Creativity Part 3: Six Aspects

REQUIEMsamdancing1WebThere are six different aspects that contribute to creativity that I can count: knowledge of one’s art and its materials, skilled sensitivities and perceptions, abstract thinking, imaginative thinking, trained and controlled daydreaming, and creative trances. Imaginative thinking encompasses empathy (putting yourself in another’s shoes); a shift in cognition from the technical or specific to the general and obvious or vice versa such as in the way of jokes and humor; personifying the inanimate and objectifying the human while comprehending the difference; imagining something transformed; and forming ideals. Daydreaming and creative trances allow the intuition to surface while consciously imagining (imaginative thinking), planning (mental structuring of future endeavors), or speculating (abstract thinking). Any weakness or limitation in knowledge, sensitivities, perceptions, abstract thinking, imaginative thinking, trained and controlled daydreaming, and creative trance states also limit the creative process of choosing an innovative question; recognizing relationships missed by others; envisioning an innovative answer, solution, or thing; perceiving of associative and relevant criteria; or innovating a method for constructing the answer, solution, or thing.

Business, science, and the other organizational institutions for which people work all prefer to have their people bring innovation and creativity to their jobs. However, as arts programming is the first educational resource to be cut when money becomes tight, and as the culture as a whole feels it appropriate to underpay artists and to cut funding for arts programming, only those who really want to be artists pursue formal arts training. People may actually be significantly less creative, innovative, and even intelligent than they could be due to a lack of training in the creative processes of the arts. Like any other skill, a certain level of ability to be creative is innate. Nevertheless, all skills require training to be greatly increased, and this is no different for creative skills. No athletic champion when asked how he or she managed to achieve success will say, “I was born superior.” Every champion has worked hard to become good enough to succeed. Yet people are expected to have creative abilities without being trained. Perceptions and sensitivities have to be broadened and sharpened. Exposure to imaginative thinking must be incorporated to a greater extent in learning. Daydreaming should be trained as an activity to cope with stress, and focused day dreaming needs to be encouraged as a means towards creating worlds, situations, machines, cures, and solutions, and fun and beautiful things. Daydreaming not only acts as an instrument that directs the mind towards goals thereby giving strength and endurance to achieve them, it fosters imagined rehearsals of creating things. The skills of recognizing artistic styles and working with a variety of media increase the ability to abstract, allowing a transference of abstraction to other disciplines. Seeing, listening, and recognizing one’s feelings about what one is doing are fundamental steps in learning that lead to enhancing the mental process of creativity in all fields.

If skill building in perception and sensitivities, imaginative thinking, day dreaming have been routinely eschewed throughout one’s life, then one can not simply insert artistic techniques into one’s work and become suddenly creative. Creativity is a highly complex mental process that must be developed over years, beginning in early childhood and continuing throughout life. The arts techniques developed over the millennia provide a means for changing perspective for fruitful experimentation, and when organized by a vision, techniques for turning that vision into reality.

Creativity has an innate component which means that some people are simply never going to be particularly creative while others will bring creativity to everything they do. This is why artists feel that creativity is how they live their lives.


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Creativity Part 2: Creativity Occurs When?

ImprovSceneThe mathematician and the scientist’s admonition to “think like a mathematician!” “think like a scientist” actually parallel the artist’s processes in that knowledge, skill, and a proper analytical process is necessary to problem solving. The wider the knowledge of and skill in handling the data and the analytical processes the more likely creativity can occur. Scientists speak of training this intuition, and again this comes down to letting the unconscious mind work with knowledge unencumbered by the conscious mind’s judgementalism. As our brains work through chemical-electrical functions, the thinking process is pretty much at the speed of electrical current, or if you will, the speed of light. The unconscious mind is able to swiftly assemble associations of relevant data according to the form of analysis appropriate to the problem, and then it presents the solution as a feat accompli to the conscious mind.

However, very few mathematicians and scientists are able to think creatively. Which brings us back to the question of how do artists so consistently think creatively. We have techniques, many if not most cataloged in the TRIZ.

