Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Creativity…..some things to do, and some not to do…

How very many times do I hear the phrase:  “Oh, I’m just not creative…”
Being creative is part of being a human being, we are adaptable creatures, that’s how we’ve survived so long…and proliferated.  Children (unless there is something very wrong) are very creative.  But most types of education focus so much on cramming facts and processes into our brains that there is little time and less encouragement to be creative.  See this very funny talk on TED by Sir Ken Robinson

1.  There’s definitely a lot of evidence in many areas that fake-it-till-you-make-it works!   Power posing for 2 minutes before an interview can make you appear more confident, raise testosterone levels and decrease adrenaline – even if you don’t believe it will!!  So the first thing  to do is to stop describing yourself as an uncreative person!

2.  Engaging in an activity that doesn’t require specific thought so that your ideas can wander.. walking for example is my favorite one…but also ironing…..ideas can occur anywhere so have a note pad handy!  I carry a couple of 3 x 5 cards and a small pencil in my pocket…also have them handy in many places in the house!

3.  Not watching things online or on telly that engage you but don’t inspire you e.g. soap operas. Some very interesting research published online in Media Psychology  shows that just hearing stories about people who act unintelligently actually reduces our cognitive ability!!  The article, by Markus Appel,  is provocatively called: A story about a stupid person can make you act stupid.

It’s called media priming.    Apparently,  if we watch/listen to/read items that we don’t specifically analyse and think about in terms of whether or not we really agree with the ideas/activities portrayed, then our performance afterwards on a simple written test is much weaker than if we do critique the item.   Of course much of the media is designed to stop you thinking!!!  But just because it’s designed that way, doesn’t mean you have to go along with it.  Start thinking!  It will improve your brain and your creativity!

4.  By contrast looking at, listening to, reading etc wonderful artistic creations tends to spark our own ideas.  For us 2D visual artists, there is a feast of visual information online since many of the major art museums of the world have uploaded digital versions of their holdings.

5.  Embrace the new!  Try new things, new places, new activities:  a day outing to somewhere you’ve never been before.  Visit a museum or gallery you’ve not gone  to before…even small towns have little galleries everywhere…sometimes even looking at bad art can spur you forward as you think “hmm, I could do that better because I would….”

6.  I personally have not found writing a journal about all my worries, or making a map of numerous associations to be in the least bit useful.  Nor is lighting candles – one of the “new Age” suggestions I’ve seen on line!!   Perhaps if you light candles, stand on your head and write a stream of consciousness diary with one hand while tramping a mind map on the ceiling with your feet, Something might happen!!  Doubt it would be very creative though…
These activities, I think, tend to focus one more on what is mundane and tedious in one’s life rather than leading to new ways of thinking. 

 7.  I do think that that the old art school exercise of 50 (or so, pick a number, any number!)  different drawings of an object, in writing 50 different story ideas etc,  is useful though.  It does take one time to work through the ordinary ideas to get to those less visited.  Obviously the strongest associations will come up first – just like on Google! – and those are going to be the most mundane…keep on working…

8.  Years ago I used to teach a workshop called Coaxing the Muse and I think it worked well…we tried looking at art in a slide show, listening to music, tasting delicious foods, going outside looking at nature and smelling the roses.  Indulging the senses opens you to what is around you,  and you become more mindful and aware.  Deliberately Experiencing the Sensory Input…which we so often ignore being focused on getting bills paid, devising the grocery list etc etc.  Is there something about what you see, hear or feel that is just amazing?? All artists begin with something…yes even abstract ones!

9.  Give yourself time to be creative….it really does take time.  We are so focused and everything today is “instant” and “fast” – how many quilt books have “fast” or “quick” or “easy” in the blurb???  Isn’t that horrid?  Isn’t that just plain insulting?

10.  Keep an inspiration notebook.  One of my favorite authors collects strange little items reported in the newspaper and has used them as a kernel for a whole novel.  As you read a magazine, rip out images that attract…and into a notebook, or (like Twyla Tharp, author of The Creative Habit which I definitely recommend) a shoe box.

11. Set parameters – don’t sit there looking at the blank page, or the blank canvas, or the blank design wall…instead choose some parameters: size, subject, way of looking at the subject, representational? Or abstract.  Monochromatic or full color?  Big shapes, or little ones?  How many shapes – how many lines – how many colors etc.

12. Theme…and variations.   Print out images of the six pieces you’ve made that you’re most happy with, and figure out why.  Why oh why were those So much better? 
And now, Can you think of any variations upon them?

So, I set myself the parameter of 12 thoughts – a magic number in many ways! – and I’ve reached my goal…I’m off for a nice cuppa tea now…

Please do let me know your thoughts on encouraging creativity!  The Comment box is waiting……apologies for the anti-robot/spam stuff – but it’s the only way to keep the blog weed free!

If you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth


Karen Amelia Brown said...

Thanks for the reminders of creative jumpstarts. Like many others, daily writing helps me clear my mind so that the creative stuff can expand. Yes, it is often about writing down mundane and sometimes annoying or aggravating things that get in the way. It is also a place, for me, where ideas often get born. I find that it helps to clear the slate, so to speak, for new things. I think Twyla Tharp refers to a new white piece of paper concept (could have that wrong). It's good to be reminded of what helps the creativity grow.

sonja said...

When i first found sister mary corita kent i was working in a gift shop, 196 something and her line of cards with her bold art and wise words were sold there. While restocking her cards i came to understand words had power to move. they moved me. i still collect quotes that sing to me.

"War is not healthy for children or other living things" was another biggie of hers back in the day.

I try to reply to those who start out saying in my presents that they are not.....fill in the blanks with her quote.
"Not all of us are painters but we are all artists. Each time we fit things together we are creating whether it is to make a loaf of bread, a child, a day. " Corita Kent.

be well, sonja

amyfibre said...

Good reminders all.

Sometimes the jolt my creativity needs is limits, boundaries. As a fiber artist, I will select random characteristics, often seemingly incompatible, and develop a piece that includes them all. Sometimes just in my head. Sometimes to full fruition. But the challenge of working within the seemingly untenable framework is inspiring.

Another wonderful, thought-provoking post, Elizabeth. Thank you!

MP said...

What great advice, Elizabeth. After FOQ a jolt to get going is needed. I am so looking forward to starting your class in October.

sharon said...

Oh! Walking is it for me, and yoga twice a week - clearly those activities where I am unplugged - my mind races through a thousand things then. That was an Interesting bit about watching the TV shows, I hadn't heard that before. I had listened to the TED talk, and my daughter concurrently in a school setting. SHe does the power pose before class presentations and is a true believer. I digress, what was the question? Thanks for this excellent blog post!

Gladys Love said...

I particularly like the statement made in #6. I find the same thing....as soon as I sit down to journal, it's all dissatisfaction and unhappy thoughts. But if I look at inspirational photos, try doodling or even go for a walk, my thoughts turn to more creative and encouraging things, allowing me to come back uplifted and encouraged to try something.