Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What is Creativity? - 12

I wrote in an earlier post that if asked whether self-expression was the impetus to creativity, I'd check all three boxes: Yes, No, and Maybe. I wrote that, in my experience, problem-solving seemed the impetus. David Hare said in a recent interview that he wrote "Skylight" because, after he'd written a number of plays that covered the sweep of history, he wanted to write a one-room play. A friend's short story was written as an experiment with time - could he remove time completely from a story and still it have work.

But that same friend posited recently that expression must be the impetus. He used the example of a 2-year-old singing. He wasn't singing any music he'd heard before, he was creating the tune as he sang. He suggested that the child wasn't aware he was singing. I agreed. If someone asked him what he was doing, the child would probably answer, "Nothing." He wouldn't say, "I'm singing." He was just being, and part of his being alive was creating music.

One of the "Skylight" characters says that he creates restaurants and hotels because that's what he does, that's who he is.

Is creativity, then, not the need to express ourselves TO the external world, but to allow ourselves to BE who we are?

To be continued.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What Is Creativity - 11

I ended last week with a question about the relationship between creator and audience. .

A student today said that he'd begun to notice how tense he became on his drive to my studio. He started out happily excited; the closer he got the more he began to worry about "not doing it right." As we talked, he realized that what he expected from education was to have his mistakes pointed out.

The meaning of the word "educate" is to lead out. As a teacher that means I'm leading out the voice, the writing, the creativity so that it can be shared with others. If I focused on "mistakes," I'd be turning them back into themselves. With students who have been told they're "tone deaf," I never tell them they're singing a different pitch until after they've learned to sing the intended pitch. Then I ask them to figure out what were they thinking or doing that got in the way of their natural ability to match the pitch.

We always find that what got in the way were habits they'd formed because they feared being judged by others, of being wrong. I hate that word "wrong."

To be continued

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What is Creativity - 10

I attended another disappointing performance last week. A jazz trumpeter, who was facile, with great technique. And so what? He never connected with his audience. Yes, he talked to us about his personal journey, but his talk was one of those testimonials that are more for the testifier's benefit than the audience's.

"I need to say (do, invent, paint) this" is very often the impetus to creativity, perhaps the impetus. But why should an audience member, or the marketplace, care about the needs of a performer or inventor? We have our own needs, and one of those is inclusion in the process.

Communication with others is an essential element of creativity. Notice that I didn't say "to" others. I said "with." If our jazz trumpeter had been having a conversation with his audience, even if one-sided, the effect would have been different. He would have acknowledged and responded to the positive "amens" and gone in that direction. At other times, he would have sensed the unease, rephrased a statement, perhaps shortened his talk.

But what about the non-performer, the solitary writer or inventor? Without a live audience to give them feedback, how are they communicating "with?"

To be continued

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

What is Creativity - 9

I've taken a couple weeks off because I was writing a post to submit to Minerva Rising's blog, Keeping Room (

By the time I submitted it to my writing group for critique, I had learned so much - about writing, about myself - during the process that I didn't care whether my submission would be accepted or not. (Yes, it was accepted, and will be posted on June 26.)

I used a format that I'd seen elsewhere 3 times recently - short, seemingly unrelated sections separated by an asterisk. I thought the first 2 pieces I read were self-indulgent and irritating. But then came Jordan Wiklund's "The 52-Hertz Whale" in Lonely Whale Memoir (Chatsworth Press, 2015). Wow! Jordan begins with a section about the Lonely Whale, then a section about Heinrich Rudolph Hertz, who discovered the existence of electromagnetic waves, back and forth, until he begins to riff on "waves," ocean waves and sound waves, with a section that is nothing but the word "waves" set in different size fonts so we see the word in waves across the page. Some sections are just one word, lonely in its white space. As the 52-Hertz Whale is lonely in its great ocean space, unable to communicate with other whales whose songs are in the 15-25 Hertz range. As Hertz himself was lonely - "Asked about the ramifications of his discoveries, Hertz replied, 'Nothing, I guess.'"

Note: The cover of Lonely Whale Memoir uses the so lonely font. I thought that must be a joke, but there really is a font called "so lonely."