This week I was listening to an episode of Elise Gets Crafty, an amazing small business/creatives podcast, in which Elise interviews Jen Lara who has done a lot of study on creativity. She defined two kinds of creativity; expressive or inventive. Expressive creativity is creating as we think of artists, painting, dancing, music etc. Inventive creativity is a part of that, but it is also much larger. Inventive creativity is problem solving, it is ideation, it is coming up with new-ness. This is the kind of creativity I was sure I had none of. I have always struggled to come up with ideas. I can make things, I can follow instructions, but I cannot invent new things. But in this podcast episode Jen is telling me that creativity can be exercised and encouraged. Really?
Which aligned very well with something the next guest Charles Limb had to say about his research on jazz pianists. He was astounded (as we all should be) by the pure creativity of their work, and as a researcher decided to find out what was going on inside their brains. Naturally this meant MRIs fitted with keyboards. Watching the jazz pianists' brains Limb hypothesized that their self-monitoring systems were being suppressed while they played. What are self monitoring systems? Thats stuff like self consciousness, and self judgment. All the things that keep us from making "mistakes", or doing things "wrong". The judging, deciding, consciousness in their brains, hypothetically, is turned off to allow their creativity to flow. They get out of their own way, take risks with music and we love it. So why do most of us struggle to be creative?
Jen Lara says in the podcast that the biggest gains in creativity happen in elementary school, And in the TED radio hour Sir Ken Robinson says that schools teach us that being wrong is the worst thing that we can do. Following our previous logic, our creativity is often stifled, right when we should be getting most of it! Jen has some attainable hope for us though. She talked about two exercises to try and grow creativity. One is just finding multiple answers or solutions to a question, obviously in a real life situation you would then have to pare down the answers, but being able to create possibilities is part of creativity. The second activity to grow creativity Jen suggested was to find two random objects in your house and try to find a connection between them. Like what is the connection between a banana and a stapler (What is it? put yours in the comments!). We can grow our creativity!!
That creativity exercise made me excited because I actually have a board game all about making connections between random things. It is called Connexio, and since it apparently will help us all become more creative we should play it. Although I must admit it is challenging, which means it is working out my creativity muscles right?
The last guest on the TED radio hour was Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat. Pray. Love. (which I'll admit I haven't read, have you? should I go pick it up?) She defined creativity as "going into the uncertain". She also spoke about fear, and she used a hilarious image of fear and creativity as conjoined twins. She said that fear was always going to be with us when we do creative things but that we should not let fear make any of the choices. Just like Sting said, to be creative, we have to take the risk.
Let me know in the comments what your thoughts on and experiences of creativity are!
Ted Radio Hour Episode
Elise Gets Crafty Episode
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
This book is quick, inspiring and honest. I enjoy his writing style immensely, and think everyone should read all his books. Which you can likely find at the library.
The Book of Doing by Alison Arden
I have done projects out of this book in other blog posts (here, here, here and here), and if you need challenges to help you get out of your routine, this will definitely help.
The Flinch by Julien Smith
This is also a challenge book, but shorter and sweeter and more to the point. it is just 2.99 in the Kindle store, and it will definitely make you think and do.