Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Go! The Art of Change

Jonathan Milne founded the Learning Connexion some twenty years ago. He wrote Go! The art of change last year. The book encapsulates his philosophy of creativity and the central place the arts have in developing it.
From Jonathan: "Creativity can transform lives and change the world. In the context of nature it is called evolution. It is the process of effective change. It is about the beauty of shifting to more elegant forms of action."
He lists what he has learned about creativity and creative people over the years. If you want the detail you'll have to buy the book.
1. Everyone has something to contribute to the creative process
2. Creativity is not just about the arts
3. Creative people are conservative and radical at the same time
4. Creativity needs big energy and incubation
5. Naivete [or innocence] features in creativity
6. Creative people have a high tolerance for ambiguity
7. Creative people may be both introverted and extroverted
8. Creative people seem to defy stereotyping
9. Creative people are typically passionate and critical
10. Creative people have the ability to ride through negative response to their work [even though they may feel deeply hurt]
11. A strong value base helps creativity
12. Creative people can experience a high degree of emotional friction, yet they may be more stable than they seem
13. Creative people learn to trust their intuition
14. Creative people are willing to make mistakes
15. Creative people have an unusual relationship with society as a whole. They may be seen as fools or heroes.
16. Creative people cause heaps of trouble
17. Positive creativity tends to endure; negative creativity tends to burn itself out.

You can check out what goes on at the Learning Connexion at www.tlc.ac.nz

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Dimensions of Creativity

I have been playing with creativity for a number of years and each time I play I find something different. This is my latest thinking about what it is that makes up creativity. I have called it the Starfish Model of Creativity. The starfish seems to be most appropriate. They have 5 legs [I am suggesting that creativity has 5 interdependent dimensions] and are well known for their powers of regeneration - their ability to recreate themselves.
The relationship between the 5 dimensions of creativity determines one's capacity for being creative.

I have identified the following 5 dimensions of creativity:

1.Vision - creating powerful pictures of what you desire

"The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious." John Scully

2.Competence - having the skills / attitude to bring the vision into being

"Avoid competency traps. Do not stay only where you are good at things. Go out and be challenged." Andrew Creighton

3.Curiosity - having a continuous sense of wonder

"The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity." Dorothy Parker

4.Reality - having no illusions, and

"Few people have the imagination for reality." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

5.Courage - feeling the fear and doing it anyway

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear." Ambrose Redmoon

Each of these dimensions is needed to be creative - I think!

I will continue to play.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Serious Need for Play

"Work and play are words used for the same thing under differing conditions." Mark Twain.

The title for this blog is from an article of the same name by Melinda Wenner in a recent issue of the Scientific American MIND [Vol. 20 No. 1]. The article makes a very strong case for the importance of play, not only for children, but for adults as well. She cites Stuart Brown, psychiatrist and founder of the National Institute for Play who suggests that adults have three ways in getting more play into their lives

1. Body Play. This involves participating in some form of active movement that has no time pressure or expected outcome. 2. Object Play. Using our hands top create something we enjoy, and 3. Social Play. Joining other people in seemingly purposeless social activity.

I'm not so good at that one!

Around the same time I was reading Kevin Carroll's book The Red Rubber Ball at Work. He also cites the work of Stuart Brown and others. This from Carroll's introduction to his book.

"Think back to your childhood and to the years dominated by playtime, when there were endless hours to fill and the only agenda was to be captivated in the moment, to have fun. Playtime was also productive time, even is as kids we did not realise it. hat we thought was entertaining was also instructive. Activities we called soccer, tap dancing, marbles, blocks and tag were also exercises in resourcefulness, planning, strategy, design, decision making, creativity and risk taking."

Carroll continues. "In play we did not avoid obstacles; we looked for them by voluntarily challenging ourselves. We eagerly tackled insurmountable odds - height, speed, lack of money - to make our desires reality. We voluntarily tested ourselves and accepted failure as part of the play. We ran, stumbled, and got up to run again. When we lost again we simply started a new one. When something did not pan out as intended we came up with a new solution until we are satisfied. Far from frivolous time, childhood activities were constructive because they strengthened our resolve as well as our skills. Play gave us courage and instilled confidence. No doubt about it, play required us to invent, analyze, innovate, socialise, plan and problem solve."

These are among the very same skills required at work. Why then, do play and work seem so contradictory? Buy Carroll's book. Its a great read.

