During the last Writing and Walking Workshop we did a reverse brainstorming to try and leave no stone unturned about all the ways we keep ourselves disconnected from our creativity... this fun exercise helped to SPELL OUT some truths about our habits and how they get in the way...

to follow a track...

to follow a track...

"The trail begins with our verb to learn, meaning 'to acquire knowledge'. Moving backwards in language time, we reach the Old English leornian "to get knowledge, to be cultivated'. From leornian the path leads further back, into the fricative thickets of Proto-Germanic, and to the word liznojan which has a base sense of 'to follow or to find a track' (from Proto-Indo-European prefix leis-, meaning 'track'). To learn therefore means at root - at route - 'to follow a track'."

The Old Ways     Robert Macfarlane

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Decluttering: waking up the creative space - #1 Books

Decluttering: waking up the creative space - #1 Books

I am decluttering. Clutter blocks the flow of creativity and I am setting up my new space for optimum creative growth. I have started with my books. In spite of regularly culling them over the years, I have enough books for a small bookshop. It’s not easy. I am one of those people; there are many of us, who finds it really hard to let go of books. But I am doing it.

I have followed best selling decluttering guru Marie Kondo’s instructions and placed every book I have in the middle of the floor and held each one in my hands. The books that generated a strong level of joy and delight, like One Hundred Years of Solitude and The Little Prince are now in the bookcase. The ones that didn’t, like The Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory, or The Great Transformation – the Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, are next to me in a box and tomorrow they will be driven to the Margaret River public library.

However, despite Kondo’s insistence that we do not read them I have decided to capture one quote from some of the books I am giving away; words that have touched me; left an impression. I am saying goodbye to them by honouring them in a small way. They are in no particular order.

1.    “Wake up and smell the possibility…” Alice Walker (The World has Changed)

2.    “I had the brief notion that his heart, pressed flat as a flower crimson and this as tissue paper, lay in this file. It was a very thin one.”  Angela Carter (The Bloody Chamber)

3.    How do you let go of attachment to things? Don’t even try. It is impossible. Attachment to things drops away by itself when you no longer seek to find yourself in them.” Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth)

4.     The issues most commonly identified are: male control of women’s labour; women’s restricted access to valued social and economic resources and political power, and as a result a very unequal distribution of resources between the genders: make violence; and control of sexuality. Kate Young (The Women, Gender & Development Reader)

5.    “It was a complete spiritual, sexual experience. I suddenly realised that in denying my sexuality, I had also denied my spirituality, and I began having a total spiritual rebirth” Jalaja Bonheim (Aphrodite’s Daughters)

6.    “If you want to understand any woman, you must first ask her about her mother and then listen carefully” Anita Diamant (The Red Tent)

7.    “There appear, therefore, to be two voices within Islam, and two competing understandings of gender, one expressed in pragmatic regulations for society… the other in an articulation of an ethical vision.” Leila Ahmed (Women and Gender in Islam)

8.    “…the value of the labour of raising a child – always low relative to the value of labour – has, under the impact of globalization, sunk lower still. Children matter to their parents immeasurably, of course, but the labour of raising them does not ear much credit in the eyes of the world.” Arlie Russell Hochschild (Global Woman – Nannies, Maids and Sex Workers in the New Economy)

9.    “In the end we’ll all become stories.” Margaret Atwood (Moral Disorder)

10. “All of women’s aspirations – whether for education, work or any form of self-determination – ultimately rest on their ability to decide whether and when to bear children” Susan Faludi (Backlash) 

11.  “It would be churlish to decry the fashionability of human rights, but premature to think that this means the struggle to have them enforced …has in any sense been won” Geoffrey Robertson QC (Crimes Against Humanity)

12.  “She had loved him, uselessly” Margaret Atwood (Wilderness Tips)

13.  Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There’s no escape. Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver)

14.  I’ll hate you women… Some say that I talk of this eternally, yes, but eternal too is woman’s wickedness” Euripides (Hippolytus)

15. If you believe that the world is an unequal place and that the rich should do more to help the poor, then freer international migrations should be the next front in the battle for global economic justice” Philippe Legrain (Immigrants – Your Country Needs Them)

16.  “Ode – A lyric poem, usually of some length” Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory 

17.  “From the moment they’re recruited to the time they are ‘rescued’and deported, trafficked women are terrorized” Victor Malarek (The Natashas)

18. “…blame is still not placed on American consumers, but on the foreign supplies who grow the stuff. In America, there are no villains – only victims” Dominic Streatfeild (Cocaine) 

19. “ I don’t think anyone out of the business realises…just how fragile movies are, how even the greatest successes run, at least for a while, neck and neck with failure” William Goldman (Which Lie Did I Tell?)

