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Okanagan Arts

Culture and Community

Spring 2008

 

Re:Imagine
An Ongoing Series of Lectures and Presentations that Celebrate the Creative Okanagan

Okanagan Institute
Thursday Express
4:30pm Thursdays
at the Bohemian Cafe


Click here for schedule
and information.

 

Arts Council of the Central Okanagan
Arts Council of the
Central Okanagan

8-1304 Ellis Street
Kelowna BC Canada V1Y 1Z8
Email: Click Here.
Elke Lange, Executive Director
Wendy McCracken, Coordinator

Produced in association with
Okanagan Bookworks

 

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Okanagan Arts: Spring 2008


Lisa Harrison: The Art of Creativity


"Creativity is a combination of making something happen and letting something happen ..." Adrian Diaz, Freeing the Creative Spirit.

As children, we did not hesitate to pick up a crayon and draw as our imagination guided us; we found inspiration all around us. Creativity flowed in a steady stream between our inner and outer worlds. Creativity can take on many forms including artistic expression, problem-solving and storytelling. Ask a child to describe life in the sea or to tell you why the sky is blue and their answers are sure to amaze you.

As we get older, we often begin to doubt and self-censor ourselves. Some people, believing they have no innate artistic talent, conclude that they also lack creativity. Yet people discover that everyday life presents opportunities to be creative. Artistic ability is just one of countless expressions. Learning a new dance move, playing games with grandchildren, or even choosing paint colours for a renovation project are creative activities. In business, Internet entrepreneurs invent services and niches that most of us could not have imagined just 15 years ago. Creativity has become a driving force in the economy. Consider the scientist who makes a leap of the imagination to create a new chemical compound or the chef who concocts a wonderful new dish. Creativity benefits all sorts of innovation; it allows us to make better products and devise better ways of doing things.

We need only look around our homes to find examples of items that have been enhanced or improved by creativity. Richard Florida, Professor of Economic Development at Carnegie Mellon University and author of The Rise of the Creative Class gave a humorous example in a recent lecture. His father worked for most of his life in a plant that manufactured eyeglasses. Year after year, the plant churned out just one style: inexpensive eyeglasses with thick, black frames. Although they were functional and affordable, many people
would pay 10 times more for designer glasses that provided the same vision correction. The designer glasses often required less plastic and glass to produce, so why were people willing to pay more for them? The answer was in the creative work that had gone into them, such as the appealing style, lightweight construction and slick (i.e. creative) marketing. "I recently bought a pair of designer glasses and opened the case to find the words 'I love you' printed on the inside lid," Florida laughs. "For $100, it's no wonder!"

Of course, eyeglasses are just the tip of the iceberg. "We now live in an information economy or a knowledge economy," Florida writes in his bestseller. "But what's more fundamentally true is that we now have an economy powered by human creativity. Creativity ­ 'the ability to create meaningful new forms,' as Webster's dictionary puts it ­ is now the decisive source of competitive advantage. In virtually every industry, from automobiles to fashion, food products, and information technology itself, the winners in the long run are those who can create and keep creating."

Like iron ore, wheat, or computer software, creativity is a resource, one that has become increasingly important in our global economy. No one can predict where creativity will come from; it cuts across economic, education, gender and race lines. As a result, hiring diversity has become a matter of economic survival for business. The creative class also values quality of life and a good measure of freedom. Companies have had to become more flexible with dress codes, schedules and rules to accommodate the creative process.

As creativity becomes a greater part of our lives and our workplaces, it also forces people to stretch creative muscles that have not had much of a workout since childhood. How does a person tap into their creative potential? The first step is to learn to let go of the fear of failure. Everyone has unique skills and perceptions with unique creative contributions to make. Bob D. McDonald and Don
Hutcheson, founders of the Highlands career-planning program in Atlanta, suggest that people also learn to tolerate ambiguity. "Willingness to try something new, even if you're not sure it's going to work, can be an enormous benefit to creativity," notes McDonald.

Uncertainty is the essential ingredient in producing something new, profound, or uniquely delightful. Accepting the ambiguity however, has been a source of angst for many a creative soul from Amadeus Mozart to Woody Allen to any best man trying to write a wedding toast. Performance anxiety is creativity's dark side.

Be open to the possibilities inherent in problems. When early vintners began corking their wine bottles, the bottles occasionally exploded from a build-up of gas inside. The wine contained too much sugar and living
yeast and as a result, fermentation took place, creating carbon dioxide gas (and tiny bubbles). Rather than discard this phenomenon as a failure, someone in Champagne, France had the idea to take advantage of this effervescent accident. After much trial and error, a process was perfected to remove sediment in an ice bath and use thicker glass bottles. Nearly 300 million bottles of champagne are sold each year worldwide. Ideas that at first seem flawed, may, in the end, be of great worth, as anyone discovers when they look at the price of real champagne!

If you are struggling in your efforts to solve problems, paint a masterpiece, or find the perfect ending to your story, take a break. In their book Sparks of Genius, Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein write: "Few people solve a problem while they're actually working on it ... problems often get solved when people are working on another problem or are away from work, perhaps exercising." What better opportunity for daydreaming than the millions of collective hours spent each day commuting to and from work? J.K. Rowling, author of the incredibly successful Harry Potter book series was on a crowded train from Manchester to London when the idea for Harry suddenly formed in her mind. Rowling gives an account of the experience on her website: "I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, and all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn't know he was a wizard became more and more real to me." Rowling's imagination produced whole new magical worlds for millions of readers to enjoy and made her the richest writer in the world. By some accounts, she is wealthier than the Queen.

While few of us will become billionaire authors, everyone at every age can employ their imaginations. Retirement can be the perfect opportunity to pursue creative endeavours. For some, this might mean taking up a new hobby, while for others, a chance to start a business. 'Seniorpreneurs' aged 55 years and older currently account for a record high one-in-four self-employed individuals in Canada according to a September 2006 CIBC World Markets study. Self-employment is rising the fastest amongst youth (age 15-24) and older Canadians (age 55+). Being an entrepreneur in later life offers the benefits of experience and start-up capital. For adventurous seniorpreneurs, the web has created affordable storefronts where any size of business can flourish. Even a quilting hobby can become an international export sensation.

Whatever you choose to do, believe in yourself and your creative gifts. Tony award-winning choreographer Twyla Tharp, 66, emphasizes that anyone can be creative. "You do the best you can do, but the best you can do is a little better every day. It's a little more focused; it's a little more accomplished; it's a little freer. It's got a little more chutzpah."

Notwithstanding the economic benefits, Tharp offers a wonderful insight into why creativity matters: "So that you walk out the door believing in yourself a little bit more. So you believe that in any given day you've made more of it than it might otherwise have been. So that you do not take things for granted. Creativity, ultimately, is a way of saying thank you."

Inviting Creativity into Your Life
Turn down the volume on modern life. Go for a walk or lie back and daydream without the distractions of radio or television.
Performance anxiety can stifle creativity. Shift your focus to enjoying the process rather than simply the end result.
Try one new thing everyday.

Lisa Harrison is a Kelowna freelance writer who has produced more than 200 articles for newspapers and corporate clients. She received Journalism Honours at Carleton University and took courses at UBC's School of Creative Writing.

Wild Blue Yonder at Thursday Express