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Thread: Creativity

  1. #1


    A quote from Loori's the Zen of Creativity:

    My life has been the poem I would have writ,
    But I could not both live and utter it.
    Henry David Thoreau

    “Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up”
    -Pablo Picasso

    Greetings all and happy new year.

    It’s been awhile, but now the big project that has consumed me for a couple of months is past, the holidays are over and time to consider Creativity in the New Year.

    How many times have you heard, or maybe said yourself…”I’ve not creative bone in my body”?

    We are all part of this amazing universe which is by its/our nature Creative, evolving, forming, changing constantly. People tend to think of creativity as belonging only to artists, visual, performing, writers, poets. There are as many ways to express our creativity as there are individuals to express creativity.

    Scientific American Mind published a magazine called The Mad Science of Creativity (spring 2017). Worth reading if you have an interest in all sorts of topics concerning our creative minds. It turns out our early ancestors figured out how to knap a handheld, multipurpose ax several million years ago (an enormously creative invention considering they had nothing to build on). Although they made the same ax for about 1.6 million years with only minor changes! But eventually ‘cultural ratcheting’ began as our brains grew.

    Cultural ratcheting is the phenomenon where our species passes knowledge on from individual to individual, from generation to generation. The social networks that H. Sapiens formed helped with this and eventually someone in the network figures out a better way to accomplish tool making, art making, hunting, cooking, whatever.

    It’s now understood that long before Homo Sapiens evolved (200,000 years ago) the human brain was changing / growing to allow creativity to flourish. Previously it was assumed that new ideas for technology and art began about 40,000 years ago. But with subtler testing and more far reaching exploration archaeologists are discovering a remarkable array of inventions that previously have gone unobserved. (“The hunter/gatherers who inhabited Blombos Cave [in Africa] between 100,000 and 72,000 years ago, for example, engraved patterns on chunks of ocher; fashioned bone awls, perhaps for tailoring hide clothing; adorned themselves with strands of shimmering shell beads; and created an artists’ studio where they ground red ocher and stored it in the earliest known containers, made from abalone shells.” From the 'Origins of Creativity', Heather Pringle.)

    Anyway, the point of this is that we are a creative species and have been for millennia. It is part of our biology. Our brains are adapted to bringing plans to fruition and organizing sensory input which are necessary skills in creativity. Of course, there are the prodigies, Mozart writing his first piece at 5 - Minuet and Trio in G major. But certainly, most of us aren’t born prodigies. But we are all capable creative beings.

    Motivation plays a huge part in our creative efforts. Without that… well… who cares?
    Any ideas about creativity, how it expresses uniquely in your life. How you encourage it (motivation). Do you have a supportive creative network where ideas are shared and explored? For example I'm in a writer's group. We take turns reading each others work and comment/suggest/support one another. I've learned so much from this group over the years. Plus it motivates me to keep writing.
    Any thoughts? What does creativity mean in your life?
    This is a juicy topic, and we’d love to have your input.




  2. #2

    Thank you for starting this thread. I also have done a lot of thinking about this topic.

    I grew up with creative parents. In fact, my father made his living as an artist. My parents encouraged their children to be creative, but ironically, none of us became professional artists. Still, I see in my brothers and me that yearning for self expression. When my husband and I moved into our current apartment, he took one spare room for his office and I took the other spare room as my creative studio. Never before did I have my own creative space--and it was so exciting to me that for the first few months, I didn't know how to spend time in that room. Now with total freedom to do anything I wanted, I had to discover who this creative person really was and how she would behave, explore, and create. Should there be rules? No rules? Was it okay to read a novel in there or take a nap? Or did only creative work go on in that space? Well, it did not take long to figure out that ANYTHING was allowable as long as it was positive, and the studio soon became a means for reclaiming my true self--a me I had once known long ago, but had lost along the way. All kinds of creative projects go on in there now.

    The whole experience reminded me of Virginia Woolf's essay, "A Room of Her Own." Do you know it?


    Sat Today / lah
    Hensho: Knitting Strands / Stranded on a Reef
    "Knit on with confidence and hope through all crises." -Elizabeth Zimmerman

  3. #3
    Hello Kate,

    Of course, bringing up Woolf's essay opens a whole fascinating realm dealing with the repression of women's creativity! I remember years ago hearing about a group of women artists who applied under male names to high brow galleries after being rejected when they approached the galleries as themselves. For the most part they were dismissed out of hand when approaching as themselves. Many of the same artists were called back when the galleries thought them male. Very sad story. I'm sure there are lots of similar stories out there. Of course, in Woolf's era the repression of women was even more mainstream than now. Although we have a very long way to go.

    I personally have not experienced much discrimination as a female artist, but in the business world I did. To the point that the head of the department called me in to try to persuade me not to file a suit with the EEOC. I didn't.

    Creativity is a tender, delicate thing and easily dissuaded, abused. Often, just living in our world is a harsh place for creativity. Its always the creative arts that receive funding cuts when schools are trying to save money. You were very lucky being raised in a creative family and wonderful that you've found your way and your creative spirit.

