Creativity in Context: What it Takes to Break out of the Box

My mother often told me that I was the extrovert of the family as a child, the odd man out in a group of overly brainy super-introverts. My brothers would joke that my actions were determined by the spinning of a wheel, much like the Wheel of Fortune, and that once I had switched one activity, the prior one was completely forgotten. Much to their misery, I seemed to navigate by my own GPS, not governed by the layout of concrete streets of conventionality. If there was one word to describe my role in the family back then, it would be: abnormality.

    This includes my role as the only female child of my family. My brothers were substantially older than me, and they were best friends with each other, meaning I was not part of their little duo. However, I never let them leave me out. I would watch them play Mario 64 and Kirby Crystal Shards (They’re Nintendo 64 games, if you do not recognize the names. It’s an old system now, but we loved that thing) and I insisted that I sleep in their room. Although I never seemed as addicted to games as my brothers were, I loved those video games. The characters, the plots, I loved them more than anyone else could have known.

    However, my brothers did not always let me be with them, and they did sports too, so I was often left alone without anyone to watch. I was never lonely though, because being a girl with an over-active mind like myself; it was too easy to cognitively busy myself. My biggest distraction?: My imagination.

    I am not completely unlike all children though; I was pretty egocentric when I was in my mind. My main super-hero was myself, and she had my name, and she looked like me too. She was an adult, beautiful, blond, healthy, and of course, with the strongest super-powers ever. Although her main element was water, she could control anything she wanted. I created a separate planet for her, children, grandchildren, citizens (who were also named after me… eventually changed the name of this ethnicity of people to Crystalnians when I finally realized how weird my naming sense was), etc.. My main character would go out to the different dimensions and save VIDEO GAME CHARACTERS. I can’t even count how many times I saved Mario or Sonic. These stories I made were filled with so much drama. My main character almost died a countless amount of times, but of course, she always came back to life eventually. However, most of her stories would fall into the video game worlds, as if I were somehow in control of it all.

    Imagination was a big part of my life back then. Although I still am enamored with creating plots and characters, I don’t feel as creative as I was back then. Back then, I was creating whatever I wanted. It was fun. One could even call it an obsession. Either way, the act of creating was a pleasure. However, was it anything beyond imaginary? Could it be called creative?

    Imagination and imaginative thoughts are often linked together with the word creative. The Oxford Dictionary describes creative as this:

        Creative: Relating to or involving the use of imagination or original ideas in order to create something.

    However, creative has taken on some baggage because of culture. According to the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, because creative has become an advertising buzzword for products, like creative cooking or creative hairstyling, creative has become a word simply meaning ‘new’ or ‘different’. Creative today is a lazy word that has become a label or a replacement for the word ‘original’. Original may be more specified, however, they’re meant to say the same thing. I thought to be creative was to ‘Think out of the box’.

    The process to become ‘creative’ is a road paved in uncertainty, talent, and luck. Unfortunately, because culture has such a huge influence on us, creativity is closely tied to what we know. The words imagination and imaginative themselves are tied to the Latin word imago, which means ‘image’. I interpret that to being our creativity is closely related to the ‘images’ that surround us.

    The biggest limits of creativity, in my opinion, are these three factors:

  1. Competition
  2. Culture
  3. Our ‘image’ of normality.

If you think about it, who were the people considered the brightest in our history? The ones who are remembered were usually given the title eccentric. Remember Albert Einstein and his crazy hairdo? Virginia Woolf had psychological issues. Edgar Allen Poe had issues as well. Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear. Tycho, an astronomer, had a dwarf dress up like a clown and sit under the table during his parties for no reason. If I look up the amount of drugs the Beatles used, I see the better question to ask is what drugs they DIDN’T use.

The list of insane geniuses goes on. However, how does the general population go about creativity like they did? Must we develop disorders, have clown dwarves sit under our dinner tables or overdose on drugs to be creative? I don’t think so. I think the biggest thing we have to cast off in order for us to free ourselves is to throw away the limits of other people/culture and our visions of normality. Humanity has allowed itself to become a herd of sheep sometimes. We may never be free of the bandwagon mentality, but we can certainly try to reach out of the crowd if we find boxed in by people’s limitations.

There are possible ways to be creative within the ‘norm’ as well. I’m not asking people to discard society here, although it does have a huge influence on us. However, as I live in a family who is bound by perfectionism, I can tell you that never taking risks or never stepping out of your comfort zone is going to result in living like a prisoner. You are MORE than that. I do not want a society bound by a box. I want to see a society who can show some courage.

