I am reading a fascinating book by Richard Restak, M.D., a well-known neuropsychiatrist; the book is called Think Smart, and it describes how the brain works – or at least what is known about it – and as well as what to do to prevent the decline of brain function with age.
I have gotten to the section on creativity and it has me back thinking about the topic. The book offers a number of puzzles that can only be solved by “thinking outside the box.” Elsewhere he talks about the usefulness of playing video games to exercise the brain.
Puzzles and video games are just fine for entertainment and it is great that they can help with keeping the brain sharp, but to me creativity is all about “creating” or “making”; the word is derived from the Latin word meaning to make.
While we generally associate creativity with the arts, and that is certainly true, all human endeavors require creativity. Not to say that everybody uses creativity for everything s/he does, but consider: the engineer ensuring the safety of the bridge that has to hold millions of tons over its life span; the attorney solving the riddle of the crime to free the innocent client; the architect incorporating modern conveniences while preserving an old historical building; the computer programmer writing code for an application in the most efficient way; and just recently the LIGO physicists who figured out that sound waves could be used to show the existence of the gravitational waves, first described by Einstein 100 years ago. The list goes on. They all attain creative solutions along with the music composer, the writer, the painter, the choreographer….
Which brings me to my favorite book on creativity; I have read many, from theories to the creative lives of Michelangelo and Walt Disney, but the book by dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit. Learn It and Use It for Life, is the one than most resonates with me about how much creativity depends on hard work. There is no creativity without making and that making must be done over and over again, so that the next leap – thinking outside the box – can occur. For a nice summary, download Brian Johnson’s essay and quotes from the book. Better yet, read the book!
Next time you plan a project, think how much more able you are to come up with the perfect solution – your envisioned cloth – if you have practiced with fibers, yarns, colors and weaving structures, and whatever other elements are important to our fiber arts and crafts. I consider every piece I make a “practice” – a chance to learn about some aspect of the work I do. After all, even physicians talk about “practicing medicine.”
Practice makes perfect, but more importantly, practice leads to creativity – or as Ms. Tharp herself said: “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.” Another example of “Just Do It!”