Archives for June, 2012
At least part of creating is a non-linear process involving the inner chaos of divergent thinking and imaginational intensity - and often the outer chaos of messy desks. Stephen King has commented about his creative mind: "It’s as though something in there is running all the time.” But this inner process is not easy to articulate or describe to other people. And there is often a high level of pressure to produce tangible creative results. As author and entrepreneur Seth Godin put it, “What you do for a living is not be creative, what you do is ship."
Getting flashes of creative insight or inspiration can solve real problems. But be wary of thinking you have to wait for them to be creative. Psychologist R. Keith Sawyer says creativity researchers refer to "the three Bs—for the bathtub, the bed and the bus—places where ideas have famously and suddenly emerged." The photo shows an un-corrected Hubble telescope image at the left, next to an image at the right made with corrected optics. Sawyer explained in a magazine article that in 1990 a team of NASA scientists "was trying to fix the distorted lenses in the Hubble telescope, which was already in orbit. An expert in optics suggested that tiny inversely distorted mirrors could correct the images, but nobody could figure out how to fit them into the hard-to-reach space inside.
"Art is a marriage of the conscious and the unconscious." Jean Cocteau How much of creative inspiration and problem solving is from our unconscious, and how can we get more in touch with our vast inner landscape? This famous "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I" is a 1907 painting by Gustav Klimt. In his book "The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present," Nobel Prize winner psychiatrist Eric R. Kandel notes that Klimt historians Sophie Lillie and Georg Gaugusch commented about the painting that it "appears a compelling visual expression of Freud's theory that emotions buried in the subconscious rise to the surface in disguised form." In another passage, Kandel writes, "Like other modern artists faced with the advent of photography, Klimt sought newer truths that could not be captured by the camera. "He, and particularly his younger protégés Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele, turned the artist’s view inward — away from the three-dimensional outside world and toward the multidimensional inner self and the unconscious mind."
In her definition of visual spatial learners, Dr. Linda Silverman, who pioneered the concept, includes the quality of being a late bloomer, as well as "creatively, mechanically, emotionally, or technologically gifted." People who are 'auditory-sequential' learners are considered more academically talented and likely to be an early bloomer. There are certainly many people who are creatively productive earlier in life, but painter Robert Genn notes there are a number of artists who are late bloomers. In his article Early and late bloomers, he notes "Cezanne did not preconceive his work, but rather let the painting-in-progress tell him what it needed. "He took a long time, was always dissatisfied, and bloomed late. He's the third most illustrated French artist of the Twentieth Century. Of all his reproduced and celebrated images, only 2% are from his twenties." Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) created this painting "Road Before the Mountains, Sainte-Victoire" in his 60's, between 1898–1902, according to the Wikipedia page.
Assurance, backbone, boldness, brashness, daring - engaging in a creative endeavor takes confidence. Large scale collaborations like movies often take years to develop, requiring intense commitment on the part of writers and directors and other filmmakers. A bit of hypomania and creative obsession can help. Individual creators also need that kind of energy, motivation and confidence to keep working at projects for long periods. This is a photo of "Fallen Star" by artist Do Ho Suh - a small house, with a sloping floor, installed onto the top floor at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UCSD. You can see more photos at the Stuart Collection site. An article notes it took "Fallen Star" seven years to be realized.
Developing our creative ideas and projects demands focus, energy and emotional balance, in addition to tools and materials. Especially if you are a highly sensitive person, as many or most creative people are, you will be more effective and productive in your creative life by exercising conscious self-care. Creativity and life coach Jenna Avery notes that for "Sensitive Souls, standard formulas don’t work well, like 40-plus-hour workweeks, commutes, fluorescent lights, and cubicles. "We require physically and emotionally supportive environments along with plenty of independence and privacy. In addition, each sensitive person has specific challenges – such as people, noise, or light. It’s important to know which of these are significant for you and to learn how to address them."
Einstein was expelled from school for “undermining the authority of his teachers and being a disruptive influence.” I was reminded of that item when reading the article Can Innovative Thinking Be Learned? (Forbes mag.), in which writer Erica Swallow lists several "disruptive innovators": Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Pierre Omidyar, referring to the book “The Innovator’s DNA" - which fortunately also includes a number of women innovators. She writes that they think and behave differently, and "possess a suite of skills that enable them to connect dots that the rest of us don’t usually perceive."
"What kind of fool would do these things?" Cynthia Morris Don't we need to be intelligent to be creative? Psychologist Dean Keith Simonton, PhD thinks creativity in everyday life “is very closely related to intelligence because intelligence includes, as part of it, problem-solving abilities," but "big C creativity" - which involve "generating new ideas, a poem, a patent, a short story, a journal article or whatever…involves a whole bunch of other characteristics besides intelligence.” From my post More Intelligence, More Creative? In her post The Fool’s Journey, Aliyah Marr declares a “beginner’s mind” is "the secret of all creative people…that only by knowing nothing of 'what is' can you ever get to the place where you can receive inspiration for something new."
In Part 1 of this post, I mentioned two articles that refer to multiple research studies; here are more excerpts from those articles, plus additional material. In "The science of creativity," Amy Novotney notes a study at Harvard Medical School in which creativity researchers suggest sleeping on a problem. Psychologist Deirde Barrett, PhD "asked her students to imagine a problem they were trying to solve before going to sleep and found that they were able to come up with novel solutions in their dreams. "In the study, published in Dreaming (Vol. 3, No. 2), half of the participants reported having dreams that addressed their chosen problems, and a quarter came up with solutions in their dreams." "We're in a different biochemical state when we're dreaming, and that's why I think dreams can be so helpful anytime we're stuck in our usual mode of thinking," Barrett says.