Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Choosing Which Path

Once upon a time, I would want to make something. But what? I might visit a craft show and absolutely marvel at the creativity I saw. How did these people do this? How did they come up with all these incredible ideas. Why couldn't I get a great idea for something to make? I wasn't creative enough. I could make things, but I had to follow instructions or a kit.

Back then, creativity was sort of like magic. You had the powers, or you didn't. Maybe going to art school helped, but then again I knew plenty of art school graduates working in very ordinary jobs. These people who I saw creating these things I could never conjure up were clearly different than me.

Now that very idea seems crazy to me. I honestly believe we all have a creative voice. The question is, are we giving it any air time, and are we taking it seriously? Our creative voice is like a child's voice. If you tell it to be quiet and just listen to the adult who knows what they are doing it will do just that. It will go sit quietly in the corner, and learn not to speak up for fear of being corrected.

Creative blocks are all about no. About not being good "enough". But just who is defining what is enough, anyway? It is about what is not working. On the other hand, unleashing creativity seems to involve saying yes. Being willing to accept the mistakes and less than successful ideas. It is recognizing that sometimes it is all about throwing enough stuff up there to see what might stick.

Creativity is a life force that each of us possesses. It does not have to apply to art or craft, or music or theatre. It is simply asking the question "what if?" It is when you see something and your brain stops in it's tracks a moment and says, "Huh." It is that pause that makes us rethink what we are doing and how we are doing it. The nudge may come internally. It may come from some little thing that suddenly draws our attention in a new way. It may be a simple question or observation from someone else about what we are doing.

When these moments come there are two possibilities. It is the proverbial fork in the road. The one less traveled, or the tried and true. Do you explore with the uncertainty of whether there is a payoff, or do you go down the same path, no matter how unsatisfying, or unfulfilling it might be, simply because you know the way? Creativity is exploring that unknown. It may end up a complete bust. Time wasted. Or so you think. But to feed the creative wellspring it is important to not be judgemental about the wasted time, materials or whatever else. Judgement is what shuts the door to creativity. As soon as you hear yourself saying, "What was I thinking?" or "I should have known better." you have shut the door.

To feed the creative spirit, you need to let go of the worry about the waste. The exploration is never a waste. Each time you wander down the new path something is learned. Each time you explore you are opening the door to the creative voice. Building its confidence and assurance.

Creativity is hands on. It is not accomplished by sitting and pondering. Waiting for the genius idea to strike. Working each day, my hands and brain have come to know the clay. I find surprises on a regular basis. Color combinations that knock my socks off. Or some little way of manipulating the clay. Each of those discoveries happens by spending time in my studio. And each can send me exploring the possibilities for hours, if not days.

A question from someone at a show, and I find myself still trying to find the answer that will satisfy three days later. The ultimate answer. In the chair, clay in hand. New possibilities literally unfolding.

There are risks. I can't follow instructions for a project anymore. I can't seem to get very far before I am asking, "what if..." You may find yourself as I am now. Buried deep in "too many" ideas. Not enough hours in the day, or days in the week. I don't know about you, but I am willing to live with these outcomes. I am willing to let that persistent voice be heard. It still doesn't speak with a megaphone. I need to be quiet enough to pay attention. Away from the distractions of computers, cell phones, televisions, radios, etc. Just me that creative voice. Persistent. Asking questions. Scary, I know. But look at all the people lining up for the scary rides at amusement parks. Being a bit scared can be a good thing.

The next time you are at the fork, see if you can let yourself explore the new path. Nothing truly bad will happen. And something wonderful just might.

1 comment:

trina said...

Hmmm. this is definetly going into my Creativity file. I have been collecting bits and pieces ever since I was writing for Polyzine. Even if it never becomes a full blown article there are a lot of interesting viewpoints out there.