Sunday, September 27, 2009

Reality and the Creative Edge

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
Philip K. Dick

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.
John Lennon

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

I have a very firm grasp on reality! I can reach out and strangle it any time!
Author Unknown
Reality is fine, you know, but it can really get in your way when you're chasing a dream.
Angela Bowie

What is reality?
Once you have a clear vision of what you want to create, you need to balance that with a clear view of the reality you now have. Where you are now is simply where you are now. It is an assessment of current circumstances and not a judgment on who you are. Be gentle with yourself as you assess where you are in relation to where you want to be. This process sets up creative tension. In order to set up the creative tension dynamic, you must have a clear measurement of your current reality and circumstances. Knowing the difference between where you want to be and where you are at this moment in time creates a healthy tension that seeks to resolve itself. Knowing where you want to go and where you are creates a tension that moves you forward. It is in the gap between where you are and where you want to be that the tension resides. It is in the gap where choices are made and the actions are taken that can propel you forward.

Why is reality important?
Once you know what you want and what you currently have in relation to what you want you can begin to organise your actions more effectively to cause the desired changes to happen. Say you had a vision to write an award winning play. If you have never written anything in your life then that's quite a gap between your vision and your reality. So what actions might you take to move yourself forward toward your intended destination? If getting an award for writing a play is not something that is important to you, then there is no creative tension and without creative tension you blunt your creative edge.

More on reality and its practical application in The Creative Edge Workbook.
Email me at for more information.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Your reality is not real [and nor is mine]

A newsletter I subscribe to is Keith Livingstone's Hypnosis 101. Having trained in hypnotherapy this site continues to expand my knowledge and practice. A sense of reality is also one of the elements of the creative character. It is the gap between vision and reality that creates a creative tension that seeks resolution - the tension that causes people to create. In this part one of a two part video clip Keith sets up an experiment that challenges whether any one's reality is actually real Its a little freaky!!
Check the video clip out here. Your Reality Is Not Real (nor is mine)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Vision and the Creative Edge

Most people are not really free. They are confined to the niche in the world they carve out for themselves.They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision. V S Naipul

Vision is one of the 5 elements of character [ see the Parthenon model of creativity] that I believe is essential for the development of personal creativity.

What is vision?
A vision is a positive, powerful picture of what you want to create - be it an art work, a meal, a dance or a life. It is a picture that is important enough for you to commit time and energy to bring it into being.
Peter Senge says it is “ a force in people’s hearts, a force of impressive power.” (Fifth Discipline. p.206).
A personal vision is the pictures or images that a person carries around in both their head and their heart. At its simplest level a vision is the answer to the question, “What do I want to create?”
Visions inspire us to reach for possibilities and to make them our realities. They bring out the best in us and help us rise above our fears and pre-occupations with what can go wrong and focus on what can go right.

Why is vision important?
Having a personal vision provides you with a constant mental road map giving you direction. With a vision firmly in mind, you can make moment-to-moment choices with real integrity. A person with a vision is more likely to feel fulfilled, energised and confident.
On the other hand, when no vision exits, life is more likely to be seen as drudgery, to be endured instead of embraced, performed instead of experienced, and stagnant instead of vital and evolving.

Vision . . . .
§ provides us with an anchor
§ provides us with a beacon.
§ supports the core from which we can make decisions about what we want to be and how we wish to invest our talents and time.
§ directs our focus and energy

If you want to learn more about developing your creative edge my new workbook - The Creative Edge Putting creativity into your life Putting life into your creativity - is now for sale. Contact It comes as a pdf file on a disc. Price $NZ15 plus postage and packaging. I'll send it anywhere in the world!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Morris Dancing

Seeing my last name is Morris I couldn't resist this - don't miss the movie if it comes to a cinema near you.
Thanks Brenda.

The Structure of Creativity

I have been puzzling over this thing called creativity for many years. One of my challenges has been to identify the elements that make up creativity and then figure out if others can learn to become more creative.

For a number of years I have been facilitating creativity workshops and retreats so I was always challenged to find ways of making them ‘better’ for people although the feedback from them has been great.

I am reminded of a quote from Terrance Conran, the designer, who said:

“I’ve never met a truly creative person who was happy and satisfied with life. They are always worried about something, that something is not right. They could improve the world. I needed through creativity, inspiration – whatever – and quite a lot of common sense - to find a better way of doing it.”

That’s me and this is my thinking around the structure of creativity to date. It may change – but that’s the nature of creativity. I explored a range of visual ways of trying to get across my thinking – there was the Creativity Diamond, the Starfish Model of Creativity and now I have the Parthenon.
Built in the 5th century BC, the original Parthenon is a temple of the Greek goddess Athena whom the people of Athens considered their protector. Its stylistic conventions have become the paradigm of Classical architecture, and its style has influenced architecture for many centuries after it was built.

