Fighting Creativity

Have you seen the reality shows? The ones in which ‘creative’ people compete against each other to see who is best, winner take all, loser told they have a promising future and almost as an insult, don’t give up? Do you watch the sideshow and wait for the comments of the judges? And do you see how creatives accept this pitting against each other in pursuit of a dream instead of banding together for a bigger one? We fight for the scraps instead of our rights to sit at the table for the meal.

Creativity right now is relegated to mere entertainment, boxed into the arts, allowed to come out and play but never taken seriously. Even when you brainstorm, what are you told? When you have an idea, that’s when the creativity isn’t needed, rein in that divergent thinking and converge your thoughts. After creativity has started the work, it’s time for it to step aside for the real thinking, for the logical mind. Now it’s time to get down to business and get the idea tested, fixed and finally ready to share–creativity is often hustled off the stage and into the waiting room.

There are those schools out there who would rather not teach creativity for there are other, more important things. There are articles I’ve read that creativity should be tested like IQ, graded no doubt with multiple choice questions and a tired nine dot grid. There are apps to do creative thinking for us coming soon.

What is the point to a rant unless there is a solution offered?

Creativity shouldn’t be in the shadow of the critical anymore. It is not lesser, lighter thinking and it deserves its due. It is no ugly stepsister, but an equal, worth not being taken for granted or humored like a child.

I am asking you to daydream, brainstorm and come up with the off the wall idea. But when you do, don’t do what you are told, don’t put the creativity back in the box. Extend out–what would happen if you kept going with creative thinking and brainstormed a brainstormed idea further? What if you tried to make the off the wall idea work instead of the critical thinking of scaling/backing down to make it more doable? As a TED talk said, THINK BIG. Why NOT?

I will walk the talk too and am. November is the online National Novel in a Month contest (write 50k words). I took the topic what if kids could design their own lives and am writing a book. 12K words as of this morning (day 6) but I am going to try 5k today. I’ve been using an interesting technique which works. I am using critical thinking tools to brainstorm; the things you are supposed to use second, I am using first to inspire and to fuel creative thinking. Critical thinking does make you more creative and after my 50K, I hope to have another book to write on how.

Creatives have their place in the world, they don’t have to beg or demand attention, they have to stop acting like second class citizens. It’s time to fight back, but not in the expected way. Be more creative without apology OR explanation. Let logical thinkers reason out what you are doing and why–remember critical thinking does make you more creative and so, here’s the best part, they will be too :). The secret is to no longer let the dream be laughed at, but to laugh at ourselves for not dreaming MORE.


Not a Creative Failure

We think if we change the definition of failure, we cannot fail.  Or if we change what creative means to us or others, we also cannot fail. One of the most definitive rejections of my life came after the rather cruelly worded rejection letter.  Even as I was devastated by yet another perceived failure, the worst came from a loved one who said, “Face it, maybe you were not meant to be a writer.  Maybe you never will be published.  Maybe this is it.  Maybe this is all you were meant to be. ”

Failure is never harder than when you’re a failure to a loved one.

 I could tell you it was tough love, reverse psychology, a radical encouragement to take away the shoulder to lean on to see if I could stand, an attempt to kick me out of the nest, but I was there, I’ll be honest.  That person really meant what was said, even if I paraphrase all of it.  I had to consider what I was and could be and if that person was right.  I had to face harming the relationship because even though that the person was more important than any creative endeavor, I didn’t know what else I could do or be instead.

Eventually I did write again, but I rarely ever again let the full extent of any hurt show, any kind of rejection.   They say you  get a thick skin, but even now failure can hurt.  Of course it matters whom we are being creative for. Accomplishments or attitude are not enough to judge whether we are “creative.”  Creative failure could have been not being who I was.  Hiding, settling, giving up, playing it stayed safe and only sharing creativity with those who understood or appreciated it or us.  That creative question is up to you.  But for me, I couldn’t stop trying to share what I loved even if I sometimes get knocked down again and again.  I have to get up and go on.  I still believe we are created to be creative and have free will to choose the ways, the amounts and the frequency.  I choose a lot. 

