What is creativity? Are we all creative? What effect has creativity on our lives?
The Creative Brain.
Last week I came across a new Netflix documentary called The Creative Brain. I was really curious about it. Inventors, scientists, artists talk about what they think creativity is and they describe their creative process. I found it tremendously inspiring and hope it will inspire you too. 🙂
So here are a few ideas I loved.
What is creativity?
The famous Danish architect Bjarke Ingels says that he tries to materialize as many aspects of his design process as possible to give him and his team the best material for their imagination. Our imagination needs raw material so that it can come up with new ideas.
“Creativity is the power to IMAGINE the world that isn’t your world yet.” – Brajke Ingels
For example, Bjarke likes to take two things that already exist and which seem to be ‘two mutually exclusive ideas,’ and work with them, COMBINE them, until he can bring “a third brand new entity to life.” One of his latest projects illustrates this creative process perfectly. The Amager Resource Center (or ARC) waste-to-energy plant near Copenhagen, Denmark combines a plant with a ski slope on the roof.
What is our brain doing during the creative process?
Nathan Myhrvold is an avid inventor and prolific author who likes to do what he calls ‘unlikely things’. He takes things from one place and applies them in another, in a ‘completely different context’. He surrounds himself with a variety of influences and INPUTS.
All those inputs come to our brain and become part of the interplay of our neurons sending a countless number of electrical impulses. Our EXPERIENCES are the raw material for our brain. And they get transformed into new ideas.
In a similar manner, the famous American movie director and an award-winning visual effects supervisor and producer Phil Tippett
“Creativity is not creating something from nothing but taking what has already been there and TRANSFORMING it”.
– Phil Tippett
Robert Glasper, an American singer, pianist and record producer composes jazz music. In his view “Jazz is music made by mixing other music”. He sees creativity as an endless REMIX of inputs. That’s why he says: “Don’t wait for the muse!”
Don’t wait for the inspiration to come but rather go out to meet it. Experience as much as you can. And that experience will feed your creative process whatever that creative process might be.
USE AND INFORM
A novelist and short story writer Michael Chabon would agree. Michael takes ideas and inspiration anywhere he can. He does not aim to try to do something completely different from what has been created or written. Rather he tries to USE what is already out there. He lets those existing creations inform and help give shape and life to his own creative work. And although we are inspired by existing creations, what we create is unique due to our unique life experience.
Can creative process remake our lives?
Ehren Tool is a ceramic artist whose work has been heavily influenced by his service in the Gulf War. When he came back from the war he knew that he did not want to stay in the military service. So he was taking many different courses trying to find out what else he could do. Eventually, he started to work with pottery. Since 2001 Ehren has made and given away over 20,000 ceramic cups. For him making pottery is a creative outlet, a way to channel his feelings and MAKE A CONNECTION:
“I hope conversations flourish between veterans and the people who are close to them. I also hope that some honest conversation can happen about war and its causes.”
– Ehren Tool
YOUR LIFE MATTERS
A novelist and English professor Zachary Lazar found creativity in an unlikely place. Originally he visited the prison as a journalist trying to understand what happened to his father who was murdered when Zachary was just a boy. Zachary later wrote a book Evening’s Empire: The Story of My Father’s Murder.
But to his surprise, he found something else in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. He realised that there were many creative people there. And he started to come back with a new purpose. It was to help people in prison cultivate their creativity via creative writing courses. And how exactly is it helping them?
“It helps them see that they are important, that their LIVES MATTER and that other people pay attention to their lives”.
– Zachary Lazar
According to Zachary, crime and punishment “reduce people to the worst thing they have done in their lives”. And that does not really help their rehabilitation. During the creative process of writing, they can begin to see and appreciate themselves, sometimes for the first time in their lives.
An American actor, screenwriter, director, producer, and musician Tim Robbins, who you might remember from the movies The Shawshank Redemption or Dead Man Walking, runs a similar acting program for inmates in the California Penal System. Tim views Arts as an essential part of Prisoners Rehabilitation Program. He believes that nobody should be defined by their mistake for the rest of their lives. He has witnessed a transformation of the inmates by their involvement in the acting classes.
“Within the space of the acting class, they are not defined by their crime. They can experience that they have LEGITIMATE EMOTIONS and that they have the right to express them. They can feel WHOLE again.”
“Maybe depression, empty feelings are connected to the lack of creative sparks.” – Tim Robbins
It is not always easy to feel that we can express our emotions freely even outside of prison walls. Our society is not always open or welcoming. So perhaps if via practicing Arts we can express our emotions that we normally cannot, perhaps the creative process is essential to our happiness.
Tim Robbins’ Actors Gang Prison Project
How can we become more creative?
LEARN SOMETHING NEW
Nathan Myhrvold, the inventor I mentioned earlier, gives simple advice. If we want to be more creative we need to force our brain to get off the path of the least resistance. We need to TRY SOMETHING NEW, LEARN SOMETHING NEW. It can be a new job, a new skill to learn, a new hobby.
The problem with today world is that it often requires specialization. But as Nathan says, “you learn more and more about one thing, until you know everything about nothing.” The trick is not to be bound by specialization and keep learning new things.
BE FRUSTRATED AND CONFUSED
But part of that process are feelings that many of us are trying to avoid. The feeling of being FRUSTRATED, CONFUSED, and STUPID. Unfortunately, the only way to learn something new is to be willing to feel that way and willing to be WRONG.
Nick Cave, an Australian musician, singer-songwriter, probably best known for fronting the rock band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, has a similar approach to his music. Each time he sits down to work on a new record he tries to do something new, tries a new style, a new direction. Even though he has a big success with one record, he refuses to repeat the style. He PUSHES the BOUNDARIES OF COMFORT tirelessly.
“You never know until the end if it’s any good”.
– Nick Cave
By doing so he actually takes risks because he never knows how his audience is going to receive his new music. As he says about his creative process, writing a song can be quite excruciating, “You never know until the end if it’s any good.”
WORRY LESS ABOUT FAILING
An American television producer, writer, and director D.B. Weiss is today best known as a co-creator, showrunner, and writer of Game of Thrones.
Dan talks about his experience with FAILURE. It might surprise you but he regards his professional writing life as a series of many failures until the Game of Thrones. He does not regard failure as something to be avoided, but rather as something essential to the creative process. In order to be more creative, you should “WORRY LESS ABOUT YOUR FAILING.” Even if you are not satisfied with your creative work today, you can do another tomorrow. You can paint another picture, write another page, compose another song.
Let’s sum it up
Creativity is imagination, an ability to imagine something that is not right in front of us, something that does not exist yet. We need to take in lots of new inputs, experiences, and stimuli, and then by combining, breaking apart, putting together, transforming, and by endless remixing we can bring new entities to life.
We all posses the power of imagination
We all are creative because we all possess the power of imagination. But life and society around us often do not encourage creativity. And even our brain defaults to the familiar and to the comfort zone.
Try something new and risk failure
If we want to nurture creativity we should force our brain to try something new, learn something new. We need to embrace some feelings that are not very pleasant. Because without feeling frustrated, confused, or stupid, there is no new learning. We have to be willing to be wrong and push ourselves out of our comfort zone.
Feel whole and be connected
As a reward being part of a creative process can transform our lives. We can experience that we do not have to be defined by the mistakes we made. We can feel more connected to others, make a conversation, feel that we matter, that our lives matter. We can express our feelings and feel whole again.
If you are interested in this topic, stay tuned. More will be coming from my own research soon! 🙂 Oh, and don’t wait for the muse!