For instance, in order to eliminate an unproductively fixed point of view various techniques that allow for change of perspective are taught. In fine art, a painter will turn the canvas upside-down or look at it in a mirror to get a fresh perspective. There are many drawing techniques as well, such as drawing the air space around the figure, drawing only the lines of the figure, drawing only the shadows of the figure, drawing only the curves of the figure. In the theater, switching perspectives in rehearsals is also a norm: play it as though your character is tree, a food, a little child, a bag lady—whatever the opposite of the character is or whatever extreme of the character is. Either the exact opposite or the extreme version of what the element is are played with, because most people can only make a small change even when trying to make a huge change. Learning to deftly switch perspectives and making ever larger changes of perspective with ever greater ease are an integral part of all training in the arts because narrow views are inhibiting to artists and their art.

Another example is what to do when something is not working right in the piece one is creating. The problem part may be inherent in either the materials used or the stylistic approach, the “school” selected for thematic unity of the work. In this case, what is not working has to be extracted for analysis and reorientation. A standard technique is to make the problem factor a focus point so that everything else revolves around it, instead of it revolving around and throwing off the balance of the other elements.

While artists first imagine their pieces as a whole, when they work on them they work on sections in such a way as to get each element of the work to convey as much as possible. This is especially essential in poetry and the theater (including film and TV). This is the purpose of signs and symbols in art–to express many ideas with one image. Each element must be as organically functional to the work as whole as possible. “Every moment should be filled” is the actor’s dictum. In all art, it is held that no aspect should be superfluous though different schools of art consider the “superfluous” in very different terms. That every element must work together as an organic whole is de rigueur in all arts.

Artists will also at times balance the main theme of their piece with it opposite. Negative and positive space can balance each other in fine art, a “foil” balances qualities that can seem unrealistically abundant in a protagonist in literature, and “comic relief” serves to point up tragedy by contrast in dramatic works The idea behind these artistic techniques is that too much of one element can at times become bothersome to the audience breaking their involvement with the piece, thus dismantling it. The adding of the countering element keeps the audience’s attention on the piece as a whole which maintains the piece’s integrity while allowing for a type of rest that also serves as a new perspective that sharpens the understanding of the counterbalanced element.

Further, skilled artists know that conformity to arbitrary rules as a choice of expression does not limit creativity; it is when conformity is required, when conformity is an act of obedience that creativity is stifled. Doing something or expressing something because someone else wants you to is very different from doing or expressing something because you yourself want to. Obedience puts unnatural limits on thinking and feeling. Conforming with arbitrary rules is often necessary in problem solving and artistic creation, but the rules one agrees to conform with are usually chosen by the individual as a means of setting up a framework for working on an artistic problem. The rules for writing for a fantasy magazine, a physics journal, and a philosophy journal are all different but each set of rules must be conformed with to have one’s voice heard.

Creativity occurs when an individual chooses an innovative question; recognizes associations or relationships missed by others; perceives associative and relevant criteria; envisions and provides an innovative answer, solution, or thing; or innovates a method for constructing the answer, solution, or thing.




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Creativity: Learning Creativity, and Artists’ Ideas about Creativity

Creativity is generally thought to be successfully taught through the psychological creativity techniques such as:

Alex Osborn‘s “brainstorming” (1950s to present), Brain storming is simply a technique to let go of the judgmental mind. It is a very good as an exercise because it can be initially fun and fun always allows stymieing self-judgement to be eased. However, brain-storming is a chaotic technique and so few ideas of worth come from it.

Edward de Bono‘s “lateral thinking:”

  1. idea-generating tools intended to break current thinking patterns—routine patterns, the status quo
  2. focus tools intended to broaden where to search for new ideas
  3. harvest tools intended to ensure more value is received from idea generating output
  4. treatment tools that promote consideration of real-world constraints, resources, and support

There are three problems with the lateral thinking guides. One is that they encourage the idea that traditional critical thinking and logic are outmoded, not needed, and do not support creativity. The next is there is no mention about when particular techniques should be implemented. The third is the assumption that using these techniques without building skill in them will yield creative levels as high and useful as when the techniques are practiced enough to become second nature.

  • Genrikh Altshuller‘s Theory of Inventive Problem Solving consists of task analysis, process analysis; doing the opposite as device in experimentation; use medium according to its best function; organize similar parts; get double work (function) out of parts; problem aspects compensate through using opposite to balance or have it interact; re-orient use of problem aspects to make the problem its strength; cut what is not vital; work-economy of movement etc.; at optimum output all of the time; varying tempo (sometimes go really fast); use what you have if you must (“copying”); use simplest means; use only what’s needed; do it in a different way, and other items of creative techniques.

