Monday, September 16, 2013

Creativity: a Mysterious Paradox

If you have read my other blog posts, you know how creativity can be paradoxical; however, with the help of my buddy (okay, so we're not really buddies, but for the sake of this blogpost, we are) Mihaly Csikszentimihalyi (whom I will now refer to as MC) I learned that creativity is all about balance.

First, MC discusses the four main problems that humans have with achieving creativity:
1. Some of us are exhausted by too many demands, and so having trouble getting hold of and activating our psychic energy in the first place.
2. We get easily distracted and have trouble learning how to protect and channel whatever energy we have.
3. Laziness, or lacking discipline for controlling the flow of energy.
4. Not knowing what to do with the energy one has.

I feel like many people in the United States and in other economically driven countries have a habit of getting stuck in a routine. Trapped, I should say. They wake up, go to a job they do not even like that much, go home to their families, complain about their job, go to sleep, wake up and do it all over again. It's rare that I hear a parent in my hometown rave about how awesome their job is, and how much they love waking up in the morning and going to the office. In fact, I have only heard that from a few teachers in my school district; I'd say I've met about five or six teachers who truly love their job. 
Somebody is bored...

People become so preoccupied with their jobs and families that they do not have time to sit down, think, and be creative. MC says that we take "refuge in passive entertainment [to keep] chaos temporarily at bay, but the attention it absorbs gets wasted. On the other hand, when we learn to enjoy using our latent creative energy so that it generates its own internal force to keep concentration focused, we not only avoid depression but also increase the complexity of our capacities to relate to the world" (Csikszentimihalyi). People get so caught up in their routines to avoid letting their minds wander, when really, they need to let their minds do just that. By allowing yourself to relax, think, and be curious, creative thought may come naturally; and this creativity could potentially help a person with his work, family, and life in general.
So. Frickin. Curious.

These routines contribute to the loss of curiosity as a person ages. When you're five, you have all the time in the world to be curious about everything around you. Once you have a job, a family, and other responsibilities, though, free time decreases exponentially. He says we must learn to be curious again, just like when we were children, and find joy in the little things in life.

·      MC says we can relearn how to be curious by doing the following:

     1. Wake up in the morning with a specific goal to look forward to.
     2. If you do anything well, it becomes enjoyable.
     3. To keep enjoying something, you need to increase its complexity. 

This is from a web series called The Most Popular Girls in School.
      His third point made me think about something I've found enjoyable for years: making videos. When I was younger, I would make videos with my neighbor using Bratz dolls. We made voices and recorded them, then plugged the camera into the TV to play the video back. Later, I started using a different video camera and editing software on a computer to make the videos better. Now I storyboard ideas with my friends, write scripts, and make short films. (The video below is a short film I made with my friends.) MC remarks, “It is always possible to find a better way to do anything. That is why creativity—the attempt to expand the boundaries of a domain—makes a lifetime of enjoyment possible."

However, MC contradicts himself: he says to be creative, you should be open to experience and focus on even the most mundane tasks (like brushing teeth) so that you can make any task enjoyable. But then he says you should conserve creative energy by "routinizing" as much of everyday life as possible so that you can focus on what really matters. That being said, I think creativity is all about balance. You need to balance your everyday routine and responsibilities with new experiences and a growing curiosity. 

Sweet Brown is wrong, ladies and gents.
You gotta make time to relax. 
To do this we need to take small breaks from our lives. This means breaking away from everything that is normal and routine to do something relaxing or to experience something new. Relaxing will allow your brain to be more creative, and new experiences will increase your curiosity. This is why I think everyone should be required to go on vacation. It does not have to be to the typical Caribbean resort for some R&R. It could be going to a local music festival for the day, or going rock climbing with a group of friends. I think it should be required so people's brains can relax and then work more creatively and therefore, efficiently.  

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