My scientist friend forwarded to me a questionnaire from Minnesota Public Radio a couple weeks ago. My usual response to questionnaires is deletion, but this one was for a project about creativity and the creative process in all aspects of life, not only in the creative arts. That really piqued my interest, so I filled it out, sent it in. The first effect I noticed was more e-mails from MPR Public Insight Network asking for my response/reaction to current news topics. Interesting. They are building a network of sources from the general population, not only from experts in specific fields. Then yesterday I received a phone call from a pleasant-voiced MPR intern who wanted to ask me more questions about my creative process for my writing. He was also interested in how my creative process translated to other aspects of my life, i.e. my job search. I like this!
Human beings are highly creative, sentient creatures. The human mind wants to play (think and create) all the time, except when asleep, and then its play continues in a different way that helps to re-energize it and our bodies. For people who hate to be bored (me), boredom is worse than physical torture (well, not really, but almost). So what does the mind do? Daydreams. Fantasizes. Dissociates and/or hallucinates. Or finds something more productive to do. The mind does creativity. What we call imagination is the energy force behind the mind that fuels the mind’s play. The mind loves to create things — ideas, dreams, words, jokes, pictures, stories, languages, music, every gadget and invention ever made (including those that ended up in the trash). It eats problems for lunch. I don’t think humans appreciate their minds nearly as much as they could.
Is there a process to this creativity? Sure. But it can differ from person to person, situation to situation. The creativity required to send a person to the moon is a bit different than writing a story about a man living on the moon. They have one thing in common: imagination. I suspect that my scientist friend is just as creative as I am, but she needs to apply it to different things than I do and in different ways. But this is certain: the creative process inhabits everthing humans do (except maybe anything that results in carpal tunnel syndrome).
My creative process is something I try not to think about too much. It is what it is. What I do think about is how to support it, help it, feed it. And I listen very closely to what’s going on in my mind (which introverts, like me, are extremely good at doing and extroverts tend not to understand at all). One of the things I do to help my process is to give it time. Play takes time: quiet time, peaceful time, time to think, daydream, let the mind wander. I keep pen and paper close so I can write notes as the ideas begin to flow.
My imagination likes to work out to music. I’ve discovered that my morning workouts, before I begin work at my desk, are a perfect opportunity to invite my imagination to solve writing problems for me. I listen to classical music that I know intimately and love while I work out. The music sets the tone, opens the doors and windows, and gets things moving. I imagine that I’m talking with a person or group of people in the future, after I’ve solved the problem I’m working on. They ask me how I identified the problem, why it was a problem, and then how I solved it. This process has successfully resolved every writing problem that I’ve put through it. I have complete confidence in my imagination.
What’s your creative process? How do you support and feed it? Next time you have a problem that needs solving (start small if you’re not already used to working with your imagination), try imagining that you’re talking with someone in the future, after you’ve solved the problem, and they’re asking you about the problem and how you solved it. Adapt this support for imagination to suit your own mind’s way of playing….