Saturday, January 6, 2018

On Creativity and your Creative Self

Creativity and all types of creativity are God-given, divinely inspired at least I think so! Yet some of it can be quite destructive depending on where its motive and source is rooted in. Take for example a cartoonist who draws political cartoons can use his or her art form to convey thought-provoking humor that helps in uniting people, or their work can be used for furthering the divide between different factions.  I believe knowing the source while doing innovative work and knowing your heart while pursuing the motive behind it is crucially important for few reasons:

1) It may be the "work" that may define you

2) It may be "work" that will affect a generation or generations to come. Think of C.S. Lewis's work "The Chronicles of Narnia"  or Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings"  or for example the work of Scottish philosopher Adam Smith's "An inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations"  became the precursor to the entire discipline of Economics.

3) It may be "work" that will become a blessing or a curse that will shape the present and the future.

Creative people are faced with the dilemma often followed after their big "reveal" or their life achievement identifying success has been unveiled to the world. This dilemma turns to be the dread of being that one-shot wonder (known or unknown) that has killed scores of artists in the pits of despair, the quagmires of disappointments, and the wells of depression.  Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of "Eat, Pray, Love" recounts her fascinating discovery of developing some sort of psychological construct in protecting herself from the early self destruction that may be helpful for creatives. I found her 2009 TED talk fascinating as she narrates how her search led to ancient Greece & Rome where people believed that creativity in human beings didn't necessarily come from themselves. It came from divine attendant spirits whom they referred as "daemons." Socrates famously believed that he
had a daemon who gave him wisdom or Euhler the Swiss mathematician who revealed most of his ideas came from revelations from above.  Elizabeth Gilbert opines that this fact is quite a brilliant idea at it creates the distance or some sort of separation from the creator of the work and the work itself. This also helps in protecting the creator from the results of his or her work. If the creative work was brilliant you as an artist couldn't take credit for it because this creative genius spirit around you helped in realizing it or if the work bombed it's not entirely your fault either. The renaissance period changed all this as the focus solely now shifted on the artist/creator as the center of genius who produced the work; rational humanism reduced to reason that creativity came solely from the individual and there was no divine or some "spirit" led inspiration.  The mystery thus diffused in proclaiming human self and human achievement as the sole source for the creative output.  This has directed to some disastrous ends in creative lives. I believe it's not that rational or straightforward,  there is some mystery involved in each one of us.  Because this is the very idea I stated at the beginning of this post, we who decide to produce some creative work the source is somewhere, it does come from someone, and it is in this mysterious process involving some sort of partnership not entirely explainable - magical work gets produced.

Gilbert recounts beautifully the story of her meeting the American poet Ruth Stone who shared with her when she was a young woman working in the fields in rural Virginia she often would hear a poem barreling down the landscape like a thunderous train of air, shaking the earth under her feet. The only thing Ruth knew to do then was to "run like hell"  to get into her house chased by this poem to get to a piece of paper and pencil fast enough to write it down before it left.  The other times when she was not fast enough, it would barrel through her and continue across the landscape looking "for another poet."

Transcendence or original work be it in a dance, a musical composition, writing, or in any other art form does happen from time to time. Songwriter Gregory Douglas quotes "Creativity is this elusive spiritual connection that I am convinced every creative person is in constant pursuit of, whether they know it or not. As a singer/songwriter myself, I often describe my own creative process as a spiritual one because I am channeling something from somewhere unknown every time I write songs – as if I’m pulling information out of thin air. It feels like a collaboration with the universe in some ways. It doesn’t always deliver a promising outcome, but when it does, there is an undeniable source at hand that provides key ingredients outside of my realm of understanding".  I believe this is not just limited to artistic or what we label as "creative" fields but can be in business, a design process, ideas, or for any subject matter where human ingenuity and creativity are involved. That is when it is no longer just human, but a juxtaposition with the spiritual plane or one that falls in the unique intersection with the divine - or a mystery coming through some unknown portal brought down from the heavens to the earth that then becomes this creative output which turns to become a blessing to many.


Time Buckets