    Thanks for responding. This is a rich subject!



  4. #4
    How do we nurture creativity in ourselves, our children, each other? Kate has found a way.



  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Cooperix View Post
    Hello Kate,

    Often, just living in our world is a harsh place for creativity.
    Thank you for this dialogue, Anne, and please forgive my late reply. You said many things in your response that make me thoughtful. For starters, I have been reflecting on the degree to which my not becoming a professional artist has to do with being a woman and what parts of it had to do with things like economics and hey--even a lack of inspiration or drive! (we'll save that one for some other day. ) Part of my parents' concern was just how difficult it is to make it financially in the arts, and then, as you're saying, being a woman doesn't help that. And then, as my husband and I slowly bettered our financial situation and moved into apartments with extra space, my husband always got the extra room. And I want to be clear that he never demanded it. (I married the kindest, gentlest being. He would never have demanded it.) But I always thought that he needed the extra space more than I did. I could work in the corner. And that's where Woolf's essay gets me. Why did I ever think that?

    So I myself devalued my talent and my need to express that talent creatively. Ugh.

    I'm also aware that having the extra space is a mostly a first world problem. I'm fully aware that I have my studio because of advantages and privileges that most people on this planet can't have by virtue of circumstance, bias, greed, defamation, cruelty, etc. It is indeed a harsh world.

    Hensho: Knitting Strands / Stranded on a Reef
    "Knit on with confidence and hope through all crises." -Elizabeth Zimmerman

  6. #6
    For myself, creativity plays a huge role in my life. I have been a musician for almost 20 years now playing guitar and piano and I have recently started composing classical style music (with a hint of heavy metal of course). I think it is important to try and find a creative outlet whatever that may be. But I also understand that it may not be for everyone. Indeed it is a harsh world for creative people, but that shouldn't stop anyone and it certainly doesn't stop me.


  7. #7
    Greetings, Anne, Kate, and John, and others who may pass by,

    Creative energy has had an interesting pathway through my life. Only in retrospect do I see it as a constant thread; for much of my life I did not think of myself as creative, even though I have always had something creative going on! But I'm so much of an academic that I felt I excluded the creative. Now I think that people have a creative force and this force will express itself. Like other things, we can choose creative expressions that are positive or that are... less so.

    Something that is true for me is that the way in which I have been creative has changed over time. For much of my life I was a musician, and this is an identity I clung to, far longer, I sometimes think, than I should have. And it still calls. For the past several years, though, I have taken up an old family business: painting in oils. I'm not sure how much freedom I let my creativity have. I struggle to let it run unfettered. But maybe that's just the reality of my creative force. That may not make much sense. I have a hard time being loose, and being okay with the results. Letting it just be. I paint still life and believe that I really enjoy it, and that it opens the genii's bottle at least a little. For me, the creation of a still life starts long before I put brush to linen. But I know that I also need to push myself to stretch out in different directions.

    An important part of creativity, to me--in fact, the only important thing--is the process. I love to be in the process more than I love seeing the finished product (though that part is pretty cool, too). I have a practice of preparing to paint, spending a time at the easel (I can do about three to four hours before I am exhausted from the mental and emotional exertion), and cleaning up. A previous Roshi was a photographer who took art practice very seriously, right to the way that he would release the shutter by breathing through his actions. Taking a photograph, throwing a pot, drawing an enso, painting a picture... it was all the same to him. It was all Zazen.

    When I paint I put so much of myself into what I am doing that I exclude the rest. Painting is therapeutic because I lose myself in it, both into the actions of moving what I see to the canvas, and in my identity as an artist. I am not sure whether me as an artist is the same as me as my other self(ves). Maybe me as an artist is a little more weird. But I like that version of me.

    Something Daido Roshi wrote: Zen, and by extension the Zen aesthetic, shows us that all things are perfect and complete, just as they are. Nothing is lacking. In trying to realize our true nature, we rub against the same paradox: We don't know that we already are what we are trying to become. In Zen, we say that each one of us is already a buddha, a thoroughly enlightened being. It's the same with art. Each one of us is already an artist, whether we realize it or not. In fact, it doesn't matter whether we realize it--this truth of perfection is still there. Engaging the creative process is a way of getting in touch with this truth, and to let it function in all areas of our lives. [Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life, p. 166]

    An interesting discussion that has gone on in the visual arts for, oh, ever, is that what a painter paints is likely to be an idealization of the objects they are representing. Even the strongest realism is "improved upon" between the eye and the canvas. This brings a number of questions about the perfection of the original object and the perfection of a painting. If both are perfect, is the painting something other than a representation of the object? The painting is a point in time, but even the painting has time, beginning to deteriorate as soon as it is created, and to simply change over time. Was it perfect at the start? Is it perfect 400 years later, even though it looks quite different? Is it perfect only in the seeing (if it is a visual representation)? Lots of places this discussion could go, and I have been mu-ing and emptiness-ing a lot lately, so my thoughts are everywhere (and nowhere).


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