Sunday, 3 July 2016

My Values: Creativity

Creativity is incredibly important to me, it's something that I've always sought out in myself and I often feel happiest when I'm writing or thinking about writing. I believe that we are all creative, it's not a special thing and like negative thoughts, weird ideas are always flying through our heads. Just as a depressive person has learnt to listen to the dark thoughts that bubble up in their minds, the creative person has either learnt to pay attention to the weird ones or never learnt to stop. This might explain why the meme of 'the child that survived' is so popular on social media, but I feel that's not exactly accurate. It suggests a lack of ability to think, and while I do feel some creative people have a tendency to ask questions about things that most 'normal' people take for granted (one of mine is if you have a chair but you use it to keep stuff on rather than sitting, is it still a chair - in short is the function we put things to actually what defines them rather than their shape and form?) I don't feel comfortable ascribing maturity or immaturity to these characteristics. One thing I would say I feel is true is that there is a link between creativity and depression, but only in as much as both activities mean you have to go into yourself, and that in being aware of the weird ideas (and in taking them out to consider them rather than shrugging your mental shoulders and dismissing them), you may open yourself to depression too. The only other thing I would say on that particular subject is that you're opening yourself to a lot of self examination, creating something that comes from yourself and that can be scary, especially if you're told that what you've made isn't that great.

In many ways I feel I can only talk about my creativity, I honestly believe that it is individual for everyone, and platitudes about it only make it harder for us to find our way to making things that reflect who we are (which is what any creative act ultimately is, and why we should never worry about mining familiar seams, nobody has told your version of the King Arthur stories, or your paranormal romance story).

For me, it's like teasing a thread out of thin air, and hoping that it leads me somewhere cool. I often feel like I'm walking through thick mist and that my 'muse' makes me work, teasing me with false trails, and by vanishing to leave me to do it for myself. Stephen King, in On Writing, describes his muse in these terms:

“There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the mid-night oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me, I know.”

That feels right to me, (and I find it annoying when I see writers talking about their muses as someone who makes everything okay). 
I do believe that creativity, and that taking the time to be creative, is important. It's one of the parts of humanity I believe we often neglect, and it gets left behind in childhood as a consequence. That's not to say that it's childish to create but that we have this weird idea that being an adult means not making things, or that making things is the province of the cherished few. Creativity is ground out of us by education, by the need to look cool (creative people either look great because they do a Neil Gaiman and decide to only dress one way, or they end up looking a bit ordinary, or crazy because that's not their focus). And yes that's a very broad brush and I'm sure there are many people who don't fit that pattern at all.  
In all honesty, I think all being creative is, is taking an idea and looking at it, working out what you can do with it. Sometimes that's something silly, sometimes it's just your reaction to the current situation (perhaps we'll see a groundswell of British post-apocalypse fiction now that we're heading out of the EU, or lots of bright shiny positive stuff as we go forward).  Whatever you do with it, it probably helps to remember that there are principles of creativity to help us nurture it, to ask questions and seek answers (which is what we're really doing when we create, I think ). That's why you often see bodies of work that seem to centre around certain subjects, Neil Gaiman's focus on Gods and mysteries hidden at the back of the everyday world, for example. Joe Hill, Stephen King's son has said that writers tend to obsess over things and write stories around them until they reach a point where they're satisfied they've found an answer. That may account for his own work around inscapes
I would like to see more encouragement of creative thought processes, of the creation of art (in part because I believe that when we make things we're at our best as a species).  Like Kung Fu, I believe it can be applied to any part of life (or at least the good parts), and want to see it grow and be nurtured in everyone.