Which is what I hope that my Parthenon might do – influence creativity for many years to come - nothing wrong with delusions of grandeur!!

Like any structure that is built to last the Parthenon rests on a solid foundation, topped with a floor. It has wall pillars supporting the roof. When we have all of these in place we have the framework that will support our creative edge.
Let’s explore the construction of the building in a little more depth.

The Foundation – that’s you - your beliefs, your values, your attitude and your motivation - those aspects of you that make up your character. It is the base on which your creativity rests.

The question to ask is how does your present character support your creative intentions?

To become more creative you may have to take a close look at your character and decide that some change is needed. Once you can identify the character qualities you’re missing, you can consciously develop them. But as long as you remain in the dark about these deficiencies, it will be tough to reach your creative intention because you won’t yet be the kind of person who can achieve it.

Select one of your creativity goals or intentions, perhaps one where your progress has been disappointing. Now ask yourself if a person with different character attributes would be more capable of achieving this goal than you are. What kind of person would find your creative intention easy to achieve?

Ask yourself the following questions:
What would a person with more vision do in my situation?
What would a person who fully accepted their reality do in my situation?
What would a person with more curiosity do in my situation?
What would a person with more competence do in my situation?
What would a person with more courage do in my situation?
By asking these questions for each of your creative intentions, you’ll end up with a list of character qualities to develop. By strengthening these qualities, you’ll become the kind of person who can and will achieve your creative intention.

The Floor - these are the elements of your character that I alluded to previously. They rest on the foundation and support the pillars of your creativity. I believe that creative people exhibit certain aspects of character.
They are: Vision, Reality, Curiosity, Courage and Competence
The Pillars - the framework that supports the roof - these are the day to day 'habits' that creative people exhibit that give them a creative edge. They are: Be open, Collect, Challenge, Seek, Surround, and Play.

Future blogs will look at each of these in more detail. In the meantime if you would like to purchase the book - in pdf form on disc - you can order a copy from me or from the Creative Skills Training Council

The Creative Edge

The Creative Edge is both the name of this blog and my new workbook. Over time I am going to put excerpts from the book on this blog. The book, by the way, can be ordered directly from me - or through the Creative Skills Training Council

The Creative Edge

All change happens at the edge and creativity is about change.
For me, creativity is the stuff you do at the edges. But the edges are different for everyone, and the edges change over time. Stuff that would have been creative last year isn't creative at all today, because it's not near the edges any more.

“The most fertile region [in the mind’s inner landscape] seems to be the marshy shore, the borderline between sleep and full awakening and where the matrices of disciplined thought are already operating but have not yet sufficiently hardened to obstruct the dreamlike fluidity of imagination.” Arthur Koestler

If you want to be creative, understand that you'll need to get to the edges, even if the edges have moved. Being creative means immediately going to the place the last person left off.

“Creative thinking takes place neither inside the box nor outside the box, but at the edges of the box.” Chris Bilton Management and Creativity

Creativity is about pushing the boundaries. It is not possible to be comfortable and creative at the same time. All creativity takes place at the meeting point between different worlds.

“Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning. Probably that's why we decide we're done. It's getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out.” Natalie Goldberg

We all live within a box of possibilities whose edge is formed by inner judgments, attitudes and beliefs. When we are conscious of these habits of mind and behaviour, we expand the box, continue the journey, and experience a sense of heightened satisfaction and fulfilment. With an expanded box of possibilities, we will better understand how to face life’s challenges with a creative mindset.

“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you can see all kinds of things you can’t see from the centre.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr

“When you have come to the edge of all the light you have
And step into the darkness of the unknown
Believe that one of the two will happen to you
Either you'll find something solid to stand on
Or you'll be taught how to fly!”
Richard Bach

"Come to the edge," he said. They said, "We are afraid."
"Come to the edge," he said. They came. He pushed them . . . and they flew."
Guillaume Appollinaire

How Edgy Are You?

Where are the edges of your current knowledge and abilities?

How have they shifted from a few years ago?

How do you challenge yourself to keep things fresh and exciting?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Creative Skills Training Council

The Creative Skills Training Council is an on-line community of creative practitioners made up of business executives, academics, designers, artists, behavioural and cognitive scientists involved in advancing the practice of creative skills and capabilities development in business, organizations and government through aesthetic processes and creativity thinking tools and systems.

This is a collection of blogs kept by individual CSTC members that include essays, comments, advice and links on all matters creative.

