The Creative Problem
I’m writing this blog post because I’ve been struggling to write much of anything lately.
When I first started working at Undermain, I was able to churn out pages and pages of text, be it blog posts, script analyses, newsletter articles, etc. But over the last year I’ve really struggled to even approach that level of output, and that concerns me. Some of the reasons are pretty obvious, I do still write a lot…a lot more emails that is…and my schedule has a lot more meetings and a lot less sitting around contemplating Sam Shepard’s Aesthetic. But it worries me that now, even when I do sit down to write my next blog post, it’s always a struggle.
Creativity is a fickle thing, no? Is it something that we can call up for the 45 minutes I have available to write? Will it be there 6 days a week for 4 hours of rehearsal every night? It’s a worry for every creative person, and something that continues to occupy our thoughts, dreams and nightmares.
Twyla Tharp in her influential book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, notes that you need to work damn hard to create a lifestyle habit of creativity, be it getting up before dawn, shuttering yourself off from the internet, and spending hours just working, possibly churning out plenty of crap before any inspiration reveals itself!
Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, also stresses the importance of clearing out space for creativity to happen. The Artist’s Way focuses on two practices to promote creativity. The first is the “morning pages”, three pages of freeform purgative writing about anything at all, done every day, first thing in the morning. The second is the “artist’s date”, a weekly block of two hours spent in observation and listening, unforced, allowing for the outside world to work through you. Often the best artist’s dates involve doing something outside of your usual discipline, a visual artist going to the symphony or a poet hitting up a nightclub.
In And Then, You Act: Making Art in an Unpredictable World, the great theatre director Anne Bogart writes about the importance and difficulty of creating art in today’s technologically oversaturated world. She peers right into the dynamism between artists and the world we live in, echoing Christ’s words to his disciples to be in the world but not of the world (a preaching also found in Sufism), noting that creativity must take into account the world and be deeply engaged with our daily issues, but that it also requires a kind of critical distance from the myriad of quotidian distractions.
The opinion that all of these writers do seem to share is that creativity can’t be forced, but you can work very hard in order to create a free, safe, open environment within which creativity can occur. If you want to explore more ideas on creativity, check out the books above. Oh, and the Sunday Routine series in the New York Times is always an eye-opening glance into the daily habits of various people, including many artists.
What do you do to promote creativity in your own life?
What works for me? If I knew I’d write a book about it. Naps help.
~Artistic Associate, Dylan Key