Do you know which activities spark your creativity and which allow you to focus and plan?
This post starts with a favourite set of lyrics on the source of creativity in Fisher King Blues by the wonderful Frank Turner:
Parents don’t be too kind to your kids,
Or how else will they grow up to be
Louche Parisian sinners or Nashville country singers,
Singing about the terrible things their parents did?
Lovers don’t be sparing with the truth;
Break their hearts if that’s what you must do.
Fill them with remorse, tinged with hope of course,
And let their baser instincts pull them through.
These lyrics have always rung true with me, following the unassailable logic that ‘necessity is the mother of all invention’ and facing difficult circumstances feeds our creative instinct. I imagine that the effect of adversity on creativity is a continuum, rather than a single point where hardship becomes so intense that it unlocks a fundamental ‘eureka’ moment – though of course this may well be the case for some. In other words, adversity doesn’t need to be extreme to be effective, a level of creativity can be sparked by a simple change in circumstances.
I’m a runner and had always felt that long distance runs were serving to give me the space I needed to develop ideas. Over the last couple of weeks I have been fighting a cold. A week ago I felt better and went out for a 16 mile run – the next day felt like I’d been hit by a truck and I was banished from the office to hide in solitude with my germs. As a result I have self-enforced a week off running to recover properly – after a couple of months running four times a week this feels like adversity. During that week I have felt frustrated and restless and have fretted endlessly over the impact on my training plan. However, outside of my need for physical exercise, I’ve also recognised the impact this small disruption has had on my thinking:
- I’m working on a flat refurbishment project at the moment and also starting to look at where I want to go next with interim work and my consultancy business. While I haven’t been running I have found it difficult to settle into focussing on either of these projects and struggled to develop any of my thoughts into actions. Expecting to be able to use the additional time to progress these projects has simply not come to fruition.
- But…. I’ve also found that I have come up with new ideas – there seemed to be all sorts of weird and wonderful thoughts bouncing around my head. Most of these relate to creative crafty projects rather than anything particularly constructive but I’ve found myself enjoying how unlocked my brain has felt – even if partly as an excuse for procrastinating over other projects.
So it seems that creativity is inspired by a change in circumstances, some small adversity that destabilises the straight lines in the mind and forces a different way of thinking. But developing those creative ideas beyond a wild notion requires space and stability to focus and plan. It is a reflection I want to develop further. To harness creativity an activity that takes me out of my comfort zone, or disrupts my routine, serves to spark new ideas. I then need to find the opportunity for a good long run to play around with those ideas to formulate a feasible plan.
I do believe that facing adversity and destabilising routines fires inspiration, even a little bit of recklessness, and leads to braver decisions and bigger experiences which, positive or otherwise, inevitably lead to personal development. Each individual’s personal destabilising and stabilising activities will vary but both can be used to consciously channel creativity and focus in the same way. Find yours, and see where it takes you…..