The Creative Struggle

When people think of creative struggle, they can think of a range of mental pictures, but most commonly, people think of archetypes focused around lone genius, artistic madness and frustrated thinking, punctuated by rare lightening strikes of inspiration.

This is not the type of creative struggle I have observed and experienced.   The most recent creativity course I taught at Central Saint Martins, saw me spend 5 full days in a row,  with creative commercial people from all over the world.   You really get to understand people and their connection with creativity when you’ve spent that long with them.   As well as a creative journey for them, it was like a creative ethnographic study for me.

So the struggle I refer to is the struggle of getting acquainted with your personal and evolving connection with the creative process.    At Central Saint Martins we worked on the structure, play and experimentation of the creative process, the course was underpinned by a combination of academic research for rigour, and  live project work and exercises for real-life experience.

The first big insight that many students recognised was the need for personal persistence.    This is of course the hard-work factor, but is also about recognising and breaking through personal boundaries.   This is where you may start to recognise your tolerance for novelty compared with others.    Perhaps yours is a little lower.   This means finding ways to increase your aptitude for wide and novel thinking, no matter how crazy it may seem.

That brings me to the next two major insights; open-mindedness and optimism.   The two are distinct, yet related.    Without a really open-mind, you cannot hope to find novelty and without optimism, almost disproportionate optimism, keeping the spirit of possibility bright within you, you cannot hope to sustain an open-mind.   Both of these are mindsets; ways of thinking and believing that require commitment and ongoing nourishment to sustain them.

Already we have paradoxes, open-mindedness and optimism can jar abrasively with the persistence required to sit with and work through the necessary labour and sweat of the creative process:   The gathering and objective observation of creative material; the shaping and manipulation of concepts and then ideas; the evaluation mode that explores what can be made real.

The courage to do this requires patience and this is the final insight.   Patience is about being mindful, about learning to tolerate ambiguity and embrace paradox, about leaning into the discomfort without judgement, about observing yourself at different stages of the creative experience.   Patience is also about the courage to leave things alone, not to grasp at the end point or the solutions, to allow elements of the work to incubate and to allow natural emergence.

So this struggle.   It sounds serious.  It sounds hard-work

Persistence

Open-minded

Optimism

Patience

But when it all boils down to it, the unintentional acronym is POOP.   That is in fact the final concluding and over-arching insight.    A natural emergence:   POOP.    Hilarious, silly, light, fun, relaxed.   Creativity is all about finding and bringing forth your inner child to continue to develop novel ideas.

I wish you all the courage and joy of having a creative POOP today 😉

Posted by Caroline Southard

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