Everyone can think creatively and they do if they want to or need to or decide to.  Some will not do so in order to not be like everyone else.  Some will not do so because creative can be seen as weaker than logical thinking.  Past the emotion of the Eureka moment to whether the idea is as good the second time around, past the walls of rejection even by loved ones and through the tiniest gap between success and failure, there is something else.  It’s like when it all clicks and you just are.  Creative or maybe you will call it something else.  Not trying too hard, but relaxed into a greater and higher working gear, a glimpse of potential, a rightness in it all.  Some claim creativity just comes, some say you work until like “muscle memory” it kicks in, but it is being who you are in the moment and going ahead with the trust in that.  Even if you don’t know who you are meant to be or what, one answer is you living creatively by living as you.   We are the definition of creativity—something novel and unique, not like anything else, revolutionary, useful, new— that is the very definition of everyone, every single individual whose unique fingerprint and mindprint is transformative in the world.  We are not a creative failure not just because that is an oxymoron.  We are not creative failures as we have lived.

everyone is Creative

Howard Gardner talks about big C creativity–that genius level few achieve even with putting their all into getting there to transcend culture and to be truly revolutionary. Other experts feel we all can be little c’s in our creativity but I think everyone is big C creative. Here’s why:

creativity is from the heart. There are many gifts to give to who and what we treasure. creativity is one way to give part of us, to show love. Whether it is to God or family, friends or even in service to those we do not know, creativity from the heart is the big C.
We miss a lot when we don’t look for the masterpieces of today and when we separate soul from intellect. We can find creativity in the past, but we don’t have to. We can look for it in our thinking, but I believe that it is the heart that inspires our very best, our all. Our biggest creative risks, our greatest creative learning.
We miss a lot when we don’t see the reaching out, the not holding back, the beauty and greatness in people actually sharing so openly, so freely, for creativity is also very personal and often misunderstood.
Creativity not only transcends the ordinary, it can strive to get to it too. There are ways people are creative in greatest pain and that comes from the heart as well. People can be creative in a hospital bed or shut-in, reaching out around their limitations to the world. they can find ways to make life almost seem normal. Creativity from the heart is a shield against the hurt and a balm to care for those who are hurting.
What I know is that there are others far more creative than me. And I don’t care if I never become more creative, that’s not important.. I just want their heart.

Researching a Research Lab

Researching a Research Lab
At the “Tidewater Archeology Days,” visitors indulge once a year in their “Indiana Jones” fantasy while going behind the scenes at an actual 1648 excavation of Maryland’s first capital, St. Mary’s City. After sorting the fragments of brick and pottery from the dirt at the current dig, these living museum tourists ride a shuttle to the onsite archaeology research lab to explore what comes next in depth.
Digging up an artifact is only the beginning of the discovery. Like the artifacts they treasure, people journey inside a nondescript building as if they too are a piece of history. The first fact they uncover is that an artifact means nothing without its identifying code. As archaeologist Dr. Hurry explained, “just like real estate, the most important information about an artifact is location, location, location.” Lab researchers double check the labels the artifacts were each given at the dig site. The unusual part of the object’s “address” though is that it is the opposite of mailing addresses. While a specific numbered street address continues on to the more general locations of town and then state, artifacts are first labeled to indicate a very general area to more specific location coding, zeroing in on the plot and then layer of the dig site related to its original position.
Artifacts delivered to the lab on the first level may have different processing needs. Underwater finds such as bricks may need to be submersed to desalinate, but metallic or fragile items may not be washed or treated at all. Artifacts are assessed for whether to gently scrub the pieces of pottery or arrow heads with small brushes (sometimes using actual toothbrushes) before possibly being treated with solutions to preserve them. Just as the dig site requires extreme care because there are no chances to repeat or re-do the procedure, choices in cleaning and preserving are nonreversible as well. From the paper bags with labels awaiting review to the trays of finished items, the artifacts are each examined, processed and then finally sent to the lower level for cataloguing and storage.
This bottom area of the research lab resembles actually standing inside a manmade future dig site with layers of boxes holding artifacts stored on shelves in rows. Inside these acid free cardboard boxes are polystyrene plastic bags with holes in them to house the shards and pieces of the past. The artifacts are labeled again on their surface or with an acid free label inside the bag to ensure that any of them separated from the identically marked box won’t lose its location identity. In this basement the items are catalogued by hand in a three ring binder as well as on a computer record and more detailed records include the weight of the collected items, number found for each location and the dates as well. Most current efforts seem to be focused on saving the artifacts for future study rather than analyzing them further at this point.
While the St. Mary’s lab will be upgraded by 2014 to showcase a more formal, state of the art building with an x-ray machine (after all corroded items reveal much more with this technique), the ironic plain wrapper dwelling for an above ground treasure chest seems more fitting to the serene pastoral landscape around it. Perhaps it serves as a reminder to the visitor that a hidden Indiana Jones might lurk under our nondescript exteriors as well, if only for a weekend at a remote location by the bay.

