Sunday, March 30, 2014

Teaming with Creativity

Creativity produces new thoughts, ideas, solutions, approaches and work. Here the old saying ‘like attracts like’ applies. To produce something new always requires change. Capacities we already have will as a rule generate variations rather than innovations. 

Fresh insights require an equally fresh mind. Take the arrival of new ideas.

They rarely come out of the blue. Often they will announce themselves in vague notions, more felt than thought.  Eventually they will surround us like fine mist, an almost knowing. In time they will condense and hover like clouds over the horizon of the mind, shifting their form while we form our thought. The moment our mind fully matches the ideas, they are there.

The reason they were not there before is that the new ideas had to rearrange the old ones, and sometimes delete them. Creativity is inevitably a conversation between what we know and what we don’t know, the past and the future. This takes time. And patience. Unless we savor the cloud of unknowing its lightning bolt may not hit us. To hold this tension, to await the maturing of insights is crucial in creative practice. (The English poet John Keats called this ‘negative capability’.)

This is difficult in an age obsessed with speed. And yet it is necessary. For the time taken in the beginning saves time in the end. Creativity cannot be rushed, as our own timing is not the only agenda to be considered here. In the case of new insights, it is a two-way process that involves us as well as the emerging ideas. Both need time to mature and adjust to each other. This adjustment process helps us to court ideas and come to know them. It also helps ideas to come to know us; that is, to rework our thinking and remove the obstacles that stand in their way.

If this sounds unusual, remember that the unusual is the domain of creativity. At any rate the notion of ideas as independent entities reforming our mind is worth exploring. Research into neuroplasticity shows that new thinking changes the brain over time. The same research shows that those who believe that their thinking can change their brains are much more successful in changing it than those who don’t.

Obviously the idea changes the thinking and the thinking the brain. It stands to reason that if we think of ideas as co-creative entities ready to collaborate then they may indeed become so (or work on us so we can perceive them as such).

I suggest you put this idea to the test. You need not subscribe to it fully. You will, however, need to engage with it. Do it in the way of actors who completely identify with Hamlet on stage without dying his death. Play with the idea, but play with it seriously.

No matter if you are seeking solutions, penning poems or starting a business, painting pictures or renovating your house, allow your project to be an entity in its own right. Give it time, space, attention. Treat it with respect. Make it a partner rather than an abstraction. And most importantly: see it as a creative entity with a major contribution to make. This will change your approach. Previously you may have looked for a new insight, now new insights are looking for you.

Of course, if you are happy squeezing ideas from brain cells inside a dark skull there is no need to change. Keep on going to where you already are. If however, you are willing to try a more innovative approach, give this a go. Begin to communicate with ideas. Treat them as equals and you won’t be alone. Accept them as partners and you will be supported. Introduce them into your life and they will initiate you into theirs. You will be in good company. You will be teaming with creativity.

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