The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) was a catalog of forty or so creative techniques compiled by the Soviet inventor and science-fiction author Genrikh Altshuller, who imprisoned for twenty-five years for criticizing his government. Altshuller’s catalog of techniques triggered interest in creativity worldwide and provides a fairly exhaustive list of creative techniques and a logical and insightful means of discussing them. Most of the elements of TRIZ have been used in formal arts training for thousands of years.

Artists usually feel that the most effective approaches to creativity are the methods taught in the schools of creative arts, methods which tend to begin with basic skills such as looking in fine art, listening in music, and doing in acting. Literally years are spent learning how to look, how to listen, and how to do. In other words what to look for, what to listen for, and what to do is taught. Skill in physical perception is requisite in creativity in the arts and this includes perception of one’s inner sensations. How many ways one knows how to look, listen, and do contributes to the level of creativity. While most artists are in a particular area of art–fine art, sculpture, theater, music, dance–within each of these there are different mediums to use. Further an artist must become skilled in the many techniques of their mediums. Indeed many artists strive to become skilled enough in a variety of media and rendering techniques that they can move effortless between them. This is important because the range of techniques allows different artistic problems to be solved. Knowing the history of art–the different types of arts and the world views behind them–is essential because the history of art gives examples of different types of mediums, their techniques, and why these mediums and techniques were chosen over others.

Artists often start with a subject or question and what about that subject or question moves them, what interests them. Then an approach is selected, what the point of view the artist will choose toward the subject or question, what artistic movement or school will help the artist answer her question. What the question is like is asked; that is, what analog or metaphor sums up the artist’s thoughts and feelings about the question. Then the artist will do a process analysis (even though they don’t generally know that term from engineering) to organize the materials and procedure to do the work. They also do a task analysis (again even though they don’t know this term from behavior analysis) to divide the work into stages that can be later successfully linked together into a whole.

Then comes the amazing part, the artist enters what I call the creative trance where they lose awareness of their surroundings and become only aware of their materials, what they need to do with their materials, and the idea they are grappling with. If they don’t have the technical skill to do what they want, they are apt to flounder and stop, stuck. But if they have the skill then every movement they make is totally fixed on using their medium to create a piece that expresses the idea and their emotion about that idea. While in this trance, the work of creating an art piece occurs swiftly because the artist allows her subconscious, her perceptions, her feelings to shape her work unfettered by the conscious mind’s judgementalism.

All environmental stimuli except the tools of artistic the medium and the artistic idea itself are blocked out, so that manipulation of the medium becomes one with the internally focused need to express. Writers speak of feeling they have entered a trance world where they feel they are within the story they write. Stephanie Barron, author of the Jane Austen Mysteries reported “my characters grow wings. They pick up the book and fly away with it, and I run after them, typing furiously, taking dictation as they tell me how things must be.”1 Michelangelo reported :

“The best artist has that thought alone

Which is contained within the marble shell;

The sculptor’s hand can only break the spell

To free the figures slumbering in the stone”2

Japanese potter Ahimsaby reported that he must “Let the clay do what it wants to do”3 and Mihara also reported, “I consider it my job to help the clay express its beauty. Clay leads, and my hands follow.”4

Interestingly, the creative trance mirrors scientific studies on dreams, for conscious dream states have been found to occur where the individual blocks out the environment and dreams, all the while remaining perfectly conscious.5 Indeed, dreaming has been defined this way: “we dream any time that the following conditions are met: (1) an adequate level of brain activation; (2) a shutting out of external stimuli; and (3) a shutting down of the self-awareness system that helps focus our minds when we are awake.”6 In each of the descriptions of the state of mind of the artist when creating, the artists tell of a shift of awareness from themselves to that of their art form, as though the medium itself has consciousness. They are reporting how they cease to be self-aware; their awareness is shifted, projected into the thing they are making. All that exists in moments of creative inspiration for the artist are the medium and the internal self’s focus on expression. Further, psychological studies of readers has discovered that for some people the experience of reading is like actually “being in the story” and this phenomena is referred to as being an “immersed reader.” This observation is particularly suggestive regarding artistic people because the phenomena of being an “immersed reader” does not happen to everyone. It happens only to some people, just as only some people are regarded as being truly artistically talented.

