Wednesday, 25 May 2011

the engine of creativity

I seem to have come back again and again to the idea that we're largely taught by our culture that the capacity to create is something innate, inborn, bestowed upon a chosen few. And yet increasingly it seems to me that actually pretty much everyone wants to create. Not just in the broad sense that most jobs, and all of human life, require constant creative responses simply to keep themselves treading water (let alone moving forward). Most people, if asked, seem to yearn for some kind of  'expression'  - they secretly would love to draw, or paint, or play an instrument, or write something; to dance, or take photographs, to weave materials or stand up and make people laugh.

If this is the case, why is it so often a secret, and why do those people express these desires with such a sense of futility, as if they might as well dream of flying off to the moon? I suspect that the answer is that the driver of creativity is not talent, genius or any special kind of compulsion. It seems to me that this fundamental human impulse is instead fuelled by feeling, emerging out of the interaction of a human being with the endless cycles and circumstances of  the social and natural worlds. It's as integral to our condition as breathing; an impulse as inescapable as the desire to eat, or communicate, or gaze at the waves.

If this is so, then the reasons that we don't create in the ways we secretly long to are presumably also to do with issues of feeling. Blows, perhaps, received in childhood, or strong overlays of social obligation;  disconnects within ourselves which have fashioned themselves out of subterranean levels of experience, and which can perhaps only show themselves occasionally in dreams.Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way, seems to recognise this in the early chapters of her book, which are entitled 'Recovering a sense of safety', Recovering a sense of identity', and 'Recovering a sense of power'.

I've been thinking about this because I'm observing a change in my relationship to music. I mentioned some time ago that this has been so problematic for me that I had completely given up - both playing itself, and also trying to understand why it seemed to be so impossible to play in any kind of relaxed way. Both my external and internal conditions have been slowly changing over the last year or so.  And now, almost suddenly, and without any effort, music is starting to emerge into a space that seems to have lost its sense of strain, and its crippling self-consciousness.


  1. "It's as integral to our condition as breathing; an impulse as inescapable as the desire to eat, or communicate, or gaze at the waves."

    Well put. It also echoes the following that I read just yesterday through Imaginary Boundaries blog:

    From our first days of life, we are all inventors who discover by trial and error how our growing bodies work and move. As with organic evolution, the development of behavior is indeed a creative process, but it is one that unfolds without purposeful design."

  2. Thanks for this. I wondered for a moment what it meant by 'purposeful design' but I see now this is in the context of intelligent design, as put forward by creationists...

    Weird thing was, I couldn't find your quote in the post. But I like it.

  3. I think you may have only read the first page of the article - there are four (the links are at the bottom of the text) - and the quote is from the last page. The first page is the least interesting.



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