New Years is often a time for reflecting and visioning, but our resolutions can also feel forced…or doomed. In this spirit, I offer advice from the wisdom of creativity to crafting visions that grow with us.
One of the reasons I write this newsletter is because I believe creativity can be a guide for life. I see myself as a translator from the science of creativity to the lived reality. My hope is that once you understand creativity as responsive and relational, you will listen for what responses are needed to create your best life. Every act is an opportunity to respond differently, to iterate or adapt. In fact, this is called small c creativity, as opposed to Big C Creativity (1). Small c is the individual process of generating new combinations of thought expressed in your life. This could look like a new route to work, a shift in your work-out routine, or a boundary set with a loved one. Every time you listen and adjust to what is needed, you are employing little c creativity. Big C is when you generate something useful or valuable to others. This is usually what we think about when we talk about creative achievements; the iPhones and printing presses loom large in our cannon of innovation. But Big C can be small too. In fact, little c leads to Big C; you need a million small ideas before the big break. Even more, little c can also be useful to others; because when we commit deeply to a process of responding to our needs, we model what is possible for others. This is usually the lesson that most resonates with my students. They start to value every choice as part of their lifelong creative process and trust that small is enough, or as adrienne maree brown says:
So keeping this in mind, consider: What are the small c steps you can take towards a Big C vision? But also, take a moment to assess each step’s motivation and application to your life. As I remind my students often, a creative idea needs to be both unique and useful. A new idea isn’t always better. This comes up most often during student presentations. I challenge them to take risks and try out non-traditional ways of presenting, and sometimes they do something that while unique, does not enhance their presentation and even confuses the audience (a Fanta soda as a prop comes to mind). So then I tell them: Well that was certainly a new choice, but was it the most useful one? I challenge you to ask yourself the same question. What choices will most serve you? Is it adding on something new? Or is it adapting an old pattern? Or perhaps its a commitment to find out. Small c is an individual process; let it be about you.
But also let it be a process. Remember creativity is imagination in action. The action will change the idea; that’s part of the process. A creative vision is one that allows for evaluation and iteration. Too specific and it will be too rigid to respond to what arises; too broad and you won’t be able to assess its value.
Let me give you an example:
Almost 2 years ago I was struggling with making the career move to teaching. It was going to be a financial risky move let alone an uncertain choice. I knew that I didn’t feel happy in my then job, but I wasn’t entirely sure it was because of the job. I was afraid I was chasing happiness and would never be satisfied. So when I went to a meditation daylong and was asked to write about my calling, I wrote this:
I am being called to find out for myself
To follow curiosity over fear
To not worry if my dream is a delusion
To see for myself
“To see for myself” became a mantra. Even when I feared failure, this calling continued to hold me. I was following another teaching of adrienne maree brown: “We embody. We learn. We release the idea of failure, because it’s all data.” (3) I know that even if I discover that teaching is not the best fit for me, I am still on the right path. All you can do is put yourself in the path of your burning questions and listen with creativity. So what are the questions that bring you alive?
Living is a creative act,
Everyday Creativity Tip
One tangible way to manifest your vision is to literally craft it. Creating a vision board is a long held tradition that visualizes your potential as reality and strengthens your relationship with what inspires you. But again, make this a practice of deepening and connecting, rather than reaching and stretching. I’ll give you another example. I was recently listening to an interview with one of my favorite storytellers and podcasters, Nate DiMeo of The Memory Palace podcast, and he was talking about how at some point in his career he realized that his idols were just people, and that he too could do what they do. So I made a vision board of who I aspire after as both a reminder of who’s come before me and what only I can offer.
Go forth and envision your creative potential!
*Note: Nate DiMeo is spelled incorrectly in the image
1. Keith Sawyer, Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation, p.7-8
2. adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, p.41
3. adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, p.18
Originally published January 13, 2020 on the Creativity in Context Newsletter by Evelyn Thorne.
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