Carroll again. "By the time we enter the workplace we have effectively relegated play to weekends and vacations. Worse still, competition and deadlines further stifle our ability to exercise many of the productive instincts that play stimulates, such as creativity and imagination. How sad that we as adults push play to the margins of our lives, forgetting that play is not frivolous at all but highly productive."

Have you played today?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunset - Artist

Meet Sunset. He's the one under the chicken.

I have known Sunset as an painter, an illustrator, set designer and graphic designer. I was interested to find out the breadth of Sunset's creativity.

"I've done just about everything. I think of myself as an artist and I should be able to do just about anything in that 'arty' sphere. I've done little bits of sculpture - all sorts of things."

You can see more of what Sunset creates at http://www.artsunset.co.nz/

Wayne: Does creativity for you sit within the sphere of the arts or is it bigger?

Sunset: I think its much bigger. The thing that comes to mind is learning something like the computer. I remember at one time I didn't even know how to turn it on. I like working around things. Learning how things work and what I can do with them. I find that quite a creative pursuit. I'll tell you this thing that happened when I was a teenager at school. We were all making sculptures out of clay then turning them into concrete. I'd done a female torso - it was very nice - just slightly abstract. Then for no reason at all - as in no reason - I took a great big scoop out of the back and it looked good. It was very exciting to do it but I had no idea why I had done it. And the teacher came by and said 'Now you are thinking' and there was a click went off - I wasn't thinking. That's creating something new rather than thinking about where I'm going to go - just that BOOF and it was there. It felt wonderful but I also felt cheated. I didn't feel I'd been party to that process. Something had come form somewhere else. It wasn't me but it was me. I think I've tried to do that ever since - find that space where I'm not thinking. I think creativity can only come from being involved in doing something. Its almost like a safety net to being creative. If someone comes to me and says 'Can you do this?' - even though I've never done it before - I'll say Yes and I'll know I can do it. If I don't, as a last resort, I can just totally not even think about it and just do something and chances are that it will be fine.

Wayne: I get the sense that people who are creative can limit themselves by not being able to apply techniques and tools - I want to get this idea across but I don't have the ability to actually do it. You're saying that you've got the tools and techniques first - then the will to give it a go.

Sunset: Yea. There's also the understanding in myself that frustratingly it will never be as good as I want it to be - and accepting that. I might reach it for a moment. That's the other exciting thing about painting or anything creative - its not knowing when that moment is going to be. Even with my representational stuff if it doesn't feel right - even if it looks right - it's not right. I feel my way into what I'm doing. Sometimes its the merest brush stroke, or a tiny pencil mark, or moving my head and seeing it in a slightly different way and its like a key or a tiny opening - I can see how that could spread out into the work and it pulls me in.

Wayne: You have said previously that everyone is creative. Can you expand on that.

Sunset: I think all of us are creative every day -as in creating something that hasn't been before. That's just how life is.

Wayne: How, then, did we get to the point where we often put those who we regard as creative on a pedestal - somewhat removed from the 'ordinary' person?

Sunset: I used to think - maybe I still do - apart from feeding ourselves, clothing ourselves - that hierarchy of needs - the only thing we do really is to try and define ourselves. I think when we see art works we are responding to that. If somebody has created something that we respond to it strengthens our definition of ourselves. One way of defining ourselves is if you see other people doing something and you quite like that - if you can loin them that gives you some sort of credibility and you can stop thinking about that for a while. I think that's what artists do. But as I said previously for me creativity is creating something that has not been created before - by the person creating it!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dave Owens - Creativity and Social Change

" Nothing new happens without creativity'" according to Dave Owens. "Social change won't happen without creativity. Its a constantly manifesting thing. You learn one thing that will invariably lead to something else which changes what I thought before and leads to something else that leads to something else. And even after you have got something focused and complete you realise the question you've been trying to answer may not even be there anymore. It might have shifted as well. I'm working on a creative project that is a way of encouraging men - new fathers - to be more engaged with their infants - that's what I discovered its about after about 6 months of wanting to influence the way children are brought up. I'm trying to change men's attitude about fathering. Fathering is a fun, challenging and creative thing to do. So that's a project and I can tell you its become a major thing. I've created an organisation called Great Fathers - with an advisory group around the country. I was thinking I wanted to create a resource - a musical resource - to engage men in the art of fathering.

I'm a musician. I love music and I know how it affects me. You can enter people's minds musically in a way that you can't otherwise enter them. You can say things to them through music that they wouldn't necessarily hear of you told them. The idea is to get New Zealand musicians to record their experiences of fathering. And its beginning to get there."