There has been a few times where my words have become a ‘croquet hammer in a golf [situation]’. There have been situations when I have been an abnormality, and I’m here to say that it’s okay. No matter who you are, you are not a mistake, you are beautiful in every way, and even if you are strange, you are strangely loved. No matter the paths you take, there is still a way to be creative. Keep looking for it on the beaten path. That is where you’ll find it. You might have to fight off a tiger to find it, but that’s what you got to do.

Good luck in your bouts of creativity!

~~~

See you next week! Next series will be on my process of novel writing!

    

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Creativity in Context: “Unweaving the Rainbow”

You want to know my biggest fear? It’s not clowns, as scary as those things are. It’s not needles, which are a legit phobia of mine (As I currently have two needles in my hand, I only can thank god for this cast which covers them up). In reality, my biggest fear is if one day, after some sort of accident, I would wake up in some white, sterile hospital room, and I would discover I could not think creatively anymore.

    In all reality, I wouldn’t even realize I couldn’t think creatively, due to the fact that if I were truly rendered unable to think I would probably be a vegetable or dead. But I fear this so much, because ideas and thoughts are what make up the human mind. Since we were children, countless influences and reality began to create our foundations of thinking, brick by brick. Ideas are then contained by language, visual or written, and then stocked up into what Sherlock Holmes calls our “attic”, an immense, yet limited space, where our views of the world are stored. I know I’m being purely metaphorical here, but it’s true. Memories hold the keys to the many doors we will find ourselves wishing to open, or perhaps close. Our entire lives are held by our brain. Without a brain… I fear the result.

    Ideas also translate to creativity, and in turn, as personalities differ between human beings, so do the results. I surely would not be one to create the next Iphone, as much as I wish I could be a multi-millionaire. I simply do not carry the tools to create such a tool. First, I would need to have schooling in mechanical subjects, aps, and how to create them. I’d somehow have to be able to understand the Computer Science mumbo jumbo my brother and other people can so easily spew out, and disallow the fog of the mind to carry my mind to la-la-land while my friends discuss math I never attempted to understand. I understand math, and it was one of my better subjects in high school, but that does not give me any qualifications in the subject. First, if one wants to attempt such things, they have to have an understanding of the base-work of what they’re trying to achieve. Some people can make an I-Phone. Some can write the next ground-breaking novel. Some people will create things beyond our own imagination now. But here’s the thing: It all came from IDEAS.

    Simple ‘A-HA’s’, or a lighting up of the brain is not all there is though. True creativity does indeed come from an idea, but to create a rainbow, you need more than just the sky to harbor its light. You need slight rainfall, and the refraction of light in the sun. Taking that out of metaphor, it means that ideas do not flourish alone. First, ideas must be revised and second, placed in the right circumstances.

    But how to make brilliant ideas? Well, I’m sorry to say, but most ideas are more likely to appear when one is in a relaxed state. Basically meaning you get ideas when you’re not trying to have them. Annoying, right? But that’s why, for us writers; we usually carry around a notebook wherever we go, as a sort of dream-catcher for the mind. That’s actually something that I would subscribe to anyone, if they want to catch the toe of their creative muse.

    Remember, ideas are things that are purely yours… but as beings that have grown up in similar cultures, with similar influences, you shouldn’t be surprised if your ideas are not always original. That’s why I take this quote to heart: “To have a great idea, have many ideas.”

    Good luck in your bouts of Creativity!

    See you next week.

    A.C. Rooks

Creativity in Context: How Limitations Can Help In Creation

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably faced writer’s block with the face of a white sheet of paper, with its thousands of plot possibilities just waiting for you to create them. It’s one of the most infuriating things to charge into, despite having read so many books upon the subject of the craft of writing, it seems one can’t get an intelligent word out without sounding like some monkey with a keyboard. It’s like when you sit in front of a piano with no sheet music, and you’re trying to compose. You’ve got 88 different keys, and a billion ways to put them together to make them sound nice. I may feel like the next Mozart while I’m playing around the keys and the pedals, but I know, if I recorded my messing around, it would be exactly that: a mess.

    That’s what’s wrong with the piece of paper. There are no guidelines, no directions, no nothing. You become a plane that’s taken off, and you don’t even know where you’re going, whether up is down or left is right. Without a tower of communications or a destination, you’ll wander until you run out of gas. Then, of course, you’re frustrated, tired, probably hurt because of how hard you crashed, and, of course, you won’t be ready for the random mangy natives that might spring out from the undergrowth. I’ll end my metaphor there because I think you get my point.

