Creative Juice

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.
—Pablo PicassoCrayon Test 1 by _PaulS_ on Flickr

That is hands down one of my all-time favorite quotes. If I were a tattoo-oriented kind of girl, I would probably have it inked onto my hand. Preferably in the original Spanish.

It seems like there has been a recent upsurge in books, articles, blog posts, and assorted media content geared towards jump-starting personal creativity. Although this perception could very well be related to the websites I tend to visit and/or the mailing lists I subscribe to, I still feel like the quantity of this content has increased dramatically.

As someone who is extremely interested in the nature of creativity, I very much enjoy reading this stuff. I think it serves as a window into our cultural values as they relate to creativity. This was probably the first book I read devoted exclusively to the topic (honestly I found it a bit froo-froo for my taste, but many people swear by the exercises, so whatever works!), and although I have not tackled anywhere near the many that are currently available, this one caught my visual learning eye. I like it because whether or not you physically write down answers to the questions, the questions—with big blank thought bubbles around them—do make you think.

I wonder what is causing this new self-help flood. Is it due to the economic downturn of recent years, during which time people have lost jobs and income, and perhaps feel there is nothing to lose when it comes to trying something risky and “outside the box?” Or is the U.S. in a creativity crisis? Considering the radical cuts to arts education and funding, this would not be surprising. These books and ideas can be truly helpful for a lot of people. Sometimes a shot of inspiration delivered by another artist, or even just approaching an everyday action from a different angle is exactly what’s needed to light the creative fire. However, I wonder about the implied messages they send. For instance, that creativity is special, and you probably don’t have it. That’s why you need this book. Even the books assuring us that creativity is not magic and that anyone can unlock it are wielding all kinds of assumptions. When did it get locked up, anyway?

Personally, I blame a mixture of the pressures of adulthood and the 19th century. Somewhere in there, for a ton of people, creativity became compartmentalized; separated from daily life and as such, an unapproachable luxury for many.

To add to the confusion, abundant creative thinking is expected at every turn in many workplaces. Job descriptions want “innovative thinkers” at many different levels. So if these self-help manuals are to be believed, innate creativity is something we don’t normally have, and yet we are supposed to be cornucopias of new ideas on the job. What?

No wonder all these books are selling like hotcakes! As interesting and inspiring as they may be, they can become diversions from the task at hand—making something. I think Picasso had it right in his belief that ultimately, creative acts come from, well, action.

3 thoughts on “Creative Juice

    1. william c wesley

      I believe I have the best working definition of creativity. Many have linked it to “special abilities” such as “intellegence” or “talent”.This group tends to see it as endowed by genes

      Yet another school of thought links it to “virtue” such as “perseverence” or “dedication”, this group sees it as endowed by pracice

      The first school is easilly cast into doubt because highly creative solutions often come from people who are not always particularly “gifted”, although being “gifted” does not hurt.

      The second school of thought is also easilly caste into doubt because highly creative solutions often come from people who were not even “focused” although being focused does not hurt.

      I think creativity reflects the LACK of something, NOT the PRESENCE of something and this is why nearly all advice about creativity is of limited value

      Creativiy is the automatic byproduct of the inability to value conformity for conformities sake. A creative person is interested in a subject for the subjects sake. CREATIVE thinking is the exact 180 degree opposit of POLITICAL thinking which values a subject for politics sake

      If a gene responsible for an individuals being attracted to conformity for conformities sake is MISSING it will allow for enhanced creativity in its absence

      If a pracice that encourages an individual to conform for conformities sake is MISSING it will allow for enhanced creativity in it absence

      Political success stronly tends to make one vulnerable to creative failure, while creative sucess strongly tends to make one vulnerable to political failure

      An advanced society segregates these two functions so they are protected from on another, not requiring creativity where politics is most required or requiring politization where creativity is most required.

      We are not an advanced society.

      Reply
  1. Nathan Shirley

    There are a lot of interesting ideas out there for what can trigger inspiration. Another factor to consider is WHEN the human mind is most open to such inspiration. Personally I’ve found that when I am closest to sleep, at night, and first thing in the morning, my mind is more flexible and ideas come more readily. I think it is this proximity to the subconscious mind that is key. Naps are very useful for this as well.

    The sources of inspiration may lie dormant in the mind. By nearing sleep they are more easily awakened.

    Reply

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