Wednesday, October 16, 2013

creativity and co-creation

this morning an article with the shocking headline of ted talks are lying to you caught my eye. my initial thought was, "say it isn't so!" but then i remembered that brené brown drivel on which i once spent 20 minutes of my life that i'll never have back. brené - what kind of a pretentious crap name is that? but thomas frank lays out a pretty good case for the pop phenomenon of self-help/business books on the topic of creativity. they're formulaic (like most business books), they're filled with the same stories (invention of the post-it with a few bob dylan lyrics thrown in) and they're not really about creativity at all, but about conformity and societal norms. and that made a lot of sense to me. because i've experienced myself how truly thinking outside the box will get you thrown out of the club, because what people really want is to be surrounded by people who think as they do, not by people who push them to think differently and behave in new ways.

it's an interesting read and it makes a lot of sense to me and articulates the aversion i've found that i have for books on cultivating creativity, without really knowing why i found myself rolling my eyes at them. what he doesn't go into is something i've been pondering of late and that's whether it's even possible to be truly creative and think outside of the box (i hate that phrase)? i'm beginning to think that creativity has much more to do with regular, even dogged, practice than it has to do with any epiphanies. the possibility of developing something unique and which is truly yours or truly an expression of what you'd like to, well, express, is nearly null. anything we make is somehow a conglomeration of influences and experiences and contains grains of them all, rather than being something completely new and unique. even a post it is really just weak tape and a small piece of paper, it's not anything new.

but that said, i do believe in a creative practice, tho' i admit that i do it myself in fits and starts and not very consistently. and i believe in the power of co-creation - where a group of people from different, seemingly diverse fields, come together and put their ideas into one big pot, where they are stirred together and become new and improved ideas. and i'd say that one of my main talents lies in an ability to put such groups together and have magic come of it. but it's unpredictable and the magic is always, always different than you imagined it would be. that's actually the magical thing about magic. to co-create ideas with other people also means being very open and willing to throw an idea into the mix and see it change and morph and become something else that only carries a kernel of what it originally was. and it's there that a lot of people have problems. they're not willing to let go of their precious baby ideas and really let them outside of their original box. i think that's where the dogged persistence and the actual nitty, gritty work come in. you have to keep going and pushing and seeing what happens. just like in real life.

and ultimately, it's why i still think ted talks are a good thing - ideas are floated into the world, consumed by people, who combine them with their own ideas and they become something else entirely. life, it's an act of co-creation.

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always pondering libraries, so i liked this guardian piece by neil gaiman.

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fantastic photos and stories of a forgotten russia.


will said...

Don't forget a little thing called skill. Not everyone can turn an idea into a real thing. .. the DNA combo of intrinsic creativity and ability isn't in everyone. Sam Maloof, the gifted craftsman once said he didn't think creativity could be taught - you either have it or you don't. Yes, you can explain elements of creativity but I think I agree with Sam.

Yes, good art probably has invisible strings to many other sources ... but the talented artist is a wellspring of surprises because they use ordinary stuff to make art that's magical. Good artists seem to know how to catch lightening in a bottle.

julochka said...

i'm not sure that i'm even talking about art here...i think i'm talking about the ways in which business claims they want creativity and unusual thinking, but they really don't. because the Creative Class, who consume all those self-help creative business books, are actually conformists.

Veronica Roth said...

Somehow, I'm not sure how, but somehow art, business and creative practice feed off each other. Catherine, R's sister, is a very sought after "facilitator" (Ok whatever that means-she basically leads big corporate people thru a process of discovering why they love or hate what they do). Anyway, she gets paid thousands per session for this, and she brings her Reiki training and her 5 rhythms instructor background plus all sorts of other stuff into it. And she has me lead her in art creative discoveries a few times/yr. where we basically make collages and she feels better about life. OK, I totally don't get it. To me it's just so much woey-woey nonsense. But then, to other's it's worthwhile practice. Having said that, I often ask mentor artists, like Bantock or Robert Genn, who I take occasional workshops, to possibly look at my work and advise me with how I can deepen the art and develop a different, "Veronica" style, and without a doubt they say, "Come back when you've painted your thousands painting."

will said...

I understand the tried and true process of instruction (info on how to do something or exploring the history of whatever is an influence or showing and reviewing other work for stimulus and inspiration) but I have no experience w/ self-help stuff. I’ve watched a few Ted’s and I find motivational talks something akin to story telling or how priest in pulpits dispense their ‘word’ ... this methodology can be interesting as entertainment but it usually is just someone’s op ed - which is ok but....

Lectures, on the other hand, are usually based on discovered information, new processes and objective realizations - the info is transferable and adaptable ... but it also can mean the listener has to have some previous info or experience to grasp the lecture.

The idea of co-creating sounds a bit like committee work. For me, it's cool it sit down w/ a peer and talk about art (or creative ideas) but rarely, if ever, do I suggest what I think the other person should/could do ... that's discovery for them to make or reject.

Having said that, it’s obvious the world of today stresses communal thinking ... schools want students in various clusters, large companies are committee meeting obsessed and then there’s Facebook, Twitter, etc ... all hive-like and all super popular.

Ironically, many of the artist that I know don’t do social media ... and I remember something John Lennon once said when asked what music he listens to ... he replied, “My own”.

Spilling Ink said...

Oddly enough I was listening to TED talks when I opened your post.....even more oddly it was a Brené talk that seriously changed my ability to think differently about my domestic violence past.

julochka said...

@spilling ink I think what @veronica says is true...what makes sense to one person at a given moment might not speak to another. it's great that brené's talk spoke to you (and a whole lot of other people)! I think it can also be true of the books in the Salon article - bits of them speak to all of us. it's why they sell like hot cakes! we're all looking for the way that's right for us and we piece it together from all these different elements into our lives. if Brené helped you do that, excellent!