The subject of creativity has always been of great interest to me. I suppose my interest peaked after reading Csikszentmihalyi’s, Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. Csikszentmihalyi has been studying creativity for over thirty years and coined the “flow theory” to explain the creative process and its sense of enrichment. The concept of creativity can be applied to many areas in life from gardening, to cooking, to raising kids, to sports, to sex, and to making art. Studies have shown that when we are creative we feel good and experience a sense of living life fully. While a lot of Csikszentmihaly’s work has been connected to artists and writers, he also discusses where creativity comes from, the creative personality, the sense of flow and creativity during different stages in our lives. In general, he says that creative individuals are more flexible and adaptable. To be creative, one must also be curious in regard to the world around us.
The May/June issue of Psychology Today has an article called, “The Enemies of Invention,” which shares other factors contributing to creativity and or a lack thereof:
• positive emotions broaden our perception and thought
• fear of failure hinders creativity
• fear of being evaluated hinders creativity
• optimism regarding innovation is beneficial
• concentration is a creativity killer
This last point really resonated with me. I often have the best writing ideas when I am doing something else, like driving on the freeway. I have not yet trained myself to use a tape recorder while driving, but I have been known to pull aside and put my hazard lights on in order to jot some notes in my journal, whether it’s an opening line for a poem, an article idea or book idea—my little journal holds many treasures.
In his essay, “Reflections on Writing,” Henry Miller says, “writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. The writer lives between the upper and lower worlds: he takes the path in order to eventually become that path himself.” Creativity is also inspired by the idea that we are writing for someone in particular. For example, while working on my memoir, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal, I had a photo of my grandmother on my desk. While writing. I imagined writing just for her. I visualized her seated across the table from me and I was telling her my story. I had a deep need to share my story with her, and I was also to share it with the world. As John Daido Loori says in his book, The Zen of Creativity, “the art of creation begins with the need to express oneself. Sometimes, the need to write builds in us almost imperceptibly; sometimes it comes on suddenly,” and more importantly to stimulate the creative process, it’s important to be mindful of what triggers your own creativity, and make a point of keeping it in your life. In other words, have your muse nearby—whether it is a person place, person, or thing that initiates your creative process.