Thoughts on Leading a Creative Life

Last night, in the midst of birthday celebrations and lovely friends and family, I had a very invigorating conversation about creativity- and namely, that moment when you decide you aren’t “creative”.
I emphasize the word decide because I really do think it’s an active decision made- to stop trying, to shrink from the label of “creative” and ultimately to take the pressure off – from your friends, family, from yourself- there’s no need to keep exposing your vulnerability because “you’re just not creative.” I contend that everyone is creative, but some people just decide to exercise their creativity more than others.
Take for example a classroom full of little kids. Set them in front of art supplies or give them the tools to write a story, and they set to work without pretense or a worry about what others will say. They haven’t learned to be embarrassed about what they create, and haven’t started worrying what others think yet. They’re free and even proud when what they put together might be less than their expectations. But then something changes- at some point they are laughed at, or ridiculed, or decide it’s not “cool” to care about things (one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to middle school and high school behaviors!!) and they stop creating- because in reality, that’s just one more way that the can stop making themselves vulnerable to the world.
Being vulnerable is a huge part of a creative life. When you create something, you are drawing from an idea that lives solely in your own head, and expressing this idea in a way that exposes it to critique, to criticism, and to comment. This can be terrifying!
I have always shied away from calling myself creative, or worse still, artistic. Admitting that I aspire to these labels feels like I’m projecting this false image of myself- there are people much more talented out there, and trying to put myself under the same category as them ends up making me feel like a phoney.
But why? I hate hearing my friends saying they’ve never thought of themselves as creative, so why would I allow myself to think basically the same thing? Let’s all work on it- say it loud, say it proud. You are creative.

I made this earlier this year, and keep coming back to this idea. Whenever I feel stressed or sad, I realize it’s often when I haven’t had a chance to exercise my creative muscles. I make something and always feel better.

Just a little thought I wanted to share in this very introspective time of the year. How would you like to wrap up 2012?


Creative Spaces and Working Places

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my senior thesis project, which had the above title. It was mainly concerned with working atmospheres, and how to foster creativity within the relative rigidity of the corporate environment. From time to time, I’m going to use this (blog) space to suss out my thoughts and explore the topic further.

J-School collaborations take place anywhere- even the streets!

My initial interest in this topic developed from my coursework within the advertising department in the School of Journalism. When it comes time to show work in advertising classes, students pin their work up to a wall and everyone offers critiques. Groups would explain their work and the process of producing it, and I realized that what I was seeing was the result of creative team collaborations. The teams that were able to meet regularly were more successful, but more importantly, the teams who looked like they were having the most fun almost always came up with the most creative ads. The group dynamic was incredibly important for producing quality work. I began to wonder how this process of making work fun would translate into the professional setting at advertising agencies. How do you produce creative and interesting work every day in an environment rife with deadlines, reports, intense competition and high expectations?
This is when I began to wonder what role physical spaces might play in creative work flow.

Psychologies of Space

The physical environment in which a person works has a profound impact on their work habits and what they produce. In arguing for a more open plan office, many architects, designers and employers agreed that the high expectations on creativity in advertising offices requires a space that allows for collaborative areas and relaxed atmospheres.
The potential impact of physical surroundings on creative work is infinite. Small, cramped office spaces tend to lead to small and cramped ideas. There must be a strong interaction between the collaborative nature of advertising, the process of getting  ideas, and the physical space where this all takes place.

Stay tuned for more rambling thoughts and snippets.