Creativity is something I talk about, study, and research. I have written a few lectures about “Creativity – What is it?” and “Creativity in times of Covid/Stress”. I have also done a lot of reading on the subject. Every time someone says “You are so creative!”, I feel I need to do more to understand why it is that some people feel that “I am not creative at all!”
In 1666, one of the most influential scientists in history was strolling through a garden when he was struck with a flash of creative brilliance that would change the world.
While standing under the shade of an apple tree, Sir Isaac Newton saw an apple fall to the ground. “Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground,” Newton wondered. “Why should it not go sideways, or upwards, but constantly to the earth’s center? Assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it. There must be a drawing power in matter.”
And thus, the concept of gravity was born. What most people do not know, is that Sir Isaac Newton worked for nearly 20 years on his ideas on gravity until he published his groundbreaking book The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. The falling apple was merely the beginning of a train of thought that continued for decades.
Newton isn’t the only one to wrestle with a great idea for years. Creative thinking is a process for all of us. Creative thinking requires our brains to make connections between seemingly unrelated ideas. Are we born with this skill or is it learned?
In 1960, a creative performance researcher named George Land conducted a study of 1,600 five-year-olds, and 98% of the children scored in the “highly creative” range. Dr. Land retested each subject during 5-year increments: at 10 years, only 30 percent scored in the highly creative range; the number dropped to 12 % by age 15 and 2% by age 25. Dr. Land found that as children grew into adults, they effectively had the creativity trained out of them. “Non-creative behaviour is learned”, he said. Other studies have found that IQ Scores have risen since 1990, but creative thinking scores have decreased.
Interesting statistic, wouldn’t you say? So what do we do about it? We may not be able to change things in a big way but we can do our little part to stay creative and encourage creativity in ourselves, wouldn’t you say? Remember the One single, easy, immediately doable tiny step from the last post? I am putting this into practice. And it really works. Some days I feel great and have lots of energy to create, some others … well, not so much.
Saturday was a hot day. I was sitting in my studio and felt great! It was early morning … I hadn’t even had my coffee. Looking at my design wall, I made lists of things I was going to accomplish: I was going to do this, and that, and also that … and why not finish this one and start on that one? And I had to stop myself because, all of a sudden, I was overwhelmed and I felt my energy draining. What did I do? I took one little tiny measurable step and went downstairs. The goal? To make coffee. And reset myself.
So I switched to doing something different: I took out my newest sketchbook – I love the format, the paper, the size … everything about it – a bottle of black acrylic ink, a couple of paintbrushes and ONE mark making tool, and spent a couple of hours happily making marks. No pressure, no thought. Just me, my sketchbook and the 2022 Open at St. Andrews on the telly :). And while waiting for the pages to dry so I could continue, I took ONE project and added a tiny step by picking fabric for a facing. Tick, Done! Next step: cut strips. Tick, Done! Plug the iron on. Tick, Done! Iron strips and 1/2″ allowance. Tick, Done! Get the idea? One single tiny step at a time and less than an hour later, the facing was on and pinned to the back of the piece, ready for evening stitching. And while doing that, I remembered to breathe, pat myself on the back when I finished a step, and felt thankful for tiny steps that make goals achievable.
Thank you for reading. Until I write again, enjoy your summer days,