What is creativity and where does it come from?
As I sit meditating and staring at a blank screen, (I think it was Hemingway who said “Writing is easy, just stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead”) I wonder why some people are so tremendously creative. Others not so much. And a million gradations of creativity in between.
What is it that causes some people to insist on making something out of nothing? Music, writing, jokes, inventions, paintings, even gardens. And why some people –Steve Jobs, perhaps, but probably not the Kardashians—are so very successful at it. (I still wonder how our society can revere a whole family who does nothing but pander to themselves. I think that says more about the decline of our societal values than it does about them.)
I’ve been working through an Online Course on “Creating WordPress Websites” from ed2go out of California. They have been having us choose themes from the 300 or so that WordPress has to offer. As I look at the one Ken Shipley created for me, I realize what an amazing job he did. He was able to take my business card—in turn created by the owner and designer for Reid’s Office Supply—and paintings from the 18th century, and combine them into a remarkable and unusual whole. There is nothing like it on WordPress or anywhere else. I’m truly grateful for his incredible ability—and glad I didn’t have to do it!
Creativity is everywhere around us. Over the years, I have collected some little trinket or item from each place I have been. As I study them now, I realize that each one was a creative endeavor by someone. Some are magnificent and elegant like the pearl studded Napoleonic brooch, others a simple plastic Pan Bimbo bear from a trip to Mexico or the silly little Santa from a Colorado skiing trip. They now sit on my computer—collecting dust—and bring back fond memories.
My new Windows 10 somehow collected all my photographs—that I didn’t even realize were on my computer and still haven’t figured out how to down-load them—and made them available (more or less) to me as a collection. As I was scrolling through my photographs, I came across pictures from Sister Sara’s garden. Her “Selva Verde” is the most amazing and magnificent collection of plants and found objects that I have ever seen. Every nook and cranny has something unusual and beautiful, and NONE of it bought at some high-priced, fancy, design store. Not even from Wal-mart! She collected bits and pieces of broken or thrown out trash and combined them into incredible and awe-inspiring beauty.
Even the Christmas cr**p (not my word for it, that comes from my colleague Bob) from Wal-mart is creative. I look at the bales and boxes and containers of Christmas trim from China and am amazed at their imagination. Who invented all those cutsey little decorations? Who set those workers to making them? Did the workers get a sense of satisfaction when they created them, or were they just following orders? Where do we draw the line between the worker on the assembly line and the artists who designed the objects? Do those dull, plodding workers inject just a bit of themselves into each little piece?
When I was in Costa Rica, I was driving across country and stopped at a tiny little village high in the mountains. An artisan was making pots for sale so I stopped to watch him work. Without a guide or instructions, he used the materials around him to create unique and varied pots and bowls. The same is true in Mexico where the natives in every village and town create tourist items for sale, each village offering different and unusual art—whether it is rebozos, or woven belts and scarves, or carved wood or pottery figurines.
I’ve tried to create things (my epic fail on my mother-in-law’s sweatshirt comes to mind), but I don’t have that kind of vision or talent. Maybe I don’t have a beautiful garden like Sister Sara, or Sand Art like my brother, or music or painting, but I THINK I can write. Not as well as Isabel Allende, perhaps, or Arturo Perez Reverte, which is why I hesitate to launch my little barks out onto the waves of public opinion. But like the Costa Rica artisan, focused completely on his art, he just puts it out there.
And so must I.