This conversation with Dave explored with great passion the ways and means of bringing this project to fathers in New Zealand. This blog doesn't do the conversation justice so watch out for Great Fathers. Dave has another creative outlet and that is writing and his first novel is underway. Lets hear a little from Dave about his process of writing.

"I decided when I finished with the Jobs Letter - I'd been writing for it for a number of years - I said I'd give myself 3 months to get a sense of the next thing. I decided I would write a novel. I've always put my money earning to the front and my creative interests to the back. Well I thought I'd turn that around this time and I'll actually write this novel and whatever else I do will just have to fit around it. And it has. Everything else has fitted around it. Its amazing. Its like I made this commitment and within weeks it started coming to me and I wasn't in the financial problem I thought I was going to be in. It is just amazing.

When asked how one starts to write a novel Dave's response took me a little by surprise.

"I had a dream- a compelling exciting dream - of the last scene. I woke up with it absolutely clear in my head. I don't know what I dreamed before that. There are these two characters at the end - I've just gone back from there."

Discipline is important to Dave. "I start writing when I get up in the morning.I just get up and start. If I go as far as 2 I'm incapable of any interaction. If I knock off at 12.30 or 1 I still have some juice left for something. I've done that for at least 9 days a fortnight since April 07."

The conversation moved to the process of editing - from the creative to the analytical. "The idea of dialogue - its a very creative space to be in. I realised with the writing project I've not really discussed it in detail with anyone. The creative process - fine - but I realised that I've sort of created my own group around this. The first one is me reading through, then the second one was me reading through it 14 months later - I'm quite a different person. Ive got a second person going through it. Now I'm this 3rd person. I've got this group and its all me. At some point - and I thought it would be after this version - but I think I will go through it once more, then I'm keen to get a few other people involved in it. Its another important step that I can't ignore.

I asked Dave what advice he would give to others about becoming more creative. "I'd say eliminate your distractions primarily. Accept that you are a creative person. There is probably no-one that isn't. Accept that you have the responsibility to be creative. Its your duty - to get through life without being creative is sad. Collaborate with other people. Don't get too fixed on the outcome - it is likely to change. Time and space is important to me. I built myself a nice room to work in. I've got a nice big screen MAC. I screen all my calls. I don't answer the phone till after 1 o'clock. You have to decide what you value."

Thanks and good luck with the Great Fathers project and your novel Dave.

Creative Side-roads

I travelled from New Plymouth to Masterton in the weekend - a four hour drive for a one hour gig [the Grafia Blues
Project] playing with friends at the Aratoi Gallery - and a four hour drive back gain. I am sure my family think I'm nuts - and they could well be right.
On the drive down I passed through Eketahuna [yes it really does exist] and saw a sign advertising a gallery. I made a mental note to visit on my return home. It wasn't such a pleasant day and I was tired so it would have been easier to pass it by. I'm glad I didn't. Although I arrived at the same time as the gallery owners visitors he unlocked it for me and left me to look around. I never had the chance to talk to him but the visit was well worth it.

His name is Mark Dimock. You can see more of Mark's work at http://www.bumpkin.co.nz/
Creative side-roads are always worth travelling down.
You never know where they will take you.

You have to be creative at something!!

Sir Ken Robinson was interviewed by Radio New Zealand's Kathryn Ryan. His new book is out in New Zealand later this year.

When asked to define creativity Sir Ken responded,"It's a way of doing things - a way of using imagination to open up new possibilities. I define creativity as having original ideas that have value. It's really something that lies at the very heart of the future of our economies; the success of our communities and is absolutely fundamental to our children leading lives that have real purpose and meaning." He went on to say that,"Being creative in any field means you have to do things. You have to be creative at something."

Being imaginative and thinking creatively is not enough. Action must follow for creativity to be any value! I'm with Sir Ken.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Andy Bassett - Songwriter

I get to talk with creative people on a regular basis, mainly because I like to. But I also learn from them and I like to pass that learning to others so a number of future blogs will focus on creative people sharing their creativity insights.

Andy Bassett plays several instruments, sings, and engineers and produces music CD's but regards his main creative outlet as writing - columns but especially songs - some 600 to date!!

Wayne: What advice would you give to others who might want to write songs?

Andy: I think that with everything creative its finding what is the best environment for your own personal head space - when you've got a song going on do you need to drop everything and get it down or can you take notes. Mike Harding [a song writing colleague] says carry a one inch pencil and a tiny notebook everywhere you go.

Wayne: What do you do?