Gary Bertwistle, The Idea Vault, Sydney Australia
Robert Alan Black, Georgia, USA (Weekly Creative Challenges)
Keith De La Rue. Acknowledge Consulting. Melbourne Australia
Bob Eckert, New and Improved, New York, USA
Andy Eklund Creative Streak Sydney Australia
Gregg Fraley, Chicago, USA
Tim Hurson, ThinkX, Toronto, Canada
Ralph Kerle. Creativity Matters. Sydney. Australia
Viv McWaters, Beyond the Edge, Australia
Wayne Morris. Future Edge, New Zealand.
Linda Naiman, Creativity at Work, Vancouver, Canada
Des Walsh, Social Media Strategist, Gold Coast, Australia

It has also just recently established an on-line shop. Here is the CSTC Shop link
You can buy my book "The Creative Edge - Putting creativity into your life - Putting life into your creativity' at the shop.

The site is worth checking out at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Distance Creativity

Jeffrey Baumgartner publishes Report 103 twice a month. Its good!
You can find this and every issue of Report 103 ever written at at his archives on

The most recent issue [156] has a great article on a very simple and scientifically proven method to boost your creative thinking skills temporarily.

Here is a small extract - if you want the rest check out the newsletter.

"If you are looking to boost your creativity, you will find a lot of tips out there (including my own slightly flippant “10 Steps to Boost Your Creativity” at which first went on-line in 1996 and has been reproduced in numerous books, magazines, web pages and PowerPoint slides since). But few of those tips are based on any empirical evidence. Indeed, evidence tends to show your level of creativity is largely the result of how your brain is wired (see for instance the 19 September 2006 issue of Report 103: ) and so cannot be significantly changed.

However, recent research by Lile Jia , Edward R. Hirta and Samuel C. Karpena at Indiana University has shown that there is a very simple and scientifically proven method to boost your creative thinking skills temporarily. You simply need to distance yourself from the problem – even if only in the mind.

The team observed that according to the construal level theory of psychological distance, thoughts which we do not see as being part of the here and now are considered psychologically distant. Moreover, we tend to see such psychologically distant things as being more abstract; while thoughts related to the here and know we perceive as being more concrete.
Lile and the team theorised that the abstract thinking of distant thoughts would be beneficial to creative thinking. To test this, they devised two experiments."

And if you want to know more about the experiments and the results go to Look for the 15 September 2009 issue.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Should creative writing be taught?

An article from the New Yorker.
Should it?

The Creative Edge Workbook

Its been a long New Zealand winter and I've spent a lot of time writing The Creative Edge Workbook . . . AND ITS DONE!!! YEEEHAAAAA!!

Its over a 100 pages long and is on a CD in pdf format.

What's in it?

Information [word bites] about creativity - for those who like to know stuff [but don't expect to become more creative by knowing]. These are intended to stretch your thinking.

The Parthenon - have to but it to find out about that or check the previous blog!

Practical activities to expand your creativity - for those who like to do stuff.
Other people's stories - for those who need to know that becoming more creative is possible and that others have done it [some of these also appear on my blog]

A test!!! Yes a test - to see how you fare against the generally accepted characteristics of creative people

Quotes - a bunch of quotes from famous and not so famous people about creativity - learning from the wisdom from others never hurts
Some spelling mistakes - I'm sure that there will be some - spellcheckers aren't perfect and nor am I

Price - NZ$15NZ plus NZ$5 postage [if I have to post it] Seems pretty reasonable.

If you would like 1 or 10 or 100 let me know [by email] and I'll get them in the mail to you asap. Don't forget to include your snail mail address. I'll reply to your email giving you details of your payment options - including a PayPal email limk that I have never used before so I hope it works.

I'm off to South Africa as a guest facilitator at a 15th Annual Creativity Conference next month [October] and the workbook material will form the basis of my workshop.

So if I don't respond to any requests in October that's why - I'll be up at the great, grey / green, greasy Limpopo River - although I'm sure its not!

Hope you are all well and being exceptionally creative.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Creative Parthenon

For a few years now I have been playing with 'models' of creativity - there was the 'creativity diamond', the 'starfish model of creativity' and now the Parthenon. This is what it looks like.
The Parthenon forms the basis for a new workbook I have put together titled 'The Creative Edge Workshop - putting life into your creativity - putting creativity into your life.'

It is also going to form the basis of a workshop I'm running in South Africa in October this year. I have yet to work out a way of selling the workbook so if anyone out there reads this and knows about this on-line selling stuff feel free to contact me

Future blogs will look at the aspects of the Parthenon and the habits required for being a creative person.

Where in the world is . . ?

A couple of weeks ago I put one of those counters on this blog - you know - the thing that tells you how many people are watching and where they come from.
I promptly forgot about it until today. Its quite cool. Apart from the numbers it tells me that people from all these countries are interested in things creative:

  • New Zealand - 'cause that's where I live!
  • United States

  • Australia

  • Netherlands

  • Ireland

  • United Kingdom

  • Puerto Rico

  • Malaysia

  • India

  • Hungary

  • Pakistan

  • and some unknowns - creative extra-terrestrials perhaps?

