Friday, June 17, 2011

Being Creative

Lauren Says: 

When Ell-Leigh first suggested we write about the importance of being creative, I laughed in a, “Oho! Creative, important, yes!” *Gulp!* kind of way. Creativity, demonstrating it and possessing it, has always been a rather anxious issue for me and my reaction made this quite clear.

In my childhood creativity was held up as a commodity, or at least, that’s the way I saw it. Artistic talent and creativity were linked in a way that meant those who could draw, sing, dance or sculpt pretty things were good and those who couldn’t, were bad. Not in an overtly discriminatory way, definitely not in a ‘separated into opposing groups like the blue eyed/brown eyed experiment’ kind of way, but in such a way that I, at least, felt it.

You see, I can’t draw very well. In fact I’m not particularly good with any type of hand-work, so sculpting, painting and carving were all struck off the list as well. Nor can I dance in a way that garners praise or, much to my constant disappointment, sing particularly tunefully. As a child, there seemed to be a push to be able to do these things, and a sense that while you could be whip smart, fantastic at arithmetic and spelling, a master of organisation and even particularly sporty, if you weren’t artistic then you weren’t creative and you were really lacking that something. It was, and bear with my while I sound overly dramatic, almost as though you were a little less of a ‘full human’ if you didn’t possess creative talent. (Thinking about this always reminds me very much of the children needing to be creative in Kazuo Ishiguro’s book NeverLet Me Go. I think Tommy’s struggle with the issue is one of the main reasons I love that book).

It was at about eighteen or nineteen, while I worked through my Bachelor of Theatre Arts degree (a course I took all the while fighting the little voice inside which cried, “But you are not creative!!”) that I had an epiphany about creativity. Creativity and ‘artistic-ness’ are not linked. Not, at least, as I had believed. Artistic skill or talent is relative; it depends on what our society likes at the time and what each persons own preferences. Creativity, on the other hand, is a little bit more definitive. It is the ability to think differently than we have been, to solve problems, adapt to situations, see opportunities and manipulate our world.

In terms of how important I think it is to be creative, well first I have to shift this ingrained idea that creativity is linked to ‘making pretty things’ and my sadness about my own inability to do so and focus on what creativity really is. And, once I’ve done that, I can tell you that I think it’s incredibly important. When I consider the people I know who ‘feel down’, or the times when I have myself, it’s always linked to a feeling of being trapped or stuck in a routine, life or world that doesn’t have any movement. Everything is the same and nothing is exciting anymore, there’s no colour, no light and seemingly no way out. Why?  I think it’s because the person has either forgotten or is not able to work their life creatively.

If you are living creatively you are seeing the opportunities you have to turn all situations into good, positive and worthwhile experiences; you are working out problems not just watching them; you are active rather than passive or aggressive. I would argue that holding creativity, with all its energy and wakefulness, is the state that we are naturally meant to sit in as people, and that without it we are lost and unhappy.

Creativity is not about artistic-ness or visual aesthetics, but it is about the beauty of life. A business that is run creatively in a way that allows for growth, flexibility and new ideas is a thing of beauty to see and experience. There is a harmony there that speaks to us, and the owners, managers, employees and clients will feel this and be happy. There is no one better way to be creative than others. The creativity of a baker who experiments with ingredients to bake the healthiest and most delicious loaf of bread is no more than that of a secretary who solves scheduling conflicts with astounding ease. A novelist may be no more creative than a teacher or a salesperson or a stay at home dad, but all these people may utilise their ability to live creatively to different degrees, and that’s what makes the difference.

I can’t draw well because I’m not particularly visually oriented and I have weak hands. All this means is that I’m not a drawer. I do my best work when manipulating and sharing ideas and I do this best when I do it creatively. We all possess creativity, but it’s a muscle that needs to be practised and strengthened through use and time. It’s scary to use it, because doing anything differently than we have been told or shown means we have take the responsibility for the actions we’ve chosen and their consequences. But it’s that challenge and adventure that keep us vital, happy and looking forward.

Creativity is important. So is making sure we understand what that really means. I think right now our society can lack both the understanding of and push for creativity. And that’s why things sometimes seem not so great, and more so than seems normal. We need to work on this, as individuals and as a group, as role models, friends and family members. Creativity is important.

Ell-Leigh Says: 

When I suggested to Lauren that we write about creativity, I’d really suggested more that we write about the idea that to be a writer/actor/creative artist in any way shape or form that you had to do creative things everyday. As it turns out, she was creatively lead in a different direction – however this is what I’ll be writing about, as it’s something that has niggled at me for a long time. For some reason it has been drilled into my tortured noggin that creative artist = morning pages, daily writing or setting aside half an hour of every 24 in order to work on your craft despite your day job. I can pinpoint the moment when I first took this belief on board; it was sitting in a large class full of all of the creative arts students in first year, when my lecturer told us about morning pages and The Artists Way, which caused an influx of library holds on the book and a number of online purchases (including one myself).

But do real artists actually take their time out to do these things? And how much of a certain thing constitutes enough? Are the ten minutes I spend thinking of awesome concepts for Lady Gaga film clips while I chop up carrots for lunch able to be considered part of my “working on my craft” time? Or when, on a whim, I decide to dream cast the novel I’m reading, or re-cast an old film I’m watching for an imaginary remake, am I just giving into my film-nerdy side, or can I add these points to “creative time”? Do I get points for critically analysing the episode of Glee I just watched with my sister, or making time in my schedule to watch a classic film I’d hadn’t yet seen, or for the creative new analogy I just thought of to describe how different Superannuation fund structures work?

I spend a lot of “the rest of my day” being creative, and yet I’m forced to sit at my computer in agony trying to think of some spark of an idea to write a page of creative writing about.

It doesn’t matter if it sucks! Says the mentors, and the books. The Artist’s Way, from what I can remember of the four chapters I read in second year, makes quite an effort of helping you to shut your inner critic up. Isn’t that the same inner critic which helps you determine that you need to write another draft before it’s ready to see the light of day, thus saving your arse from embarrassment? And isn’t that the same inner critic that helps the director strive to make the shot more beautiful, or keeps his eyes and ears keen for continuity errors? The same critic who makes the edit just that bit tighter, and the score just that bit more tender?

No one’s inner critic should cripple them, or stop them from creating at all, but surely when someone who doesn’t write and hasn’t ever naturally felt the impulse to – say, a dancer, or an actor who has reading and writing difficulties – won’t they, of course, feel crippled by their inner critic the minute they pick up a pen or their fingers hit the keyboard? Won't that in turn make them feel like even more of a failure, despite being quite brilliant at their chosen artform? And don't you still feel a little sucky when you know what you've made isn't terribly good and that you didn't really want to make it in the first place?

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that the standard I have in my head doesn’t seem to work for everyone, and it sure as heck doesn’t seem to be working for me. But how do we move around it? What do we do instead, when all we know is that we should write a few pages a day, come rain, hail or shine, essentially in order to prove we’re creative? Is working on your craft every single day really that necessary? Or is it that we depend on these creative daily rituals to prove to ourselves that 'yes, I am a creative artist - my notebooks full of crappy writing morning pages proves it?'

It’s times like these I wish I could just call Quentin Tarantino or John Lasseter (could I have picked two directors whose work is further apart?) and ask them what it is that they do in between projects in order to stay “creative”. I wish I could shoot Tina Fey or Stephen Fry or Cate Blanchett an email and ask them if they need to prove to themselves that they're creative sometimes. Maybe I should go to Video Ezy and rent out all the available dvds of The Actor’s Studio

please click images for sources.  

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