For the past couple of weeks I have been referring occasionally to a Creative Challenge that I was doing, set by Joanna Pieters who hosts a podcast featuring very good interviews with people who work creatively. These people are not necessarily artists, (although some are) but all use creativity strongly – or need to generate it as an approach to their work. While an eclectic bunch, they all have great, practical suggestions about overcoming block, or simply starting a project, but enough about them, how about me?
I was going to document my progress with the challenge on the blog, but then realised that much of the joy of doing it was getting an email with something new in it every day – like opening a new window on an advent calendar, so I did not want to post details of what I had seen in case others wanted to try it. This made posting my responses difficult as it would make no sense to the reader. Broadly speaking, though, every day the email would contain a link to a poem, art work or piece of music which a question about creativity to ponder and reflect on.
Of course I did not ponder and reflect, I tried to use each day’s prompt as a stimulus to create a piece of fiction writing, but that proved almost impossible to keep up online. Writing fifteen short stories in fifteen days is not impossible, but quite hard work and would probably have been counter productive.
After Day 1, when I did post some fiction, I eased up a bit and sometimes took the fictional work offline so I could allow myself time to write, without the pressure of having to complete and I actually now have notes for quite a few things which I will get working on.
What was interesting, though was two things:
1. Even the pieces I did not like in particular were of use. There was one piece of music, for example that just sounded awful to me – like childbirth (or rather like what I would image childbirth to be like). It was intended to be a joyful expression of love but all I heard was yelling and chaos (some would say that is what the point was, I suppose). I also got this weird image of the English comedienne Miranda Hart running about carrying a large pot of boiling water and trying not to spill it. This led me to think about humour and the role that contrast plays in creating comedy.
2. Creativity creates connections. If I ever wondered why years ago being creative seemed much more easy, it is probably because I was both accidentally and deliberately exposing myself to more creativity. The brain naturally looks for patterns and the more you show it the wider the net that it throws. By the end of just 15 days of 15 mins considering someone else’s creative output, I was seeing possibilities everywhere.
I suppose the short answer is that creativity undoubtedly breeds creativity and too much focus on news or work seems to do the opposite – for me at least. As well as the stuff that I did write, I also made notes for four short stories, one of which is underway, a song parody and a couple of gags as well as the idea for a narrative structure to explore. I really did feel myself looking at things twice over the course of the fortnight. I could see opportunities and connections – without trying, so I guess if I have one simple goal to take away, it is that I need to seek out something creative every day and that it is just as valuable to respond to creativity as it is to create.
This did backfire on me slightly this morning, though. Walking to work, I passed a car dealership and noticed a series of signs stuck out the front. The first one read, NO MON.
What could this mean, I wondered – ‘No Money’? Was it some sort of new talk that the kidz were using. Were they saying that the kidz could get credit?
Maybe it was short for ‘No Monday’ Maybe they were saying that if I bought a car from them I was going to want every weekend to be three days long and I would not be walking past them again until Tuesday of every week.
The next little sign said, HAIL SALE. If this was a further clue, it was of no help. I could not see the connection between a sale they had on and the previous sign. The mystery thickened, then I got to the third sign.
NOW ON, it said. The penny dropped.
So that was it. There was no mystery, no secret message. The guys in the dealership had simply stuck the first sign into the ground upside down. As I looked along the row of signs my realisation was conformed. HAIL SALE, NOW ON, HAIL SALE NOW ON all the way up the forecourt – with just that first sign sitting with its non nonsensical message at the beginning.
I guess sometimes, you can get a little too creative.