Depth of feeling is a component to creativity that is essential. The ability to be emotionally engaged with a problem or construction of a thing or performance is what attracts the subconscious to the task and provides the impetus to complete it. The subconscious is mostly concerned with the regulation of the body’s functioning. Emotion generates changes in the physical body. If the emotion is of pleasure, the body experiences well being and so wants to encourage this state. If the emotion is of worry or intense anxiety, then the physical alarm signals the need to quickly find a solution to what causes the alarm. Emotions are part thought, part bodily reaction. Great art is a result of some great emotion that must be expressed and shared. Great invention, novel invention is similarly rooted in emotion in that there is some need unmet felt by the individual and that need moves them to find a way to meet the need. The driving force behind creation is emotion. Attraction and fascination with ideas and problems as well as the need to sort out troubling ideas and problems are keenly felt emotions for artists, and these emotions allow for the sustained effort difficult problem solving and artistic creation requires.

Artists feel that intuition is central to creativity. Artists think of intuition not as a subjective, unreliable, emotional infiltration into conscious thought but as a source of sure guidance from the unconscious. “Intuition” to most artists is the fast and logical mental processing of the unconscious mind which is unimpeded by the judgementalism and criticism the conscious mind so often inflicts on its own thinking. Intuition, therefore, is to be sharpened and developed into an ever more reliable resource of mental processing. This is important because much of what makes up the creative state are physiological processes and sensitivities that have been heightened and developed by learning experiences that foster imaginative thinking. Artists consider certain psychological, physiological, and emotional abilities as components of creativity which when developed into skills become second nature to the artist, ultimately becoming part of intuition.

Artists consider the components of creativity to consist of inborn psychological-physiological tendencies, trained psychological abilities and skills, and a trained knowledge base in their art and all that relates to their art. Additionally, the cognitive ability to abstract, especially the ability to transpose elements and principles to another form or arena, is essential. The psychological-physiological tendencies and trained psychological abilities and skills are exceedingly important to artists as a component of creativity because artists feel that the creative person is first and foremost an individual of emotional depth. Emotional depth arises from an innate blend of acute sensory perception (seeing, hearing, feeling), acute physiological sensitivity, a natural attention to subconscious promptings of sensations and perceptions, a natural tendency to lapse into daydreams, and an above the norm ability to empathize. This innate blend of abilities must be further developed and trained so that the areas of empathy become more broad, skill in perception is increased, accuracy is attained in recognizing nuances of sensations, attention to subconscious promptings is refined, and daydreaming becomes skilled, controlled, and focused into a creative trance, a type of conscience dream.

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Guest Blob by Guillermo Ramon: Dynamic Systems & Psychology

GuillermoRamonWhen I started looking for solutions to systems in which variables have multiple relations, I found that there had been several thinkers who looked at these types of problems using diverse mathematical perspectives. Most of these perspectives were based on statistics and stochastic analysis. Some tried to fit complex models to differential equations. Others, looked at fractals. All the approaches were interesting, but none seemed right.

For a while, I was one of the first members of the Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and Life Sciences, but soon I felt disappointed at the approach taken by the mainstream academicians and theorists in the field. First, I felt that most of the literature in dynamic systems was focused on creating mathematical terms that were useless outside of mathematics. For instance, attractors are pieces of space that when an object enters, a substantial force is needed to make the object leave. Bifurcations are defined as patterns of instability. Fractals are just seen as geometrical forms. Second, the dynamic systems theorists have attempted to use statistics and stochastic analysis as a tool for analysis of dynamic systems. However, statistics are not really tools to determine causality, or even sequentiality. Statistics tell us if different samples share the same variance, giving a high probability that they belong to the same sample or population.

Dynamic systems describe complex processes. Therefore, the mathematical elements I use as tools for dynamic system analysis are: systems, sets, functions, loops, groups of loops, and fractals. Since I believe dynamic systems is the form of mathematics best describes thinking processes, I have created my own concepts that relate directly to human development and to the thinking process. I define frameworks, functions, and operators as they apply to human development, developmental psychology, organic systems, and the way mental processes are structured.

