Methodical Creativity

Spontaneity & Creativity
Some people imagine there is a canceling effect between planning and spontaneity. Creative writing is an example. Once a writer gets into the state of being a methodical editor, the spontaneity of creative ideas can stop, like a faucet that’s been turned off. How can a writer “turn on” the faucet of creative writing again? It’s a mystery to many who experience “writer’s block.” From my experience, I say that the ability to shift from the creative state to editing mode and back again is a skill that responds to practice.

Observation & Creativity
Of course, it would pay off to be able to pay attention to what is actually happening. How else will you know if something creative has happened? Bear in mind that there are many ways to describe what you think that you’re doing, which may not be what is actually happening.

As a writer, I’ve learned that naming something can be dangerous. Under the heading of “planning” and “methodical” are really effective and astute self-observations, done slowly. This can be practiced by describing the mundane things that actually happen that most people miss – which could be another part of  “methodical.”  Then there is somehow recording what happened – like people do to populate their Facebook pages. Recording what you tried is useful so you don’t have to mistakenly practice unproductive mistakes.

Accidents & Creativity
Pretty much everybody has done something really creative and beyond their abilities in a flash of “accidentally on purpose.” How much time went by until they realized something creative just did happen? Can it be done again, purposefully? Were they paying attention as they did this creative thing so they could know what happened in order to use it productively?  Are there more effective questions that might help being able to repeat a creative accident?

Some Useful Virtual Questions

  • What helps to observe myself – while in action?
  • What’s the challenge for being creative?
  • How can I recognize that something creative just happened?
  • Does creativity have characteristics that will help me spot it when it does happen?
  • How am I going to recognize a partial creative answer when it happens?
  • Does stopping and noting it help a creative action to happen again?

Going Slowly & Creativity
Alexander Technique teachers know that ready-made, habitual solutions preclude creative answers from emerging. So – slowing an action down to a crawl effectively works to interrupt or to stop habitual solutions from jumping in and “helpfully” providing the application of those ready-made answers. It’s easy to mistake slowing down for being “uncreative.” But going slowly is only just that. It’s possible to be very creative and go slow, because it allows the new solution to be implemented.

In practice, you must prove to people that going slow is useful. Because in our culture we have this mistaken assumption that going fast is a sign of quick-witted intelligence and going slowly is a signal of stupidity.

Method & Creativity
There’s a paradox in Alexander Technique – “let’s follow a declared process that will result in an inspirational flash of discovery!”

Stating what you are going to do and then doing it helps unify all of yourself in being pointed toward whole-minded action. Stating what you are about to do forges and practices a coherent, consistent connection between your intent and the factual response to your intent.

Are there certain useful practices or questions you enjoy asking yourself again and again because they result in a flash of creative inspiration?

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4 thoughts on “Methodical Creativity

  1. robfgott, I’ll check out Lynda Barry’s book – thanks. I regularly do quite a bit of writing by hand and still enjoy forming letters. It slows down my thinking to write by hand also – writing by hand has taken many years of practice to do legibly, but I still find a huge variation in my ability to sustain a consistent “font” as I write by hand. All that practice working on my handwriting made me inspired to craft my own handwritten truetype font too, for use on any computer. Would you like to install a copy of it?

  2. Very inspiring. As a writer I’ve seen so much advice encouraging you to “write fast”, and as an Alexander Teacher I’ve founds this advice to be totally useless. And then I found a wonderful book about creative writing called “What It Is” by Lynda Barry. In this she suggests that the fastest way to write is to write slowly by hand. She encourages you to just observe the pen slowly moving on the paper and to “see” the words forming. It’s a great book. Highly recommended.

  3. […] Imogen: Yes, you come across this kind of thing very often. In my own case I found that I not only got relief from my chronic neck tension and pain, but also I am not as “reactive” to possibly stressful situations anymore. I am naturally quite shy and reserved, but I feel more able to be myself and show myself, if that makes sense. I am more confident, more able to speak up when necessary, more willing to say “yes” to things I would have shied away from before, and more able to say “no” when needed too! Getting back to the creativity benefits described in your question, I believe letting go of your habitual tension patterns opens you up physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and that opening up is very conducive to creativity in many forms. I know of at least a couple of Alexander Technique teachers who’ve written interesting blogs about this, specifically Jennifer Mackerras and Franis Engel. […]

  4. Great post Franis – lots of food for thought. Must be something in that Hawaii air!

    You wrote: There’s a paradox in Alexander Technique – “let’s follow a declared process that will result in an inspirational flash of discovery!”

    I would say the “declared process” of the Alexander Technique can be pretty much summed up by Marj Barstow’s phrase, “take a gambling chance” which she used with some frequency. Try this, try that, a lot won’t be useful by some will and every once in a while – Eureka! – you’ve found gold.

    And of course Marj got a lot of the inspiration for that from hanging with the Alexander brothers – and then later reading, and re-reading (maybe thousands of times) Evolution of a Technique in “Use of the Self”.

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