While many people may be encouraged to pursue their creativity, many others have had to exercise their courage and go against the values, wishes and advice of parents and friends.
Sandra Tsing Loh is a Caltech graduate in physics and an accomplished writer, performer, radio commentator (on NPR’s Morning Edition and on Ira Glass’ This American Life), a contributing editor to The Atlantic Monthly, author of multiple books, star of solo theatrical shows, and a composer.
In our interview, she said her parents were “extremely supportive” and her mother “just instilled the notion that whatever we [children] decided to do, we would not fail.
“So the good part was they told us we were really smart and talented and could do anything. Possibly the down side was they were sure not of us could make a living in anything liberal arts, so we should use our brilliance to become aerospace engineers.”
Cheryl Arutt, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, specializing in trauma recovery, fertility and creative artist issues.
In our recent interview, she talked about a number of topics that affect actors and other creative people.
“Bad boy” images and acting-out
Actors and actresses with “bad boy” or “troubled” images, or problems with issues of anger and acting out, have included Christian Bale, Shia Labeouf and many other talented performers.
Dr. Arutt notes this kind of behavior is based on underlying emotional challenges, and that people (not just actors and performers) “Aren’t doing it to have fun.”
A number of stimulating, even provocative, books in psychology can provide insights into developing creative thinking.
Here are a few examples.
In her NY Times article The Power of Concentration, Maria Konnikova reports on a University of Washington study on the effects of meditation training on multitasking.
She summarizes: “Researchers asked a group of human resources professionals to engage in the type of simultaneous planning they did habitually.
“Each participant was placed in a one-person office, with a laptop and a phone, and asked to complete several typical tasks: schedule meetings for multiple attendees, locate free conference rooms, write a memo that proposed a creative agenda item and the like.”
These four P’s of Product, People, Process and environmental Press have been used as frameworks by many creativity researchers and writers.
In a helpful overview article, Sandeep Gautam provides explanations of these concepts, and references to various creativity experts. Here are a few excerpts.
First, to start with the illustration: “Blind monks examining an elephant”, an ukiyo-e print by Hanabusa Itchō (1652–1724).
The story that inspired this artwork is basically that “a group of blind men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement.” [Wikipedia]
Gautam concludes his article:
“In the end, it is important to realize that creativity is all things to all people, but still needs desperately, and would benefit from immensely, an integrative research paradigm; otherwise like the proverbial blind men and the elephant, we may end up getting narrow and useless conceptions of creativity and ignore the big elephant in the room.”
One way to think about the related ideas of self esteem, self regard and self concept is in terms of how we compare ourselves to others, which can suffocate our creativity.
If you are an actor, for example (or even wanting to be one), and compare yourself with Meryl Streep or Colin Firth, do you feel energized or deflated – inspired or discouraged?
Psychologist Elaine Aron notes that “low self-esteem is about power and influence, the result of rank. Like other social animals, we constantly rank ourselves among others – competing and comparing.”
“If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle.” // “A filmmaker is a filmmaker.”
Kathryn Bigelow won the first Academy Award ever presented to a female director, for her outstanding Best Picture winner, “The Hurt Locker.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents awards in many gender neutral categories like Director and Screenwriter, but also separates Actor and Actress categories.
Other awards programs include The Man Booker Prize for Fiction (without reference to gender), and the Orange Prize for Fiction, for “excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world.”
In her Huffington Post entry, Vivian Norris de Montaigu relates the story of fifteen years ago inviting Bigelow to joining the board of a Women in Cinema Film Festival (which later became part of the larger Seattle International film festival).
“Ms. Bigelow turned us down, politely, asserting the fact that she was a filmmaker, period. Not a female filmmaker, but a filmmaker full stop.
There are a number of examples of people bold enough and entrepreneurial enough to create and publish their own books, often leading to being traditionally published and marketed.
Christopher Paolini began writing “Eragon” at the age of 15 and his parents decided to self-publish the novel, which was re-published by Alfred A. Knopf.
“The Artist’s Way” began as a collection of “tips and hints from different artists and authors” by Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan. After it was turned down by literary agency William Morris, they self-published it and it was later published by Jeremy Tarcher (Penguin) in 1992.
The book was eventually put into the “Self-Publishing Hall of Fame” after “selling millions of copies worldwide.” [Wikipedia]
Author and personal development coach Tama Kieves self-published her first book “This Time I Dance!: Creating the Work You Love” and its level of popularity led to Tarcher/Penguin re-publishing new editions.