Remember the underground spy-camp you built using cushions, furniture, empty boxes and bed sheets? Did it feature separate rooms, built-in shelving and a skylight? How long did it take to design and build? Do you recall what you were thinking or how you felt in the act? Perhaps your version of this is a Lego masterpiece, a clay sculpture, a painting or a carefully choreographed performance. Whatever your memory of early creativity, the common experience was of discovery, trust and wonder. You escaped into your imagination, to fearlessly explore the possibilities that your mind and your materials could create. And when the construction and the making were complete, you somehow knew a little more about yourself and your surroundings.
Creativity is fundamental to the human experience; it is primordial and inherent – biologically, developmentally – for each of us and for our species. The drive for our body and mind to be creative, from the moment of conception and into adulthood, is a natural motivation towards growth (or exploration) and transformation. Beyond biology, these conversions occur as new ideas and interpretations that are interwoven into our everyday activities and thoughts, beginning in childhood and continuing for as long as we choose or are able to cultivate them. As adults, we experience basic creativity in our problem solving, in our imaginings and in re-enactments of early play, like in parenthood. Some of us though, are compelled towards further exploring creative possibility and are inclined to transform a thought, idea, intuition, vision, feeling into a new concept, object, structure, song, image, dance or text: to reveal that which is otherwise unseen. This is enabled by embracing freedom to explore and to play, earnestly and fearlessly, just as it was in childhood. It requires flexible thinking and responsiveness. The creative practitioner must trust both themselves and the process of the project unfolding, allowing a sense of wonder and curiosity to guide them.
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.
Albert Einstein, 1930
Looking upon creativity we see an ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns or relationships; we observe the creation of meaningful new ideas, forms, methods and interpretations. But what is it like to be in the center of the creative process, within this series of transformations? Sometimes it is like solving a complex puzzle or taking an adventure into unfounded lands. At other times the experience can be rich and personal and largely indefinable to others; like a meditation, a moment’s epiphany or a déjà vu. The transformations that occur within the creative process are the ideas developing, morphing, splitting, combining, evolving. Every step is an exploration of mind, materials, feelings, context, space and time. Negotiations are performed, decisions are made, intelligence and
dexterity is tested, techniques are invented or mastered and intuition is trusted. Sometimes it’s risky and exciting; sometimes it’s a wonderful mystery. It is a dynamic exercise that can cause discomfort and the creative practitioner must often employ patience and perseverance. But the pay-off is deep satisfaction and frequently, joy. Creative practitioners will return to this experience again and again.
Alongside the transformation of ideas and forms, the creative process natively offers the individual an opening to undergo self-realisation and a greater sense of one’s environment. As both the facilitator and the observer of the events occurring within the creative process, the practitioner finds themselves in a unique position: they can be simultaneously inside and outside the process. Here, the opportunity for reflexivity is afforded. The ego has dropped away and the individual can become a conduit for further potential energy, creative energy. In this active stillness, the creative process and the individual’s participation in it transforms into an experience of pure freedom – where creativity is self-derived, in real-time and is potentially unlimited.
The creative process of the universe is also the creative process of the poet, who has transformed his ego into self and thus become part of the universe.
Chang Chung-yuan, 1974
Maintaining and sustaining the creative process within and between projects requires discipline, a high level of responsiveness and an acceptance of creativity’s flux nature. For some practitioners, the state of flux is experienced as long, slow inactive revolutions lasting weeks, months or even years. For others, creative activity is ongoing; it constantly informs and is informed by their daily occupation and their personal lives. Here, the practitioner will consistently seek new exposures and stimuli, from their environment and from within. This is yet again an exploration, an informed exploration, which involves an awareness of their practice and the relevant cultural contexts. What are their artistic values and for whom are they making? What meaning are they attempting to convey in their work? For the professional creative practitioner, there are many considerations. But even in the desire to create work that is original, responsive and revealing, in the moments of the creative process, where the real creative activity is occurring, there will always be deference to those first and inherent elements of human creativity– that is, to discovery, trust and wonder.