Andy: Well I don't have one inch pencil. I'll scrawl on pieces of paper if I have to. I keep a pad and pen beside the bed because if an idea has been bugging me all day the chances are some thing will come to me in the night. The hard thing is that sometimes things come to you in a particular environment and when you get thrown out of that environment you can't retrieve it. So its a question of how you find your way back into that environment. If someone needs a very quiet space to create - if they want to be away from everything else they've got to find a quiet space that they can have as their retreat and if an idea comes to you you have to seize it and get into your little space to make it work.

Wayne: So some way of gathering, collecting, maintaining the idea is essential whether its is a one inch pencil or a dictaphone or something - gathering it at the time - chances are it will go it you don't.

Andy: The only other thing I would say is don't get too precious about whatever you have written first time round - and edit yourself. Be honest with yourself. I remember a song writing workshop I went to where someone said they didn't like the idea of editing songs - a song comes out and there's something sacred about it as it is. But you often find there is a weak line that you put in because you wanted to get to the next line or you put it in because it rhymes with the one you want to keep. I've often heard songs - my own included - that you think that line is just filling space. I prefer to economise on words. There is a book on the writing of poetry I read in the 80's called Make Every Word Count. That's good advice.

You can be entertained by Andy at www.myspace.com/andybassettnz

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Creative Kids

The Kids Zone at WOMAD Taranaki [New Zealand] was a feast of creative activity.
There were the folk from The Flying Tuatara's working with kids to create fantastic creatures.
There were the folks at the kids percussion workshop teaching the intricacies of rhythm and the discipline of when to and when not to make sounds. There were the face painters.
And then there was the parade - the culmination of a weekends worth of creative activity - just superb!!
And by the way - not all the kids were of school age!!

Creativity on the Move

I am recovering from WOMAD [World of Music and Dance] - a veritable feast of creativity held in my home town of New Plymouth [New Zealand].
Among the many and varied performances were the Mobile Sewing Company who created fabric works of art for some of the hundreds that queued for their services.
Now this is not an ordinary tailoring service. Dutch women Karin Arts and Marieke Biegman involve their audiences in their creativity - by having them provide the pedal power required to run their vintage sewing machines. An audience member pedals the bikes that drive the sewing machines while the women sit on the back, creating their masterpieces. The women demonstrate their considerable talents for personalising clothing by involving audience members in picking the colours and textures of what they want to create.

In these days of economic recession and concerns about health and environment this might be an answer for some enterprising people - it combines creativity, the production of a one- of- kind garment, whilst enjoying a bit of activity that will leave them healthy and fit as well as being kind to the environment.

Its got to be a winner!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Creative Consternation

My friend Andy had his 50th birthday. The invitation was duly sent. Now Andy is a creative sort of chap - musician, writer and song-writer - so one would have expected the party to be a little different from the norm.
The invitation contained the words - Dress Up Theme: Cultural Icons of the Past 50 Years. This caused great consternation among some invitees - you see some people like to dress up while others would rather have body parts removed. Cupboards that had not seen the light of day for some time were searched and the local drama society's wardrobe was picked over for appropriate costumes. If you want to encourage creativity in adults go for a dress-up theme!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Creativity Radio

I have found a little treasure on the web and I'm not sure how I found it but I'm going to keep it!! If you want to find it go to http://www.artofthesong.org/. Its creativity radio at its best.

This from their web site:
"We at Art of the Song have been helping to lay the groundwork for this amazing transformation that is beginning to occur. For the last five years, we have been reaching out to hundreds of thousands of listeners in cities, small towns and rural communities throughout the country. Through music and discussion about songwriting and the creative process, we have subtly and repeatedly delivered the message that we are all creative and that it is not only possible, but imperative that each and all of us express our creative voices.
Art of the Song is much more than a music and interview radio show. We are engaged in very important work, and we must garner the support (financial and otherwise) of individuals, non-profits, corporations, radio stations, and other organizations who believe in – or would be convinced of – the importance of this creative mission. Let us spread the creative word. Let us lead by creative example. Let us grow this grassroots creative movement to transform the world!"
Produced and hosted by John Dillon and Viv Nesbitt [thats them in the photo] you can :
  • - listen to an entire show from a divesre range of musical talent [or as many as you like - they're about an hour long each]

  • - listen to their creativity corner where gifted people share their tips on creating [and not just music!!]

- get song-writing tips from talented song writers

- take part in the on-line forum, and check out the blog

Enough - go to www.artofthesong.org and sign up to creativity radio - its great and its free!!