There’s an ongoing struggle to find more time for creative projects. Projects may require a skillset that is new, so there’s also the practice involved in getting up to speed. Any of my larger scale art projects fit this bill. I have a vision of what it is i want to do, I know the components needed to make that happen, but I am not exactly comfortable or competent yet with the particular media i want to be using. This means I take time out to make some smaller less significant projects to get my skill set up to speed. I do this with painting, music, and language all the time.
A lot of this stuff stands on the edge between spark and skill. I listened to TTBOOK earlier this year with 3 pieces on creativity, and i learned that while Lynda Barry believes that we’re all artists with stories to tell, Geoff Colvin asserts that to be truly amazing at whatever form it is we want to use, we’re going to have to invest the 10,000 hours necessary to make amazing happen. Essentially since a lot of “genuis” is actually stuff that is skill oriented, the creator needs to invest a full time of practice, or apprenticeship, in order to be able to perform with an expert level of skill. Developing that skill isn’t magic, it’s hard time.
This kind of gazing into the heart of creativity might take away some of the awe of the whole thing from some people, but I don’t quite feel the same way. Like everyone else, I’m really busy, and I’d love the chance to dissect the creative process. I have some skills that are pretty great, and I’ve put in the time to have them. If i put in more time, I’ll probably get better. Awesome. Sometimes the problem is that i carve the time out of my schedule for whatever endeavor of the moment i am on, but then I cannot seem to have that inspiration at the right time to make it happen. Those hours I’ve set aside go to waste. Am I doing it wrong?
It depends. If i’m looking to drive home a creative narrative or conceptualize a larger piece, I probably need some isolated quiet time. John Cleese does an awesome job talking through ways to make that happen, and the consistency and isolation to finish getting stuff out is great. This blog is a great example. I run around digesting a lot of material in order to craft this post, but i need to actually sit and do the stewing absent of other inputs to actually carve out this post itself.
On the other hand, there’s another critical time period for me, between sucking up (too much?) information, and spitting out a post in some creative keyboard frenzy… and that’s the collaborative brain process part. Steven Johnson tackles this in his book Where Good Ideas Come From. This is where I walk around talking to other folks who i think of as creative and competent sorts, and ask what they think, and give some viewpoints, and my own ideas on how this stuff plays out. They generally play back, and I get to retool how I conceive the creative process. This is sitting in a pub sharing a pint and talking about where genius comes from, or hanging out poring over coming books and contemplating how that material gets amassed, and how i can amass that kind of material.
The data collecting part, where I dump everything in my google reader feed is great, but without the re-examinating and doing something with it, I lose out on my opportunity to be part of the story of whatever interesting piece of information it is. Sometimes (in this case) that might just be synthesis, stringing together ideas that are interesting that play off each other in a way that others can access it.
Regardless, that ability to play with the ideas and mold them, pull them out of the trinket box and let them shine is really important. I believe wholeheartedly in examining life. I don’t think everything has to be premeditated, and i adore serendipity, but thinking about things is pretty crucial. That brings me to the last link, Hallowell’s Crazy Busy where he suggests that people need to take the time to examine the nuggets of data they have and play with ideas.
It’s hard, but i’m trying to take the time to play, and hopefully leave a fun trail of evidence that i’m making a mess.