Artisans and Creativity

Traveler, there is no path. The path is made by walking.

Traveller, the path is your tracks. And nothing more.

Antonio Machado. Borders of a Dream

I think we often have a curious relationship with creativity.

We really want it, and pursue it, but the more we pursue it the less of it we get. We end up with “small i” blandness rather than “large I” breakthroughs. Algortithms rather than artistry.

Creativity hates being called on, or instructed. It also hates efficiency. At the same time, if we clear our minds and wait for the muse to turn up, she doesn’t think much about that either. She’s looking for those who do.

The creativity that changes things, as against just “redecorating” existing things, requires us to put the work in. To pursue our craft, whatever that may be. In those quiet moments of utter concentration on what we do, then she will turn up.

In “Big Magic“, Elizabeth Gilbert posits that we don’t have ideas, they have us. They look for a likely target and turn up, and if who they turn up with doesn’t use them, they go and find someone else. I like that as an image. How many of us have seen something arrive and thought “I thought of that!!” – but we just didn’t do anything about it, for whatever good reason at the time. Creativity is not patient. She may take a while to evoke, but when she turns up, she demands attention and scorns our fear. She wants to be taken seriously.

To evoke creativity, we have to be giving something our full attention, and stretching ourselves to do it better. That’s where creativity lives – not on request, but in action. And I don’t think it matters that much what it is we are doing – it’s probably more likely with someone doing a gig economy task to the best of their ability as it is to someone with “creativity” in their job title or job spec.

Creativity loves beauty.

In times of change, I see it happening in conversations – proper conversations, without agenda, engaged in exploring ideas with others we trust. She thrives in constructive tension.

Much has been done and written on creativity, all of it useful, none a formula (although it’s sold a lot of books, courses and workshops, very few of which ever trigger anything).

Creativity requires effort, and respect for what it is, not as some agent of better performance. I can think off hand of no really creative people who had their idea in pursuit on money. Where it does generate money, the money follows, not leads.

If we want to be creative, we need to do the work, in the company of people who will support is without expecting anything of us and when it happens, honour it. It won’t stay with us long.

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