Every summer I plant a wildflower garden to attract bees and butterflys and hummingbirds. I loosen the soil, add some compost, and scatter the seeds. I never know what is going to come up. The seeds slowly germinate, seedlings appear, some turn into delicate stems with tiny purple flowers, some grow into tall sunflowers. I like the idea of not knowing what I am going to get, and I always enjoy what appears.
Writing in my journal is like that. I may start with some “reporting” about what has been happening or what I am thinking about and slowly it will take me to explore ideas that I did not even know I was thinking about. The ideas germinate into thoughts that I can either use or discard. Some of the ideas may even turn into blogs. By freeing myself from worrying about grammar or spelling, I can let my thoughts flow. If I decide to use the ideas later, that is when the editing will come in.
I was talking to my friend David about this. He is a musician and songwriter. He finds that writing songs takes a similar trajectory. He may get a snippet of an idea and will quickly get that down. He doesn’t know if or when that snippet may turn into a song. He just likes the idea of it. Editing or expanding the snippet can come later.
My conversation with audio dramatist Jill Korn got me thinking about creativity. What it is, how it comes about, how we use it and what we get from it.
Merriam-Webster defines creativity as “the ability to create” or “the quality of being creative.” That does not help me. I find it annoying when a definition uses the word I am trying to define in the definition of the word.
The definition of creative is not much better. It is defined as “marked by the ability or power to create,” or “having the quality of something created rather than imitated.” At least from this definition we can imply that to be creative you are not copying or imitating something.
Finally, we get to the root word, create. To create means to “cause something new to exist,” “to make or produce something.” The best definition for what I am thinking about is “to produce (something new, such as a work of art) by using your talents and imagination.
So, to be creative, is to use your talents and imagination to produce something new. That is certainly what Jill does when she writes her audio dramas. She described her process as “playing at it.” Letting yourself be free to see where the ideas take you, where your imagination takes you, without already knowing the outcome.
I remember in my conversation with Juliette Fay, the author of “Catch Us When We Fall,” she said, “there is no muse, writing takes discipline.” You have to sit down every day and write. Maybe some of what you write will be tossed out, some will be reworked, and some will be amazing.
Combining the concept of Germinating Ideas and Discipline, we get to Creative Discipline. Whether you are creating art or writing a story or creating a new idea for business or a project, just let it flow. No judgement, no critiquing, just play with the idea, the project, the words, or the music. See where it takes you. And have some discipline around it, in that you commit to a regular time to engage in your creative pursuit.
Coloring the Music
When Jill finishes writing her story, it is passed onto the Sound Engineer who adds the effects that bring the story to life. When David finishes writing the words to a song, he adds the music which enhances the feelings and emotions of the song.
I used to teach a children’s drawing program. Once we drew the picture, the children would decide what colors, what mediums, what textures they wanted to use to make each of the pictures a unique, individual creation.
Adding color to your creation is another level of the creative process. This happens during or after the editing process. With writing, this is where you might get more descriptive about the scene or the emotions. For example, you might have started with “there was a gorgeous sunset” and added the color by saying “the sunset filled the sky with a deep red flame, setting the clouds ablaze.”
We are all creative
Many of us do not see ourselves as being creative, because we don’t have much of an audience for what we do. In fact, we focus too much on “Big C” creativity—the glamorous achievements of geniuses—and overlook the ways each of us displays flair and imagination in our own lives.
Your everyday creativity may be when you make a slight change to a recipe, when you add a scarf to what you are wearing to bring some flair, when you come up with a creative solution to a problem. When we start to experiment with small changes, we gain confidence in our ability to be creative, in our own unique way.
When we get out of own way, when we silence our inner critic, we get in touch with our inner creative. Germinate ideas and Color Music.