That's pretty exciting.

Wouldn't it be great if we talked to each other about all things creative, bounced ideas around - feel free to start a conversation on this blog. Use the comments box or email me at

Monday, September 7, 2009

Benefits of Creative Classrooms

Mike Baker of the BBC looks at the progress made in instilling creativity in British classrooms.

"Creativity benefits results in other areas, research suggests
Ten years ago this month a 243-page report on the importance of promoting creativity and culture in schools landed on ministers' desks.
It had been commissioned in the heady early days of the Blair government to recommend ways to make progress in the "creative and cultural development of young people" both in and out of school.
The review was led by Sir Ken Robinson and included leading scientists, business leaders, and key figures from the arts world.
It was widely acclaimed.
It argued that creativity was a skill that could be taught.
It was not about progressive teaching or loose discipline. Nor was it in any way an alternative to the essential skills of numeracy and literacy.
Rather it was about encouraging pupils to be innovative and to develop the ability to problem-solve in all areas of the curriculum, from maths to technology.
It argued that such skills were essential to individuals, employers and the whole economy.

But what has happened since?
There has certainly been cultural activity in schools but even the strongest champions of creative and cultural education would have to admit that the report - called All Our Futures - has not dominated schools policy.
That's because it came out just at a time when the new Labour government was investing its energy in boosting standards in the "three Rs".
Determined to show it was tough in standards, Labour's drive was focused on the Numeracy and Literacy Hours.
Ask a primary school pupil in England what numeracy or literacy is and they will have no hesitation in describing what they do in class for an hour each day.
But creativity? Even if All Our Futures had suggested a "creativity hour" it would probably have been seen as a distraction from the key message on standards.
Of course, it did not recommend anything as gimmicky, since the whole tenor of the report was that creativity and culture are not some sort of bolt-on activities, but are skills that should be developed throughout all aspects of teaching and learning, in science as much as in the arts.
In some ways the report was ahead of its time.
It called for a reduction in the burden of assessment and said the national curriculum should be reduced to take up no more than 80% of the timetable.
The latter recommendation probably now seems too modest, an indication of how far the call for greater freedom for schools has been reflected in subsequent reforms of the curriculum.
But any satisfaction the authors of All Our Futures may draw from subsequent events must, surely, be tempered by recognition that there is still a long way to go before creativity is seen as fundamental to teaching and learning in schools.
The current fierce debate about the national tests, or Sats, at age 11 hinges on whether they contribute to a narrowing of the curriculum, with many teachers and schools feeling they dominate the final years of primary school.
Indeed, the accountability criteria that determine success or failure for schools and teachers are overwhelmingly based on formal tests, particularly covering English and maths, not on indicators that reflect pupils' creativity.
So you could not blame head teachers if they felt it was more important to secure their school against league table failure - or the triggering of an Ofsted inspection - than to promote creativity.
However, a report published this week by the new charity Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE) highlights research suggesting that a focus on creativity in schools need not be at the expense of achievement in the basics.
Indeed, it claims the very opposite: that creativity boost exam results and attendance.
The report looks at the record of a programme called Creative Partnerships.
This programme - which fosters collaborative partnerships between schools and creative professionals including artists, performers, architects and scientists - has now engaged almost one million school students and 90,000 teachers.
According to research from the independent National Foundation for Educational Research, which covered 13,000 young people, pupils who have taken part in Creative Partnerships' programmes have often outperformed others who have not been involved.
The NFER research found many of the differences were relatively small but it did conclude that "The results of this study suggest that Creative Partnerships is contributing to improved levels of attainment."
In particular, it found that "Young people who have attended Creative Partnerships activities made, on average, the equivalent of 2.5 grades better progress in GCSE than similar young people in other schools."
While the NFER is at pains to point out that from the evidence so far the gains are small, this is clearly an encouraging sign for those who argue that creative and cultural education is not just some sort of woolly feel-good effect.
Report cards
Perhaps more important, though, is the NFER evidence which suggests Creative Partnerships programmes have been associated with an "educationally significant reduction in absence rates in primary schools".
Ofsted has also monitored Creative Partnership programmes.
It found "improvements in literacy, particularly writing, and speaking were significant in the majority of schools visited".
Educational research is rarely definitive as there are always so many other variables involved in pupil attainment.
But the evidence so far seems to back the view that putting a real emphasis on creative and cultural education in schools has broad benefits.
However, getting all schools to take this route will continue to be difficult when the accountability measures that determine the success or failure of schools continue to emphasise short-term improvements in formal qualifications.
Perhaps the government's proposed new School Report Cards can find a way of indicating whether a school is successfully promoting creative and cultural education?"

Source: BBC

And we in New Zealand are bringing in National Standards! Bugger!