high on your head? Do evergreen branches grow up or down? You have to re-teach yourself to look at things, experience them, and then interpret. Before you start to draw them, try this little trick: spend 5 minutes with a blank sheet of paper, a pencil and some great music on the stereo. Put pencil to paper, and do not lift it up for the entire song. Just let the music fl ow through your body to your hands, doodling away while keeping the line fl owing. This will loosen the connection between brain and hands, and free up some creative energy. Just try it. You will see.
It is hard work to get to a place where we can completely let go of approval. Yes, when we sell a painting or publish a book that is the icing on the cake, or the gravy in the pan. It is just so good to have your eff orts rewarded by another that we crave it again and again. The more commercial or critical praise we receive, the more of a junkie we become. It is hard to remain creatively objective when you can anticipate the lovely results. Thus, we often see our adult selves with writer’s block or artistically stifl ed. I came across a powerful book a few years ago that addresses this problem, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. The author will take you on a self-exploration journey that is medicine for your tired soul, and put you back in touch with your ability to create.
When people ask me to help them create an environment, choose a color or give an opinion, I try to understand what they are looking for: approval or expression. If someone is looking to showcase a mood or look, then we have to adopt a diff erent approach to designing. When a person really wants to fi nd an outlet of creative expression or create a space to support their persona, then it is a decisively more satisfying process for us both. We speak not only of results, but enjoy the moments of discussing, planning, evolving and supporting the growth of the inner self. It is soul–work, and I lose hours immersed in the process of sharing the joy that the Goddess Creativity has planted in us all, if we only take the time to listen to her lovely voice.
originally published in Currents Apr/May 2008