Archives for October, 2012
The late Jane Russell famously starred in “The Outlaw” in 1943. In 2006, at 84, she was singing Cole Porter songs in a review she helped create called “The Swinging Forties.” Other examples of mature creators include these: At 96 Martha Graham premiered her choreographed work The Maple Leaf Rag. Sidney Sheldon wrote his last novel at about age 87. Edward Albee won a Tony award for a new play in 2002, at age 75. At 97, architect Oscar Niemeyer was developing one of his most ambitious projects. On the other end of the age range, the photo shows Zoe Yin (left) and Victoria Yin, age 11 and 14, who have shown their work at expos, galleries, and art shows internationally, and "selling paintings for tens of thousands of dollars," according to a new Creativity Post article: At What Age Will Your Creativity Peak?
Passion can be a deep motivator for creative people, but being too concerned with "finding our passion" can be self-limiting. “The presence of talent is not sufficient. Many people have more than one talent, and wonder what to do with them.” Jane Piirto, Ph.D. adds in her book "Talented Children and Adults" that “A useful explanation comes from Socrates, who described the inspiration of the Muse… Carl Jung (1965) described the passion that engrosses; depth psychologist James Hillman described the presence of the daimon in creative lives.” She considers this passion and inspiration “the thorn, because it bothers, it pricks, it causes obsession until it has its way, until the person with the talent begins to work on developing that talent.”
The acclaimed fable The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery declares children are much wiser and more creative than many adults. Can we regain that creative vitality? In a post on her Scientific American blog Literally Psyched, Maria Konnikova writes that de Saint-Exupery makes a "larger point about creativity and thought [that] is difficult to overstate: as we age, how we see the world changes. "It is the rare person who is able to hold on to the sense of wonderment, of presence, of sheer enjoyment of life and its possibilities that is so apparent in our younger selves." She quotes poet Charles Baudelaire: "Genius is no more than childhood recaptured at will, childhood equipped now with [an adult's] physical means to express itself, and with the analytical mind that enables it to bring order into the sum of experience, involuntarily amassed."
The acclaimed HBO series "Girls" was nominated for an Emmy Award for outstanding comedy series. I have appreciated the perspectives of creator and star Lena Dunham on being multitalented, and on using many of her "neurotic" qualities (which we all have, after all) for writing about the lives of a group of young women in New York. In a conversation with actor Claire Danes, Dunham talked about her creative work as actor and writer.
[Continued from Part 1] Creative work reflects your state of mind Painter Gayle Stott Lowry also talks about attending a program at the Lucy Daniels Foundation: "I attended Lucy’s class on Dreams and Creativity, and during a presentation I made to the class about my work, I began to see that changes in my painting were paralleling my personal life and giving me direct feedback about my emotional state. "My calm landscapes became more melancholy, lighting changed from sunny daylit scenes to sunset, dusk, and eventually, night time." [See her photo in Part 1.] This is one of the values of creative expression for self-awareness and healing: our work can reflect back to us qualities of our state of mind when creating.
One of those cliches about creative expression is to "Write what you know." Maybe it can be expanded to "Create from what you know and who you are." Lena Dunham is the creator, executive producer, and one of the stars of the HBO series "Girls" about four young women living in New York. She bases the acclaimed show on many of her own experiences. In a newspaper interview, she was asked, "How do you manage an awareness of the pitfalls of your age while you're still in the midst of it?" Dunham: "I've been in therapy since I was 7; that's probably helpful. The way I process my experiences is to translate them into some artistic form. I don't know another way to get through them."
Painter Robert Genn has noted that he and writer Henry Miller "had a correspondence and a bit of a friendship" in the sixties, and that when they met in Big Sur, "he was having a tough time. His Paris days were behind him. "Now married to Janina Lepska and raising two young children, they were living in a low-cost holiday home among the trees. "On the porch and on their kitchen table were some of his watercolours. While Miller and his paintings were attached at the hip, he didn't seem to take them seriously. 'Slops,' he called them." Genn says Miller "claimed that he was losing his edge as a writer and was now more than ever getting a kick out of painting. In this medium he didn't have the same expectations that he had for his writing. 'I just love it,' he said, 'Maybe it's because anything goes.'
"Einstein is a classic example of a highly creative and highly gifted individual that did not do well in traditional school environments." That is a quote in a research paper by Kyung Hee Kim, PhD, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at The College of William and Mary. She thinks "the cause of the underachievement of many gifted and talented students may be their creativity, which tends to clash with traditional school environments. "Many gifted underachievers show potential for high levels of creativity and many of the characteristics reported for gifted underachievers are similar to those of highly creative individuals."
Novelist Junot Díaz is a Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is "a writer whose finely crafted works of fiction offer powerful insight into the realities of the Caribbean diaspora, American assimilation, and lives lived between cultures." From his Class of 2012 MacArthur Fellow profile page. New York Times writer Sam Anderson recently interviewed him, and Diaz provides a number of helpful perspectives on creative expression, for any kind of artist. Sam Anderson: "There’s a classic bit of creative-writing-class advice that tells us we need to learn to turn off our internal editors. I’ve never understood how to unbraid the critical and the creative. How do you manage that?" Junot Diaz: "You’ve raised one of the thorniest dialectics of working, which is that you need your critical self: without it you can’t write, but in fact the critical self is what’s got both feet on the brakes of your process.