Bringing Creativity to Life

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It seems to me that while creativity means change, not all change is creative.

It is often said that the only certainty is change. Which doesn’t make it any less true.

But there are different kinds of change — or at least different evaluations of changes made.

Trivial Change

Most changes make only a small difference to our happiness or frustrations, to our relationships and schedules. We can usually adjust fairly readily to a change in the bus timetable or a button falling off a piece of clothing.

“Change” in the Same Direction

While each step from my place to my neighbour’s brings new sights and perspectives, these are all set within the broader context of the journey. In some sense each step is a change, but the direction is unchanged.

Change in the same direction is quite common. For decades the change in computers was in one direction — more features, a wider range of applications, increased memory, and greater speed. It is only lately that this has changed, with notebook computers — used to do only a few things and with quite limited capacity compared to other computers — becoming popular. This is a change in direction to some extent: the emphasis is on usability for one task rather than the capacity to do many things.

“The more things change…”

Sometimes change seems to go in cycles. What’s fashionable often seems to go in 20 year cycles (due to the age of the design graduates?). Can it be that the 80’s will really be the source for new fashion? Let’s hope the move to the 90’s come quickly.

There are the natural cycles of the seasons, and the boom and bust of the business cycle.

These changes are patterned. There is predictability in the longer time frame if not at the day to day scale.

Spotting the pattern brings a sense of perspective to this kind of change. The more quick the change the more easily this can happen. We are all aware of the change from day to night. Those in public office are aware of the news cycle; and those who watch the media get used to scare campaigns.

While it is true that a cycle is not a circle — each day or season or scare campaign is different — knowing the cycles gives us a sense of sameness, that change happens but that it isn’t making much of a difference.

It seems to me that while creativity means change, not all change is creative.

Art and Creativity

Many an artist isn’t terribly creative. The easiest way to make a living is to find something that is widely liked and to keep doing it. This doesn’t mean that the product isn’t beautiful or excellent in some way — just that it isn’t necessarily creative. It may well be that other values are more important: we may prefer a piece of music be played predictably well than creatively (especially if we have paid a lot of money for concert tickets). James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, written in its own invented language, is undoubtedly extremely creative. Hands up all those who’ve read it; me neither.

Creativity, Change and Spontaneity

It seems to me that creativity is a particular form of change. It is more than trivial and not just following a pattern. It seems to me that creativity is change that makes a difference.

Creativity is a kind of significant change. This means that it may take trial and error and consistent work.

I don’t think what is ‘spontaneous’ is always creative. Brainstorming produces many ideas or options, but it is rare that many are creative. (These ideas or options may be used later to find a creative solution to a problem; but many of the ‘spontaneous’ ideas or options themselves are clich├ęd and habitual. At least this is my consistent experience of brainstorming sessions.)

Creativity and Habit

It seems to me that creativity moves us out of our ruts. Creativity breaks or plays with patterns, and so creates a new pattern. This new pattern may then become a new habit.

Perhaps my partner and I have a way of getting ready in the morning that is quite frustrating to both of us. To find a new way may take a surprising amount of creative work. One of the pay-offs for this creative work is that this new pattern can become habitual.

The creative moment is transient. Yesterday’s creative insight is today’s given. The last generation’s innovation in an art or craft is routine for today’s students of that art or craft.

Creativity in Our Lives

While creativity may not be all there is to life, without it our lives can become mundane and tedious. Our habits become ruts and we feel stale.

How can we live more creatively? I think there are several things we can do.

Pausing
This is harder than it sounds. We’re in a rut because it is a habit; the behaviour happens with little if any thought. Breaking this reaction takes a bit of work. To change my morning routine may mean putting up a sign, that I see as soon as I wake up, reminding me to do something different. I have often found that I am several minutes into a routine that I want to change before I remember that I wanted to change it. Those who’ve given up smoking will know how habits can be very difficult to break.
Seeing the Pattern
If we can see the pattern then we will have a sense that we know what is going on. It may help us zero in on one particular thing that we want to change.
Considering Alternatives
We may think up alternatives to what we are currently doing by ourselves or we may learn of alternatives from others. A phrase that has helped me is: there are always six options. This is a good reminder; there may be less than six, however I have usually found that there are more.
Playing
It is easy to get serious and linear (I blame our schooling); I have often found that it is helpful to lighten up and just have fun playing around. While playing it is OK to be ridiculous and consider the impossible. Edward de Bono invented the word “Po” as a formal permission for this process. It can be helpful to introduce it to a group that is uptight and unable to relax.

To live a satisfying life I think we need to be creativity, to be able to change and find new ways of doing things. I’d like to hear about the challenges that have lead you to make creative changes in your own life. Please tell me your experience in the comments.

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