Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Creativity, can it be harnessed?

Over here are IEET (Institute for Emerging Ethics and Technologies) Andrea Krusewski is talking about Creativity, something that is very close to a writer's heart. She says:

'Too often, we are given mixed messages from society about what behaviors are expected and valued. Creativity is supposed to be a good thing, something we aspire to achieve. However, those who are the most creative are often faced with the worst treatment and the most rejection for their ideas. To put it simply, people in positions of authority and management generally like and value those who follow rules. It is much easier to maintain order when everyone is following the rules. Breaking rules = bad. Right? But in order to be truly creative, you must break rules. That is what creativity entails. So do we want order, or do we want creativity? Can we have both?'

This cartoon was used in her blog and I just had to include it.

When asked, teachers say they value creativity, but they prefer children who conform, because creative types disrupt the classroom. Well, of course they do, they are always questioning and looking at new ways to do do things.

And we all know how little society values creativity. Who are the lowest paid people? Writers, musicians and artists. But where would Hollywood be without the writers of the scripts for the TV shows and movies?

She adds, 'Personally, I would rather don the riot gear, face the firestorm of resistance from society, and stay true to my creative and purposeful selective rule-breaking behaviors. While we need more people who are willing to face the firestorm and stand up for their creative ideas, the real change needs to come from society itself. Society needs to have flexibility and tolerance in situations where breaking rules is necessary and provides a clear social benefit, instead of treating the passionate innovators of the world as common criminals.'

But how to you change society's attitude towards creativity? Over here at MGC I did a post saying there are two types of people in the world -- those who fear change and those who look for new experiences. The post was done tongue in cheek, but the underlying question was real. If the majority of people fear change and difference, and only look for things which reinforce their world view, then how can society evolve? As writers of Speculative Fiction we actively seek out new experiences and welcome new ideas. I find trying out a new idea gives my mind a mental work out.

Andrea also wrote an article at Scientific Blogging 'We perform best when no one tells us what to do'. Which is something writers can relate to.We often say it is the times when we are staring off into space, that we do our best work. In this article she looks at how companies can encourage creativity in their employees. Google and Atlassian have 'free work times'. This is an interesting concept. Employees are basically free to work on what ever interests them.

A while ago, I read an article in New Scientist about how Necessity isn't really the Mother of Invention. People invent things when they 'play' with ideas. Often it takes time for those inventions to be applied in a practical sense. Time spent 'playing' is something modern children don't get now days. With structured play, after school care, music lessons and tutoring they don't wander down to the creek and build a cubby in the bush, then lie there and day dream, like my generation used to.

Like most writers, I have family and work which I wouldn't trade for anything, but they take up mental space in my head. I often feel as if my brain is crowded with things that require my attention. Yet, it is the 'free work time', when my mind makes the leaps that help connect the dots of my story plots. And these leaps often come when I'm doing other things, driving the kids around, cleaning the house, mowing the yard. It is as if the physical actions leave the brain time to chug along on the background, seeking associations.

How do you harness your creativity?

Input must exceed output. Not a problem when so much information demands out attention. I can find out anything I need to know on the internet and a whole pile of things I didn't want to know.

Time alone, or at least mental space to let ideas brew. This is much harder to find.

Do you have any tips for harnessing creativity?


Rita de Heer said...

Thank you, Rowena, for this great outpouring of love for us ... I have been looking for ages for a good word to describe all of us creating types. The main one, creator, is of course already taken up by the big guy in the sky.

My best engine for getting ideas is the turmoiler usually called the unconscious. The place where I put everything I see hear taste smell feel read, in short, all experience. Last thing at night I read over whatever I'm working on.

While I sleep the turmoiler does its work. Mixing and matching. Ravelling and knotting and unravelling. In the morning, over breakfast, I journal the ideas that have surfaced.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


Do you get ideas while you dream?

I do, rich ideas with backstory, colour and texture. My husband doesn't remember any of his dreams.

I've written short stories based on dreams ideas and, a series currently with my agent, sprang from a single dream at a World SF Con.

Dreaming must be the most definitive sort of 'leave me alone to think time; there is.

Yet, my acupuncturist said is is not normal to have vivid, fascinating dreams every night.

Rita de Heer said...

Well, Rowena, I don't necessarily agree with your acupuncturist. For one thing, how are you going to define normal where dreams are concerned?

Are you going to go the neurologist's way with reading brain patterning in a machine? Or are you going to ask for subjective reports with all the dangers of influence and bias? One human's vivid might be another's pastel nightmare. Ditto for fascinating.

I believe everybody dreams every night, except maybe if they're on depressants and/or alcohol etc. But that most people just aren't in the habit of remembering. And/or don't give themselves time.

I dreamed the end for my story in Canterbury 2100, after a lot of sweat when I wrote myself into a corner. In the dream all the colours were right for the scenario which was pretty amazing because previous scenes had been of a completely different colour scheme.

I think that night, and day, dreaming are the most accessible ways to get the creativity happening in our unconsciousness out into conscious awareness where we can use the ideas.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I think creative people dream more vividly. Some scientist will probably do a study and confirm it.

I've dreamed whole SF and fantasy premises. I have a background as an illustrator and I've had dreams in stylized manga type animation. I've also had one dream where everyone was singing in rhyme in rich 1950s style colour like a musical. I suspect musicians dream music.

I'd be really interested in seeing a study on dreaming.

Nicole said...

I've found that what I need is time - the input needs to sit inside my mind and not be called upon until ready.

That was why writing fiction while I was a journalist didn't work for me - sure, I was getting lots of input, but it was almost immediately being outputed again for the paper, and when I got home my creative well was empty.

It took about four months, but eventually without the journalism the input had time to mature and then the ideas just came pouring forth.

Oh, and the trilogy I've sold was based on a dream. I do lots of stories based on dreams. Valuable source of ideas for me :)

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I'm convinced creative people have more vivid dreams than non-creatives.

And what would I give for more time. That quiet time without demands on my mental landscape so ideas can gel!