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Creativity is...

At the end of May, I worked as the creative lead for an aerial "traincation." After class a student wrote me and explained the challenges they were facing engaging with the material I was teaching. Creativity wasn't their thing. They were struggling with anxieties and insecurities related to a feeling of "being boring"- that they were technically proficient, but weren't interesting to watch. The didn't feel they had an ability to bring emotion or imagination to their pieces and had a strong desire for everything to be perfect, which, even though they recognized perfection was an impossibility, prevented them them from taking risks. They wanted to develop their creativity, but were unsure what to do or if it was even possible.

I wrote the following as a response. It sums up my current thought on the matter and reflects a long journey of facing my own doubts and insecurities. It's all much easier said than done, but I think the work is necessary. The goal of being more free in the expression of our imagination (and consequently ourselves) is a worthy one and worth talking about in public spaces.


First, in regards to me encouraging you to believe "You can't do it wrong!"- what you shared (especially regarding anxiety and a need for perfection- AMEN, I hear that!) made me realize that I need to change that mantra to "You MUST do it wrong!" 

I have spent the last 5 years reprogramming myself. I have deep internalized beliefs that I need to GET IT RIGHT- in my job, in my relationships, in my aerial skills, even in picking up a new hobby like rock climbing. I must always look fluid and proficient and like I know what I'm doing (ESPECIALLY when I have no idea what I'm doing.) New situation? Whoa, my planning mind goes into overdrive, working 24/7 to figure out all the variables and mitigate the risk that I will appear like I'm unsure of how to do that new thing. Whoa, it requires a lot of energy and, generally speaking, leads to a massive decrease in my enjoyment of the activity. It also supports and strengthens this notion, this programming that says "You MUST know what you're doing at all times! DO NOT MAKE A MISTAKE!", which at the end of the day is simply not the reality of the world we live in. I will never be perfect. I'm a human being. So, essentially, in trying to be perfect, I'm always setting myself up for failure, but never success. I'm ensuring the very thing I'm trying to avoid. There are arenas where I have lots of skill and there are arenas where I have none. More and more I'm discovering that the continued development of proficiency and skill REQUIRES me to go play in the arena where I have NO idea what I'm doing. This is learning. I MUST be willing to be a beginner, I MUST be willing to fail in order to expand and grow and learn how to be more skillful at something. In my experience, there is no other way. By being willing to get rock climbing wrong over and over again, I will get better at rock climbing, and I can almost guarantee it will expand my skills (via strength, increased range of motion, etc.) in aerial. I love to think of it as "Failure (pronounced learning)." This process requires humility, an ability to simply say "I don't know how to do this and instead of punishing or criticizing myself for it, I'm going to show myself the same compassion I would to the 5 year old at the park who wants to learn the monkey bars." Growth mindset vs. Fixed mindset.

Second, creativity. I think it may be useful to share my working definition of creativity with you- I see creativity as "the process of imagining what's possible, shaping the vision, and then figuring out how to translate your idea into the physical world." As such, I believe that imagination development, problem solving, and experimentation are necessary for creativity. I realize that I presented creativity as a sort of soft skill, an etherial, woo woo ooey gooey, process of relaxation and flow. In full transparency, relaxation, presence, flow are possible for me because my creative process is diligent, organized, analyzed, and detail oriented. It's often color coded. I believe that these elements are NECESSARY for creativity. You are figuring out how to draw an idea out of your head and into the world, that requires attention to detail.  Anyone who has worked with me in a creative space will tell you that I am meticulous about how I set up a room and run a class/rehearsal- flow is possible because I understand how to set up a structure for myself to relax. The relaxing and opening is critical because essentially, I think, creativity happens when you are able to show up fully and be available for the opportunities that present. The relaxing? It allows you to see the opportunities. I don't feel critical, I feel no urgency, I'm not pushing, I'm playing and seeing what happens. Also, some of my most captivating moments have presented as accidents, moments where something went wrong, and because I was being kind to myself, I saw it as a gift not a mistake. Aerial gave me this process back. To do it well, the apparatus demands these things.

What you've shared has made me realize that I need to articulate the balance. So perhaps it's important to say- if you are a planner, scheduler, organizer, color coder, use that. The work for you is letting that organization and drive for excellence be in service of helping you create a space where you can cultivate the thing you're not great at- relaxation, leaning in to messy process, and self-compassion. This will simply provide you with balance and give you a wider spectrum of choices both on the aerial apparatus and in the world.  

As for being "boring"- I believe boring is a mindset, not a fact or reality. I reject that statement. You aren't giving yourself enough credit. Have you ever sat and watched people at a train station or airport? People are fascinating and all they're doing is getting to where ever they need to go. The trick I think, is valuing what interests you. I can guarantee that I could watch you interact with something that interests you for a very long time. My mom once said to me, "Don't be interesting. Be interested." If the character you picked didn't resonate, great! Evolve it or pick another and investigate what about that is interesting to you. It's simply a matter of choosing to explore it and not giving two hoots whether I think it's interesting or not. It's not about me. Creativity is the process of you sharing you with me. (AH HA! ANOTHER WORKING DEFINITION!)

It sounds like you're interested in exploring the process of more fully embodying story/character/and emotion. In writing this you have stepped into the humility piece, you've said "I don't know how to do this." BRAVO! Now comes the work of identifying the internal character, we'll call her Maude, who walks around like a 5th grade PE teacher yelling, "I MUST NOT MAKE A MISTAKE" and making a choice, every time, about how much you're going to buy into that idea. What if you just said, "Ah yes, Maude. I hear what you're saying and I'm going to try this thing on anyway. If I do it wrong, I do it wrong. Next time I'll have more information." Over time, choice by choice, Maude will still show up, but she won't be the loudest voice in the gym.


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15 juil. 2020

Beautifully written and even more beautiful are the ideas and mindset you present. I've grown by reading this. Thank you!

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