I don’t consider myself a very creative person. I can prove this based on the simple fact that through my career, as an interpreter and now interpretive manager, all of the interpretive programs I have ever created have had the worst titles in the history of interpretation and in most cases included a colon. I have always been envious of those interpreters who create cute, funny, and snazzy program titles to go along with their hikes, audio-visual presentations, and demonstrations. All the while my The Great Mississippi Flyway: Birds of Eastern Arkansas title remains in mourning. When I visit interpretive sites I try to pick up program advertisement sheets to swipe titles from and use at my park. Does that make me a bad person? Only when I pulled the program advertisements off a bulletin board, I guess.
Most people assume that if you are involved in interpretive design that you are automatically considered a “creative” or “artistic” type. I appreciate being incorporated into a group that may be considered creative, or any group for that matter. It was Mattias Konradsson who said, “Creativity and ideas don’t come on command, they seem to spring up when we least expect it — like a rod of lightning bending our mind in unexpected directions, showing us the way.” Much like Konradsson wrote, creativity strikes me at strange moments and is very mood dependent. I have to be in the right mindset to be creative. More and more I find looming deadlines creating the mood for me, so much for walks on the beach, candles, and soft music.
So why is it that we put the creative on such a pedestal? I think emotions play a large role in this idolizing. Many creative people, especially those well known for their creativity, put a large amount of their own emotions into their work. They show us a window inside their world that many of us are afraid to open. By us I mean me. By connecting emotionally to what they have to share, we respond to their feelings or emotions with our own feelings and emotions. So in some way we can relate to the creative on a different level. Modern Russian-Jewish artist Marc Chagall poured his heart and soul into his work and said, “If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head almost nothing.”
Many of us have stumbling blocks placed before us put there by our own subconscious. I call these my filters. We are afraid to pour our hearts into every project we are working on to eventually have it exposed for interpretation by the world. Again by we, I mean me.
The creative process is an individual process that is as different from person to person as personalities. For some the creative juices simply ooze from all of their systems. I tend to ooze cholesterol. For others, to find any creative juice they have to be run through the ringer. What needs to be remembered is that even for the most creative, creativity is a process and anyone has the potential to be a creative person. Psychologist and president of Princeton Creative Research Eugene Raudsepp said, “If you want to develop your creativity, establish regular work habits. Allow time for the incubation of ideas, and adhere to your individual rhythm. Violations of this rhythm can retard your creative efficiency.”
If that approach to the process is too militaristic or systematic for you perhaps the late 19th-century French painter Raoul Dufy’s words will speak to you: “I don’t follow any system. All the laws you can lay down are only so many props to be cast aside when the hour of creation arrives.” (Pictured here is a 1934 Dufy painting titled “Regatta at Cowes.”) As mentioned before, as different from person to person as personalities.
The one area where I feel like the creative process and my path cross is in the area of problem solving. The creative are known as skilled problem solvers and organizers. I tend to be one of those left-brained persons, but by drawing conclusions from data that doesn’t meld, the creative are excited by the process of solving problems. Okay, so only Paul gets excited by this.
Perhaps Roger Sperry was on to something when he developed the Modes of Thinking also know as Divisions of the Right and Left Brain. According to Sperry the left side of the brain is the responsible side that processes things logically, in sequential order, is rational, analytical, objective, and looks at parts instead of wholes. The right side of the brain is the creative side that looks at things randomly, intuitively, holistically, synthesizes, is subjective, and looks at wholes instead of parts. This research points out that the creative are definitely more right-brained people. Knowing this, the left-brained person is not unable to be creative. They just have to work harder at it. The left brain is concerned with logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy, while the right focuses on aesthetics, feeling, and creativity. Those like me who are responsible for creative work, that tend to be more left than right, must learn to think on the right. It can be difficult but even marathon runners must first begin running one mile at time by placing one foot in front of the other. The problem for me is that I’m a really slow runner.
Next week, in Creativity: Part 2, I will take on some practices to improve creativity and try to apply them to the title of the post.