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Friday, June 1, 2012

How Creativity Works...or doesn't

     I am currently in the midst of a big fat writer's block...I have some things I have been working and working on and not finishing, and some things I am waiting (and waiting!) to learn the fate of...and I am also  hoping for a light bulb to go off because I am in desperate need of a new good idea.  And while I am not-so-busy doing all of that, I am reading Jonah Lehrer's book IMAGINE   How Creativity Works.  It's been a wonderful distraction.  I now know that I must surround myself with walls painted blue, travel,  or move to a big busy city.  In addition I have also been assured that "...the feeling of frustration - the act of being stumped - is an essential part of the creative process..." Thank goodness!
Some of his information is familiar to me; like the benefits of surrounding yourself with a mixture of people and sharing ideas, interrupting your focus by taking a break when you are in a rut, or just letting go (when we  have become guilty of "constraining our own creativity.")  I have skimmed through much of the technical left brain/right brain, alpha wave rhythms and neuroscientific stuff, though I am now saddened as well as terrified to have learned of frontotemporal dementia.  What has intrigued me the most have been the anecdotal gems about the invention of the Swiffer by Procter and Gamble, how Nike came up with their "Just Do It' slogan, where the first Barbie Doll came from, and 3M's emphasis on innovation.  I was particularly surprised with Pixar's innovative office design, placing all of the employee restrooms in such a central location as to necessitate all employees interacting.  "The studio knows that an office in which everyone is interacting is the most effective at generating new ideas, as people chat at the bathroom sink...The secret of Pixar from the start has been its emphasis on teamwork, this belief that you can learn a lot from your coworkers...that's always when the best stuff happens: when someone tells you something you didn't already know..."
Feeling hopeless is one of the most common frustrations of many a creative journey.  Even Bob Dylan at one point told his manager he was done writing songs and had nothing else to say.  In 1965 he planned to move to Woodstock, leaving his guitar behind, to write a novel.  And it was out of his having felt at an end of one phase of his career; after he'd stopped searching, "...an answer arrived...."  Lehrer speaks of such tales of insight following an impasse, of eureka moments, how in that lonely Woodstock cabin Dylan found a way to fully express himself.  From hopelessness "he rewrote the possibilities of music."  "Like a Rolling Stone" was the result. 
So there's hope for all of us. Though in the meantime you can act like a 3M employee.  If they are struggling (with a difficult technical problem) they are actively encouraged to lie down on a couch by a sunny window, play a game of pinball, or daydream.  Sounds creative to me.

1 comment:

  1. Purchased this book for a college class it was quickly shipped and came in handy for the assignments I needed to complete.

    Zaira Lynn (Skagway AK)