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Creativity Defined by Artists

FItopCreativity is a defining point of who artists are. It is a defining point of their personality, a defining point of how they view the world, how they act within it, how they respond to it, and their importance to it. Unsurprisingly then, artists contemplate creativity. They wonder what exactly it is, and they come to an answer of that question because being without an answer is to have no knowledge of self. For artists, creativity is Self, and many if not most artists feel that to have no knowledge of self at all would be harmful to their art for one’s art is the expression of one’s Self. Each time an artist engages in her or his art they are engaging in self understanding. Artists can and do consider their art as defining expressions of themselves, of things they want to “say,” of things they have felt to be important and what to share through the expression of art. Artists speak of their art as actions. The fine artist will say “I do oil and acrylic” or “I do watercolor”; or “I do cityscapes”; “I do flowers.” Actors when imitating someone for an audience say they are “doing” a certain president; or “doing the butterfly at rest”; or “doing a transition between” one emotional state and another. Musicians, too, tend to say “I do…” and then list and describe their music. Artists might change the verb do for another action verb: “I photograph babies”; “I paint flowers”; “I play sax,” but there is no mistaking the doing of the art. Artists feel that they not only do their art they live it as well. Their art, their creativity, is completely bound up with who they are. Why do fine artists paint, dancers dance, writers write? For artists the ultimate and unarguable answer is because they must.

“Why do you dance, sing, act, paint?” artists are often asked because of the struggles they endure to make a living in their arts.

“Why do I breathe?” a dancer once answered, and every artist felt, “Yes, that’s exactly it!”

People so completely attached to their vocation are going to have deep and serious thoughts about it. No other type of demographic is going to be so intimately concerned with creativity nor even, according to artists, have as much authority on the subject as artists do. The Storycrafter Studio Intellectual Discussion Meetup for March 16 at 8:15 pm, will be a discussion of creativity, its nature, components, and processes, from the perspective of artists. Artists of all types are encouraged to attend and add to the discussion.

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Sexism, Stop It

Regarding Weinstein and Trump’s sexual harassment of women and the huge volume of Metoo’s that have appeared, it is clear that sexual harassment (and worse) of women in particular that the problem is pervasive. I think it part of a larger attitude towards women that is reflected in things like only 17% of plays produced in the US are directed or written by a woman; that South Florida’s Carbonells for directing, new play, and overall production, are rarely awarded to women; that the vast majority of the artistic directors of Miami are men; that the romance genre of books is still considered pretty much garbage although 50% of fiction sales of romances; that Hollywood TV producers were sued in a huge class action suit for discriminating against women, and they lost the lawsuit. Surveys of reviews of plays and books by women reveal that reviews of works by women are, shall we say, less laudatory than those by men. Not only are the stories that women enjoy considered of lessor import, but the way women tell stories is often, wrongly, considered of less quality. In the music world, only when blind auditions became the norm were women musicians finally hired on an equal basis with most orchestras today have equal numbers of men and women musicians, while in composing where the gender of the musician is known, the number of women composers whose works are chosen are still in the minority.

When for the first time a competent, honest, well prepared woman ran for the US president, the news, including and especially the New York Times focused on a false attack about her using a private email account (like all her predecessors did) and like the current incumbents do, rather than reporting on her record and the issues of the day. Indeed, just her running for president sent many, women and men, into a rage. So, men, when you turn down a role in a play written by a woman thinking it doesn’t have enough “meat,” does that mean it does not have men shooting guns and screaming, or that the man’s role is supporting to the women’s roles and you think that shouldn’t be? When a man says a play about sacrifice is unimportant and who cares about that even though a major religion’s central message is the importance of sacrifice, aren’t you showing the same underlying contemptuous attitude toward women as the extremes of Trump and Weinstein are? So, women when you consistently choose to be on boards of the theaters that have men as artistic directors and go along without a boo with a theaters that have men artistic directors, men directors, and men playwrights, and roles that feature men both in numbers of roles and the importance of the roles, aren’t you also showing the same underlying contempt of women? When the majority of uneducated white women voted for Trump aren’t they showing the same underlying contempt?

As women still tend to be the primary caregivers of children, then why do so many children grow up to have these bad attitudes toward women? We all have a lot of work to do to “raise our consciousness” as we used to say. However, since men hold most positions of power, since men receive more respect for anything and everything they do, they have a greater responsibility to look at their own unconscious attitudes and correct them. Even men who love women in general, respect women in general should ask themselves if they have a habit of interrupting women, prefer creative works by men than women, feel secretly relieved they make more money than their wives or girlfriends, and if they do any one of these things, stop it. Women who routinely defer to men’s opinions, fall silent when men interrupt them, and choose men to run things when a competent, honest, and perhaps of-greater-intelligence-or-talent women is available, stop it.

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