20.  “Let humanity be the other name for religion” Taslima Nasrin (Lajja – Shame)

 21. “The selfish gladly consoled themselves with the thought that though it was merciful at least it was not liberal” Karl Polanyi (The Great Transformation)

22. “The more one knows fairy tales the less fantastical they appear; they can be vehicles for the grimmest realism, expressing hope against all odds with gritted teeth” Marina Warner (From the Beast To the Blonde)

 23.  “Brass shines with constant usage, a beautiful dress needs wearing. Leave a house empty, it rots” Ovid (The Erotic Poems)

24.  “The universe doesn’t allow perfection” Stephen Hawking (A Brief History of Time) 

25.  “The journey is not linear, it is always back and forth, denying the calendar, the wrinkles and lines of the body” Jeanette Winterson (Sexing the Cherry)

There are many more. Enough to write pages and pages of quotes, but I won’t. The whole point is to declutter and make space for creativity now, not get bogged down in books whose words meant something in the past or that might mean something in years ahead. As Kondo puts it, if we can’t discard anything that does not ‘spark joy’ then we are either attached to the past or anxious about the future, and perhaps that is something to examine.

I always feel great when I let go of books, this time I have been more radical than usual and it feels great. What is your experience of letting go of books? What's your approach?

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Why we encounter resistance when teaching creativity #2 It takes effort

Why we encounter resistance when teaching creativity     #2 It takes effort

It takes effort

Yes, it does, but not that much! Well, at the very least it takes an understanding and acceptance that to go to those really great ideas we have to do something differently, something that can disrupt the old patterns of thinking and problem solving we have grown habituated to.

Many of us have watched Ken Robinson’s amusing but serious condemnation of the education system for destroying our innate creative drive and self-expression. Here is a link to an animated shorter version of it, what do you think?

Luckily there are tons of ways to generate creative thinking, which, simply put (as it is still being studied) involves a process of divergent and convergent thinking – pulses of each, like those on a blender. We diverge, we converge, we diverge, we converge…I said simply put!

People like Edward de Bono, who coined the term parallel thinking, lateral thinking and developed the 6 Thinking Hats®, have come up with tools, techniques and approaches to help us be more creative, not only as individuals but also as teams and organisations.

So everyone is able to think creatively if they want to, learn how to…and practice.

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">Why we encounter resistance when teaching creativity #1 I am not creative!

Why we encounter resistance when teaching creativity #1 I am not creative!

you want me to do what? 

It is a new semester at Murdoch University[1] (Perth, Western Australia for friends overseas) and our first workshops in the Creativity and Innovation unit began with a combination of interest, a tad of excitement and … some apprehension?  What are we going to be doing? Am I supposed to be creative? How are they going to assess us?

Teaching creativity & innovation can be met with some resistance for a number of reasons. First, by the time people get to university many have grown to strongly believe that they are not creative, that creativity is something that only certain kinds of people have. Second, it takes effort. Creativity and innovation are ways of thinking and observing that give us insights into different ways of experiencing life; when you have developed the habit of seeing life a certain way it takes effort to break that habit. Finally, thinking creatively can make us aware of things/patterns/possibilities we had not previously noticed forcing us to take (or NOT) certain actions that might disrupt our lives, alarm our loved ones or appear irrational to the rest of the world. For these, and perhaps other reasons, people have a tendency to put up barriers when they first start to investigate creativity and innovation. Here is an off the cuff attempt to thwart some of that resistance.

I am not Creative!

Well, actually, you are. The way you managed to pack the boot of your car so that you could fit in the two large eskies, a swag, fishing poles, footy and your Enduro 650B mountain bike into the back of your hatchback and still have room for two passengers is creative. Or the way you replaced eggplant with zucchini, tomato sauce with red pepper sauce and breadcrumbs with ground cornflakes and made your own unique version of eggplant parmigiana, that is creative. As Stanford University professor Tina Seelig[2] points out ‘our brains are built for creative problem solving’. She points to the work of Charles Limb at John Hopkins University who is using science to study the brain and creativity. 

Yeah, but he’s working with REALLY creative people, you say. Only some people are really creative, you say. No, everyone is. Some people, it’s true, have developed and continue to develop the creative thinking ‘muscles’ or processes, so that they are often thinking creatively. But we all can learn how to think more creatively.

[1] The views and opinions are my own (and those I reference) and not those of the University. I do not represent the university or any of its affiliations.

[2] Seelig, T., 2012, inGenius – a crash course in creativity, HarperOne  

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