Sunday, June 12, 2005

Sense and sensibility: creativity and you

Creativity and inspiration are often characterised as elusive magicial qualities. This is understandable when you consider great works of art like the paintings of Picasso or the music of Miles Davis. Of course, we can't all be Picasso or Miles Davis. Especially those of us who make a living being creative everyday.

As a professional creative, you cannot show up to work and announce "I am waiting for the muse!" The reality is that you will find yourself called into meetings or contacted for work and expected to have an immediate and interesting response to a new idea or project. It may consist of as little as a few good questions that only you could ask. But you have to be thinking, breathing and living like a creative person in order to rise to that challenge.

In addition to honing your craft through courses and instruction, you must develop a rich sensibility you can rely on for quick insights and ready solutions. The prospect of developing a sensibility may seem daunting. It should. It's like asking "who am I?" But more specific: "who am I creatively?" And so developing your own sensibility sensibility is like training for a marathon. You're conditioning yourself to be able to perform at a high level - whenever it is expected of you. This involves asking yourself a lot of questions and investing some time exploring how others approach creative challenges. Start with the people you admire and who have demonstrated their expertise and vision through their work and accomplishments. Mentors, teachers, artists, community leaders can all help you find your own sensibility and voice.

Why not start by reading Toronto designer Bruce Mau's excellent "Incomplete Manifesto for Growth":

"Written in 1998, the Incomplete Manifesto is an articulation of statements that exemplify Bruce Mau's beliefs, motivations and strategies. It also articulates how the BMD studio works"
The manifesto includes some wonderful statements and directives such as:

9. Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

14. Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.

16. Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.
What Mau's manifesto demonstrates is how important it is to be able to think about things differently than everyone else. This is part of what your clients are paying you for (rather than hiring somebody else). It's easy to talk about things the same way as everybody else does. For sure, you need to know how to do that. But it's far more difficult to speak for yourself and have a strong sensibility that will allow you to ask questions they haven't already thought of.