I am soon starting my fifth year as a blogger (and since the start of this blog I am now contributing to three more blogs…). In kind of a celebration of the fact, I want to go back to the roots, to why I started writing this blog in the first place. It all has to do with creativity.
As photographers (remember I am a photographer – but of course, what I am writing here is just as valid for any kind of artist) we all want to be creative. For me to be able to understand creativity, or more correctly to explore the realms of creativity, is so important that I even created (excuse the pun) this blog about it. The main theme for the blog has basically been and still is creativity; that is finding out what creativity really is, how the creative process works and how we can stimulate this creative process in our work. I have had no definite answers to post but I have just been trying – and still am – to walk this road of more or less unknown territory of which we all have so many views, some more qualified than others.
Of course creativity is the driving force behind our attempts to make lasting images, to articulate our innermost thoughts, dreams, worries, concerns or ideas of the world through the language of photography (since I am after all talking about photography here), it’s the driving force with which we express ourselves and what we as human beings stand for. But it’s also intimidating – at least can be at times. When we try to force or squeeze creativity into being, when we so want to be creative that instead it vanishes into thin air, then it becomes an inhibition. Because we cannot force it, we can’t even think about it while being in the moment of creation, without it fading away.
It’s like a divine spirit, it’s there but we can’t capture it, and the more we try the more it will slip away instead. When we really try to be creative, that is when we are the least. But with trust, patience, honesty and humility, and without expectations, the divine spirit of creativity eventually will show up – for all of us. The excellent photographer David duChemin talks a lot about the muse in his blog (and if you haven’t checked it out yet, I strongly recommend you to do so here). One place he writes: «Don’t worry about getting inspired, being original, or any of the other things that haunt the creative mind. The muse will show up, she always does».
But what is this muse? What is creativity? Many bright minds have spent long hours trying to find an answer. Some might have come very close, not necessarily all by themselves, but their combined wisdom does say quite a bit about this very abstract and yet so very forceful spirit. As for myself I only know that creativity is an underlying, in-dwelling force infusing all of life, included ourselves. A lot of us lose contact with this creative force, though, when we grow out of childhood. And why should we bother about it? Why even try to ride this power that can be so evasive and so demanding? «Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money», according to Brenda Uelanda, now passed away journalist, editor, freelance writer, and teacher of writing, best known for her book If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit. Or as the writer and poet Alain Arias-Misson puts it: «The purpose of art is not a rarefied, intellectual distillate – it’s life, intensified, brilliant life».
One more thing I know about creativity: It doesn’t come by itself. You can’t sit down and wait for creativity. The only way it shows up is by working, and usually by working hard. Not only do we have to work and work hard, but for the muse to really show up, we have to challenge ourselves during the work, we have to go down that road we don’t even dare to. Such as George Bernard Shaw stated in a letter to the violinist Jascha Heifetz, that the authentic creation is an active battle with the gods. In other words; to be creative takes courage. The American existential psychologist Rollo May has written a very reflective and philosophical book about this, called nothing but The Courage to Create. In this book May not only elaborates on the courage to create, but also tries to define what creativity is – and strongly connects it with the same courage: «The Creative Courage is the discovery of new forms, new symbols, new patterns on which society can be built», all according to Rollo May. Of course it’s a very intellectual statement, but I still find it compelling. Anyway, according to him the fundamental purpose of the creative process is to express one’s inner vision and the spiritual meaning or understanding of one’s culture. For me this is really the driving force behind what we do. Why we photograph, or paint, dance, compose, sing, perform or whatever we do. Creativity is, put simple, bringing something new into being. The reward itself. A reward, though, that it will only come to us if we don’t force it, if we let it come to us, through work and an open mind.
In many ways it’s just like love, isn’t it? Actually, it is love.