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Some Ruminations on Creativity in the Face of a Mountain of Work

For the past several months, I've been fortunate enough to be inundated with work. I say fortunate, because as an independent, to have more work than you can handle is a good thing, especially in this economy.  Please know that I am not getting ready to complain about the quantity of my work. I am truly grateful for what is coming my way.

However, I am thinking about how creativity can be sucked out of you when you're doing "been there, done that, but it needs to get done again ASAP" kind of stuff.  I'm always championing the need to to bring new eyes to old projects, but find that I'm not necessarily doing such a great job with that all the time. I see how easy it is to do what you've done before because it was successful and you need to get things accomplished as quickly and efficiently as possible.

This is fine as long as the "old" ways of operating really will work this time around. Not so good if you're missing that maybe this time your former strategies won't be as successful. The problem is finding the time and distance to know the difference.

Yesterday it occurred to me that in the past I've been harsh with people who are overwhelmed by their workloads because they just don't seem interested in all the cool and interesting things they could be doing. Honestly, there have been times I was a little contemptuous, which in retrospect is a sign of my own privilege in having some space. It's also obnoxious.

But  it's easy to focus on doing cool things in new and different ways when you have some breathing room. When you don't, I can see where it's just annoying to hear people tell you that you should be open to new ideas. Hello--I'm just trying to get through the day here. I have no time for your "creativity."

Creativity shouldn't--can't--be a luxury, though. It can't be something that we bring to a problem only when we have the space and time for it, because more often than not, we will be in situations where we lack both. We need to find ways to build it into the DNA of our working lives so that it becomes a part of who we are, not something we do only when the circumstances are "right." This is our only security in a world that shifts constantly, demanding of us new ideas and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

This isn't one of my posts complaining of a dry spell in my thinking. It's more of a rumination on process--on the need to see that I'm stuck in a pattern right now of reaction and activity with less of the reflection that tends to feed my thinking about new ideas. Sometimes noticing a thing is enough to begin to change it.


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Michele, I have found that I would never get to be 'creative' (which, for me, has a heavy blogging component) if I didn't make sure that I preserved some time to do so NO MATTER WHAT. My day-to-day duties could easily completely consume me...

There's a price to this. I know that many of my faculty peers wonder why I have time to blog, for example, when I'm behind in other areas. But I know that I must preserve this time for myself if I don't want to lose my sanity...

Best of luck with finding your own balance.

Michele, once again you said something that really resonated with me. I find that when I am feeling that "been there, done that" feeling I have to interrupt my day with something that restores me: a site visit to a nonprofit we support; a walk, a meeting with a creative peer for brainstorming. It's critical to the work we do to stay creative, but when you feel in a rut it's easy to have that sapped away. I find disrupting that cycle restores me.

Kia ora Michele

Commodify creativity? Hmmm.

I'm not so sure.

Creativity has to be learnt and/or developed the same as any other skill. Some people love to be creative . . .

I have an analogy. Fishing.

Some people love to fish. It gives them the sense of being at one with the world. My grandfather used to rave about it, even on the days he never caught as much as a tiddler.

But you can't just import this into the office, or corporate workplace and say, "I'd like to do a bit of fishing over my desk today - I'm in the mood for it."

Creativity is like fishing. You HAVE to have both the time AND space for it. Else you are like the frustrated golfer who keeps a putter, golf ball and raised hole in the cupboard at work.

Come to that, golfing is much like fishing.

Catchya later
from Middle-earth

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