| 29 April, 2012 21:41
Recently, my church asked me to give a short talk on creativity. The response was both insightful and positive so I thought I would re post it here. I welcome your thoughts and feedback.
When I was asked to speak on creativity, my first response was “no problem”. After all, I call myself an artist, I have taught art for most of my adult life and the topic has always been near and dear to my heart. Then, when I sat down to write, it hit me. I had to come up with something interesting and relevant to say. I had to be creative and I really didn’t think I had a clue.
So, of course, instead of trying to think of something new, instead of being creative, I turned to the internet. I looked at a bunch of quotes about creativity and I found that most of them were either some kind of poor attempt at waxing philosophical or were just cute little ditty’s that really (at least for me) had nothing relevant to say.
I was about ready give up on this course of action when I found this quote from Steve Jobs.
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things.”
This one really hit home for me. It hit home because this is how I work and, essentially, this is how I taught my students, no matter what the age level, to work. I would give them an excuse to start something. This might be scribble a line here, or pour some paint there. It didn’t really matter what they did. The point was to have them give themselves a beginning. Turn it into a face, or make up an animal, or just start playing with color and see what develops. Once you have a starting point, you have taken the cork out of the bottle and, if you will allow it, the ideas can come pouring out.
Now, you may ask, what does this have to do with the Steve Jobs quote. The answer is simply that you cannot make connections unless you have something to connect with. That first line, or glob of paint or that widjamadooflicky that you hold in your hand is the first piece of the puzzle, and all of your life experiences are the rest of the pieces. The beauty of it is that you can put those pieces together any way you like. And if you allow yourself to do so, you will come up with something new and at least for me, there is no other experience like this.
I cannot tell you how many times I hear “I am not an artist” or I can’t draw a straight line” or any one of a thousand other excuses from people who somehow need to find some justification for claiming that they are not creative. Sometimes they just say “I am not creative”. I have stock answers for these things. “Of course you are an artist, everyone is to some degree” “I can’t draw a straight line either, and I really don’t want to” and “Everyone is creative”.
When you were two or three years old, you loved to draw, or make sounds by banging a spoon on the table, or sing out loud. The problem is somewhere along the line, when you got a little older, somebody told you that “no that has to look like something” or make something real” or stop making all that noise”. These people didn’t destroy your creativity. That is not possible. They simply put the preverbal cork in the bottle, and with a starting point and a little positive thinking, and a little bit of playing around, you can release those creative juices again. The cork was the pressure that I put on myself to come up with something “relevant” for my contribution to this service. The Steve Jobs quote was my starting point. It removed my cork. Once the cork was removed from the bottle, the rest was easy.