“I think it’s true of all stammerers. They can’t stammer when they sing.” Carly Simon
As a child, Carly Simon suffered from stuttering, and found that singing helped. She commented, “There’s something about the mind connecting differently to the vocal cords when you apply either rhythm or melody.”
In his book “Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain,” neurologist Oliver Sacks describes many of the personal and mental aspects of making and appreciating music, and writes about cases of autistic children “who could make no contact except nonverbally, with music.” [From my post Oliver Sacks on music and the brain.]
Glen Campbell, 75, recently made public the fact he has Alzheimer’s disease. But next year he plans to perform in his Goodbye Tour in various countries, for as long as two years if his health allows it.
In a recent newspaper article about him, there is a reference that “the capacity for music tends to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease differently than other brain functions.”
After working for ten years as an actor, Karen Moncrieff became a screenwriter. In a Writers Guild magazine article, she notes “Writing felt so comfortable in a way that acting never really did. With writing, I was using all parts of myself, all of my skills.”
She wrote [and directed] her powerful film Blue Car in a way as “a reaction to films I had seen, like Stealing Beauty, a very idealized view of a girl’s coming of age. I wanted to get inside the woman’s experience and tell the story from her own perspective.”
But, the article notes, writing the script “became a wrenching, emotional experience for Moncrieff, who often, drained after composing a scene, would curl her head in her husband’s lap and cry.”
“You have to become very still and listen while your inner voice – the very essence of you – tells you who you are. You’ll know you’ve found it when every cell in your body practically vibrates; when you’re filled up by what you’re doing instead of being drained by it.”
– Oprah Winfrey
Many artists, as well as personal development writers and coaches extol the virtues of intuition for realizing our true selves, developing creative talents and making life decisions. How valid is intuition or intuitive thinking?
For many of us writers, as well as designers and others, most of our creative work is more or less abstract, even virtual (like this blog), and involving primarily our eyes. But sculptors, furniture makers, set dressers, oil painters and others work with their senses much more. How does that impact creativity?
Curious about its name Picker Sisters, I recently saw the show (on Lifetime TV) hosted by friends and interior designers Tracy Hutson and Tanya McQueen, who travel around with a trailer in search of “rare relics and materials” to create pieces for their Los Angeles shop.
If we think creative expression has to wait for inspiration from a muse, or that there are only a few “chosen” geniuses with exceptional “gifts” – and think we aren’t one of those few – we may not even explore our inherent creative talents.
Author Elizabeth Gilbert (“Eat, Pray, Love”) made a presentation for a TED Conference (Technology, Entertainment, Design) and considered ‘the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses,’ as the video description of her presentation notes. She ‘shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius.’
In his post The Daimonic Insight: Creativity is a Force Separate from You on his Demon Muse blog, horror writer, teacher, and musician-composer Matt Cardin provides a summary of some of her main points.
In the Introduction to his book The Van Gogh Blues, creativity coach and author Eric Maisel, PhD writes: “Creators have trouble maintaining meaning. Creating is one of the ways they endeavor to maintain meaning.
“In the act of creation, they lay a veneer of meaning over meaninglessness and sometimes produce work that helps others maintain meaning.
“This is why creating is such a crucial activity in the life of a creator: It is one of the ways, and often the most important way, that she manages to make life feel meaningful. Not creating is depressing because she is not making meaning when she is not creating.”
One of the enduring ideas about creative expression is that it comes from sparks of inspiration out of our unconscious, breaking through to awareness.
A related idea is that creative “geniuses” like Mozart freely “channel” finished or almost finished notable work, that mere mortals like the rest of us can’t possibly hope to do.
But New York Times op-ed writer David Brooks has pointed out, “His early compositions were nothing special. They were pastiches of other people’s work. Mozart was a good musician at an early age, but he would not stand out among today’s top child-performers.”
[Brooks is also quoted in my earlier post Practice, Practice, Practice.]
Artists themselves may promote myths.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (photo; 1772–1834) is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan. He claimed in a preface to the latter, that the poem came to him in a dream during a nap, and he simply wrote down the entire finished work.
One of the themes of recent books and research on talent development is that creative achievement, even genius, is less a matter of innate talent than focused practice over time – maybe a long time.
As David Brooks declared in his The New York Times op-ed essay Genius: The Modern View, “The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark…it’s deliberate practice.
“Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) rigorously practicing their craft.”
He notes recent research supporting this has been summarized in the books: “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle, and “Talent Is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin.
In an earlier post, I quote Jan Phillips about the inner voices that can keep us from creative work: “They’re voices we inherit along the way, from our parents, our teachers, the culture, the church – voices that say ‘I’m not smart enough, I’m not good enough, I don’t have a story worth telling, I’m not creative, I shouldn’t stand out’ – they’re all (k)nots that keep us bound up and silent.”
In an interview for the Sounds True site, she talks about other aspects of our thinking, attitudes and inner life that can prevent or allow greater access to our creativity. Here is an excerpt: