For several months I had gone back to writing song lyrics after a very long absence. I was feeling somewhat successful at the output and quality I was generating. I have long been interested in the creative process I remember reading in rapt attention Rollo May’s seminal book on the creativity called “The Courage to Create”.
My interest became more pronounced as I went through training at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre and continued while writing in my Ira Progoff Journal for the past 40 years along with my continued lyric writing in the 1980’s.
Something happened recently that has made me question how I could continue the creative path that I was taking up again. My dear, sweet, 10 year old, black and tan coonhound succumbed to cancer and when that happened all desire to write vanished. Everything seemed like, as stated in the Bible “vanity”. I realized I was in mourning and it would be natural not to want to write during this time, but the depths to which I descended surprised me. I lost all vestiges of creativity that I had found recently.
I decided as part of my “therapy” to get through each day, to see what I could find out about the most optimum conditions for fostering creativity. The research has helped me to start to recover from what was and is a deep loss for me. What follows are some findings from the research I undertook.
Psychology Today states in their article, psychologytoday.com/us/basics, that creative thinking “involves making new connections between different regions of the brain, which is accomplished by cultivating divergent thinking skills and by deliberately exposing oneself to new experiences and learning”. This brief explanation did not go nearly as far as I wanted. It seemed to me too simplistic. So, you mean I go somewhere and expose myself to different things and ideas and presto the creative juices start to flow! I think not. It is a much more complicated process then that.
James Clear best describes the creative process most succinctly when he writes that there are five stages of the creative process. They are:
“1) Gather new material 2) Thoroughly work over the material in your mind. 3) Step away from the problem
4) Let your idea return to you 5) Shape and develop your idea based on feedback”
In my own experience writing lyrics. When I first listen to music without words, I intuit a sense of what that music might inspire and even what genre that music would fit even, as yet, there are no words. If I can develop a theme, I begin to research and collect all the words related to that theme, or what I might want to say, or a story I might want to write through the music. At this point all of this is a conscious act. Then I go away from all that I have written down on paper or computer and wait patiently for the words to begin to coalesce and begin to orient themselves in some kind of structure. At that point, it feels a little like I am taking dictation and I begin to write and re-write, putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. I start to get a picture, vague at first, then brought to greater and greater focus until finally the words fit the music and after collaborative work with the musician the song is born. That is only my way of working but I think it may resonate with creators who are reading this.
Barbara Fredrickson, a social psychologist found that “if we choose to categorize more events as positive rather than neutral (such as a sunny day) and experience positive emotions, such as joy and appreciation, we experience an upward spiral of emotion. This changes our radius of awareness.” Frederickson calls this the Broaden and Build theory (B.L. Frederickson, 1998).
Frederickson believes that in an expanding world, comes more flexibility and innovation and we are able to “see solutions we would not normally see” (Frederickson, 2003).
She believes that cultivating positive emotions can increase our creativity.
So how do we do that? How do we “cultivate positive emotions”? There are three ways to start:
I am relieved to say that as each day goes by I find myself coming out of my malaise. But I had to consciously do what Frederickson has recommended in order to get myself on track. I recommend highly that if you are having a block of sorts you should try the above three activities to get back on track.
More food for thought follows as I reproduce my favorite creativity quotes. Enjoy.
“Create with the heart; build with the mind”.
“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not”.
“Creativity takes courage”.
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”.
“I shut my eyes in order to see”.
“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work”.
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have”.
“The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose”.
In order to create you have to believe in your ability to do so and that often means excluding
whole chunks of normal life, and of course, pumping yourself up as much as possible as a way
of keeping on. Sort of cheering for yourself in the great football stadium of life”.
“The important thing for you is to be alert, to question, to find out, so that your own initiative may
“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity”.
“Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write”.
Rainer Maria Rilke
“Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced”.
Deb has worked in mental health as a social worker helping her clients transform their lives.
This blog will contain articles on career, nutrition and other miscellaneous health, and pet care topics. I hope you enjoy the articles and feel free to comment on any you like or information you would like to share.