Book news

I’m to mention today that my two books, A Sensible Match and Courting Constance, are for sale half price Amazon kindle. And maybe too that they are books.

like other writers, I must promote my books. They are after all part of me, a past part that dreamed characters and story. Not children, but linked to my heart as play toys and memories and favorite gifts are.

They survived editing and were better for it.  I survived the rejection letters to hold copies in my hands and now ask the other kinds be bought instead. Digital age, digital words.

take a look if you wish, but know that the fire to write still burns. Even as I pen other stories, I don’t forget the first ones.

Thanks for the read, the moment. I have to write for college for a little while longer and then I’ll come back. But thank those poor professors for making me a better writer. God bless them. I pay to have them read my work so that you’ll find it worthwhile to pay to read my words. The best is yet to come.

Crossing over to other fields

I’m supposed to blog here for class and required to blog in another place for an April writing assignment for my publisher.

This writer blog is not the true lesson I’ve just recently had to apply at my work (which makes the class conflicts look easier than the road I will have to take), but the link below does show I’m trying to learn and apply in new ways and places.

See April 5th blog

Experimenting: on me, not them

I’m finding it harder and harder to remain clinical in these personal assignments.  As I “experiment” on people to complete this “reflectful” blog, I also want to remain respectful and compassionate.  What if the people that I’ve chosen to have a conversation with or listen to empathetically find out that this was a project and not of my own initiative?  What if they thought I saw them as objects to analyze instead of relationships to deepen?  What if someone actually read my blogs?  Wouldn’t that perception or violation of trust ruin any good or confirm anything negative that might have occurred?

When I blog then, I have to be even more conscientious of what I share and the details—not to hide from their discovery but to show consideration for the people behind the dialogue.

I did the assignment yet took solace for finding a small way to rebel.  Instead of doing the difficult dialogue first and then rewarding myself with an easy/supportive one, I reversed the order.  I felt that having an easier conversation would enhance and create the possible positive atmosphere needed for the second.  In that sense, it did work.  I was more at ease and ready to listen and reach out.  Any more analysis than this should be about me and not them.

My coach chose colleagues over family and actually rehearsed some of what she wanted to say in the difficult conversation to focus on not getting caught up in the other person’s defensive and dismissive past behaviors.  Her approach of considering all the “futures” could be a useful thing as long as it doesn’t turn into a crutch for me and as long as I can improvise positively when people inevitably go “off script.”

My coachee reached out to two he could help through work through similar topics of conversations.  The interesting thing about his instances is that he didn’t try to connect each conversation or use one to balance/learn from the other one.  Each conversation was only about that specific person and listening to the frustration expressed. He used coaching questions too. It was not about telling either one that this challenge suddenly faced is something a lot of others go through, for as he explained, “that would devalue what they are going through.”  He gave his time to listen to what he had already heard before because that is what each needed him to do.

My attempt to connect the conversations then–mood, tone and outcome actually worked.  Yet I learned from my coachee that taking each conversation as a whole separate thing has an advantage too.  For if either of my conversations had not gone well, the other would have been affected.  I would have let it because I forced the comparison.  Yet had I done each conversation as a completely separate assignment like he did, then the risk of negative crossover would have been eliminated. 

(Extra bonus points for my coachee—our cell phones dropped this week’s call at LEAST six times in our half an hour and he cheerfully and persistently kept calling back!)