Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Creativity Is Messy

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allphoto ken allan
In Christine Martell’s recent post, Continuing to Process, she carefully relates how she is processing her thoughts and feelings during what is a difficult time for her right now.

I identify with what she
so clearly says – the difficulty, the discomfort in deciding how to figure out how to move forward and how this relates to visuals. She displays her colourful creation of fish with paint on paper.

She speaks of the difficulty in writing coherent blog posts in a highly creative time. In my comment on her post, I wondered if this may be related to the linear nature of coherence, in contrast to the spatial nature of creativity.
“Lots of figuring out how to move forward in alignment with long term goals, despite short term challenges” is extremely linear in its propagation. I think you are on track to say that “visuals are particularly effective in helping to see overview and complex systems”, and that “creativity is messy”.

I look on linearity as something that is often fostered by our education systems and perhaps how we tend to look on how we should think. The spatial approach, which is what you speak of in “messy” and visual “overview”, is not linear but occupies space, a cloud. It is difficult to conceive a linear mess, and for good reason, and so easy to associate a blot with a mess.

I also believe that this may be a reason why word clouds and the software that creates them (in Wordle, say) have become so popular, more so recently than linear poetry. We talk of a line of print. It’s not a cloud of print. Such an array is messy and difficult for the linearly thinking in us to make reasonable sense of.

But accepting that it’s alright to have mess, that it’s alright to arrange words in an ink cloud rather than a linear pencil, is a start to understanding how creativity needs space. It cannot be (easily) squeezed into a pencil line, for it lies more comfortably with the ink blots and the cotton-wool clouds.

Think cloud, rather than line.
It’s more creative.
It’s also more comfortable.

A Wordle BlimpKa kite anō – Catch ya later


Paul C said...

Interesting post, Ken. You're quite right. We need to strike a balance between linear and creative thought.

I just returned from a workshop in which we combined both through effective notemaking. We were given coloured sheets of paper and with scissors and glue created an effective take away (note) of an engaging workshop. This teaching strategy can be applied to student learning. http://quoteflections.blogspot.com/2009/03/literacy-rich-learning.html

Christine Martell said...

I've always been jealous of how eloquently you can move from linear to not, structured to poetic. It seems so natural and fluid in the way you do it.

You are so right, that is exactly the line I am walking on, trying to find a balance point. Creating from one side trying to communicate with the other.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā kōrua Paul and Christine!

So often the balance point is mistaken for the tipping point. They are not the same. The tipping point is precarious. When the tipping point is exceeded, one component becomes exclusive to the other. There is no balance and balance is then unachievable.

The balance point can be a precarious spot or a comfortable one. I think finding the comfortable balance point is where equanimity lies. Thinking linearly can often lead us to the precarious positions. We need to think spatially to find that equanimity.

Catchya later

V Yonkers said...

I wonder if Christine were to write in a different format and move it to the blog if it would be easier to write the blog during a creative time.

By this I mean I find the current mind mapping software, for example, very confining and often revert to writing notes on a paper where I can draw my own links and place ideas spatially on a piece of paper.

I find when writing a paper that word works well because I can put in notes, move things around or put them on the screen as they come to me. I find it much more difficult to do this in the blogging software. Perhaps finding new ways to prepare the post would help place ideas down in a less linear fashion.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia!

I use Word when writing most posts. I write paragraphs, phrases, ideas, words all over the place and bring it together only when I feel I have exhausted all the possibilities. It's then that I order, cull, edit, add and change, bofore viewing the whole post as a cohesive linear read.

The bashing down ideas approach, which I do in Word, gives me the space to make mistakes and write incongruities without having to edit them till later. Often these appear less incongruous when I am able to see them in the context of other things I have in mind and sketched out.

This also precludes any linear thinking pitfalls. For instance, I found it extremely difficult to write posts with pen and paper as I always felt I was looking down a line when I really wanted to fork off and write about other ideas. So I adopted the technique of bashing bits down on the sheet before pulling all the ideas together in a similar way to how I do it in Word.

Even when I write comments to a post I use the 'bashing it down then reshuffle, cull and edit' technique, which I can do using cut and paste. Not only does it free up the whole, it also frees up my mind, so I don't have a hang-up, when I'm about to submit, that maybe I haven't said what I want to.

It doesn't always work though! :-)

Catchya later