    So where to begin?

It’s the Middle School Science Fair all over again. You need to do it for your science class, and of course, if you’re competitive, you might want a ribbon. But where to begin knowing what to test? You look around at your nearby classmates and already see them laughing about the volcano they’ll do. You don’t want to do a dumb volcano. You’re a middle schooler now. You’re cooler than that. But ideas just don’t come into your head. There are things to consider: size, budget, coolness, but those aren’t very good guidelines because too many possibilities fit them. Most science projects suggested to you were made to work for people your age, meaning possibilities are endless.

Here’s some ways you can begin to narrow things down:

  1. Use someone else’s ideas to fuel your own.

    I’m not talking about plagiarism here, the idea itself still needs to be original, but who says it can’t be inspired? My favorite type of music right now is movie soundtracks, which are brilliant pieces of music based off movie scenes. If you listen to the music itself without the movie, you could think of different scenarios to fit that music. Although the ideas might be somewhat stemmed off the movie because, the fact is, if it’s a space movie, the music will sound like it was made to describe space, there’s really no way around that unless you have a very disconnected imagination. But what happens while the music is playing is up to you, when the picture part of it is taken off.

  2. Stem off the Original

    This is not the same thing as above, though it will sound similar. #1 describes trying to create a completely new idea while using something made by other people. This is more in the realm of the ‘what if’ question. For example, fanfictions are sort of like this. It means, taking some of the original ideas and trying to create something new with it. I still do not mean plagiarism though. It would still have to be something original if you ever wanted a writing to be published, but here’s the idea. During a story, let’s pretend like some 5 characters stopped a bomb from exploding and saved the world from imminent disaster, and this was the original. You read this, and you begin to wonder what would have happened if the bomb had exploded, would humanity have survived? How would their lives be? You would have none of the original characters because they would have died from the bomb, and two, you could make it your own by changing plot, setting, etc. By the end of your writing, it would look nothing like the original, hopefully (unless you made it obvious)

  3. Help Yourself

    Don’t want to be using someone else’s inspiration to help you think? Well, then find something from your own life to help inspire you. Are you a musician? Compose a piece that would fit with what you’re trying to create. Take a favorite object (or an object you made, like if you were a wood-worker, a shelf you made or something) and observe the many details of it. This could work for things made by others too. For example, if you took out a rocking horse you found in your closet, take note of the tiniest details, the blue spots on its hide, the particular curve of the tail that looks like an inflated rotten banana, the way its head is bowed humbly, just barely not touching the chest of the figure. Etc. and it could help you come up with themes and stuff to go with it. If you want to go even farther, create a list of things you’re looking for in the particular object or scene you’re looking at. At a restaurant, ask yourself what a certain decoration reminds you of, where else you could find it, or who it was made for.

  4. Give yourself a Limit

    This limit could be the amount of words you’re allowed to put in, the time spent, or it could be a limit to the vocabulary you can use. For example, the other day, I stumbled across a blog with something called a ‘Wordle’ (here’s her most current one: http://wrestling-life.com/2013/05/29/wordle-wednesdays-5/) which is a really good way to limit the amount of words you can use. I found the challenge, stimulating, exciting, and the result was way better than what I usually write. Plus, if you write with a time limit, you might stumble upon some mistakes you make unconsciously while writing. With a time limit, there’s no time to dwell on mistakes, and you have to give yourself more slack on what you write because you can’t waffle during a time limit (if you can waffle, you’ve given yourself too much time). This means common mistakes might be easier to spot. This may be wishful thinking, but try it out.

    Writing with restrictions and little guidelines in mind definitely keeps the mind on track and makes for better quality work. Remember, that trying to ride on creativity is like trying to ride a bull. It hurts like hell, and all you can do is hold onto the horns sometimes, and even then, you might get bucked off. The more tools you have to keep yourself on that bull, the more likely you can keep riding, even if you’re a closet writer like me who can’t even make through a kickball game without breaking her pinkie. Just saying.

    I’m thinking of doing a creativity series, so look forward to next week’s Friday’s Frenzy.

    Talk you Y’all later Buckaroos!

    A.C.Rooks