The Yin and Yang of Creativity
So much has been said and written about the “Creative Process,” it’s hard to add anything to that, but there’s still a lot to disagree about. The whole process to me is like the ☯ Yin and Yang, where one is “the idea”, and the other one is “action”. Today I want to talk more about “the idea.”
It all begins with an idea.
Ideas are important. If you don’t think so, you might as well stop reading right now and go do something more productive instead.
Think. Or don’t, but be receptive for when the ideas strike you. I usually have them in the most inconvenient situations like in the shower (can’t write them down and forget half of it by the time I finished) or just after I killed the light when going to bed, forcing me to switch it on again to write them down, one idea leads to the next and creates an avalanche that possesses me and robs me of my sleep. (which is why I look like a raccoon)
Write them all down… and then do not put them into practice. Not yet. Or if you absolutely have to, do it slowly. Baby steps.
Why? I know some of you just put their hands up in protest… Why not get to work immediately? Well, because these ideas are still this lose innocent something. Shapeless, floating around, changing… they still contain something essential, something that’s speaking to you but is hard to understand and easy to misunderstand. Some ideas will make it, some won’t.
I found if I let my ideas incubate and accumulate, the bigger picture becomes more and more visible.
It’s like I get more and more pieces of a puzzle. Once you’re on a good track it’s worth actually putting some pieces together – no stress – and see if it fits the bigger picture you’re starting to see. You’ll never end up where you started in your head, but it is going to fit the bigger something.
I see it as a long term project and only now do many of the ideas I had months and years ago make sense to me.
Inspiration ≠ Imitation: Other’s Ideas.
This is something that has been bugging me for the longest time and I struggled with how to put the mess in my head in clear words. And then comes the prince in shiny armor in the person of photographer David duChemin and opens my eyes in his blog post I read recently, In Defence of Inspiration. (a very good read)
He puts it in words better than I ever could:
“Adapt but don’t Adopt. What is needed is an adaptive approach to creative processes, not an adoptive one. In the words of Bono – every poet is a cannibal, every artist is a thief. We all draw from sources outside ourselves. The challenge is in finding your own voice, in adapting elements, thoughts, processes – whatever – and not not in adopting them. One strips former things down, re-purposes them, combines them with parts from myriad other sources still, and takes us to a different place than when we started. The other just likes what he sees, gets “inspired”, steals the original idea, and makes it his own with a can of spray paint. One is creative, results in something new and comes from the in-spiration of many sources; the other is just imitation and while it might well be the first step in learning your craft, it won’t get you any further.”
This adaptation and “re-purposing” might well take time, and the pressure to “don’t think too much, just do it” might actually just make you dull and put you in a place where you fall into the same patterns again and again, whether you like it or not.
But more about this other big part of creativity, taking action, in part 2 of my thoughts on the “Creative Process”