Why People Become Creative In A Crisis. By Dr Linda Berman.

47046010501_9203d79471_c                    Stanley Cursiter – Musicians [1923] Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr

“Creativity doesn’t wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.”

Bruce Garrabrandt

What Is A Crisis?

How can we explain what has happened to us over the past weeks, the sudden descent of a potentially fatal virus into our lives? Psychologist Jim Taylor defines the concept of  crisis in his interesting book:

“An event or situation that arises suddenly or reaches a tipping point in its severity that has the effect of significantly disrupting lives and threatening the status quo, and that may also have long-term, harmful consequences on individuals or groups.”

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Before We Begin, An Important Point…….

As we start to examine creativity in crisis, it must be underlined that not everyone will now be feeling more creative. Some of us may feel unproductive and sluggish. Next week’s post is entitled  “Why It’s Absolutely Okay Not To Feel Creative In This Crisis”  and will explore such feelings further.

Some people may find that they veer from one mind-state to another; one day they may feel creative and positive and on other days they may feel just the opposite. There is certainly no blueprint for feelings at this extraordinary time.

But for some of us, the experience will be quite different…….

Whilst the crisis we are enduring now is very difficult, it will also have the effect on some people of increasing their creativity.

Why is this?

This crisis does create some freedom; we have fewer, if any, deadlines. There are less appointments, less rules to adhere to, fewer meetings, interviews, examinations.

We may, of course, have some important activities scheduled online, whether these are related to work or leisure, but largely, we are less formally committed in terms of time.

There are, or course, governmental rules to try to limit the spread of Coronavirus that we must abide by, but within these strictures, in some ways, we may feel freer. For instance, there is no need to dress up, to drive far, to prepare for travel, in the same way we did before the lockdown.

With a general trend towards the lessening of previous routines and external control, creativity may have the space to increase.

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David Hockney. Bridlington Studio Interior. Gandalf’s Gallery Flickr.

“I don’t think there are any borders when it comes to painting. I’ve always thought that. There are no frontiers, just art.” David Hockney.

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” 

Erich Fromm

What we are mostly trying to develop is our resourcefulness; we may wonder often how we might apply what we already have to this situation, including our existing talents and skills.

47897216071_29afd238c2_cRichard Maury – Epipactis. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

Crisis Often Promotes Increased Awareness and Sensitivity.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” 
― Brene Brown

Given the intense disruption in all our lives, work-related, socially and domestically, we may feel ourselves changing in order to adapt. Many people might be wondering how they will function in the future, given the plethora of changes that are occurring externally and within ourselves.

We may ask “Who am I becoming?………Will these changes make me better…or worse…. as a person? What is happening to me, to my life? What does my future hold?”

We might also be taking the chance to review our current lives, to think about things differently; in short, to be creative with our thinking.

“Creativity involves breaking out of expected patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” — Edward de Bono

We may suddenly realise that so many long-established aspects of our lives are simply not available now. It is as if restaurants, public transport, parks, pubs, bars, clubs, cinemas, holidays, hairdressers, clothes shops, and so on, have all disappeared overnight in a puff of smoke and we have awakened to a new reality.

Our villages, towns and cities have closed down on us.

Even ‘closed’ signs can get creative, in a way that just about sums up the mood of the moment:

4472404159_d10b07a2d0_cThe closed sign on Puccinos cafe next to Euston station in London. Alan Cleaver. Flickr.

This awakening to an altered world , this awareness, often promotes new ways of thinking.

“This simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted is a powerful source of creativity. “

Edward de Bono

Creativity As a Way Of Processing and Working Through Difficult Experiences.

In order to process all this altered reality, many of us become creative. This is a good and positive response to crisis, for it reveals our strength and powerfully represents our genuine sense of freedom despite lockdown.

“There is no healthier drug than creativity.”
Nayyirah Waheed

We may also view some of this creativity as an understandable defence against being unable to change things and feeling out of control.

“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity”
T.S. Eliot

“Anxiety is part of creativity, the need to get something out.”

David Duchovny

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Jon Boe Paulson – The Blue Hour [1998] Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

Telling stories can be a way of channelling anxious energy away from its painful focus; as can painting, playing music, cooking, writing,  dressing up to recreate old masters paintings.

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Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Woman Crocheting.Gandalf’s Gallery, Flickr.

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook

Boredom

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Pablo Picasso. A Woman Leaning [1921] Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

Fear, threat and anxious boredom can also lead us to becoming creative, as a way to manage such difficult experiences. As our mind wanders, new ideas and inspirations can emerge.

Daydreaming our way though solitude and boredom, we may also discover new thoughts and ideas. Einstein would go for long walks and then create ‘thought experiments,’ working things out in his head.

He knew very well the value of aimlessness; it could promote real ideas…….

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“Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” Albert Einstein

“One cannot underestimate boredom as an incentive to write.”

Philip Zaleski

“When all is said and done, monotony may after all be the best condition for creation.”

Margaret Sackville

The Past: Creativity out of Crisis.

“Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals.”

Csikszentmihalyi

As we look into the past, we will discover that many great writers and thinkers, scientists and artists, were creative during crises.

Shakespeare.

Plague occurred often during Shakespeare’s life. He was fortunate not to contract the terrible disease himself, for it occurred a few months after he was born, in 1564. Again it struck, in 1592 and, much like today, theatres were closed to prevent spread.

It is thought that King Lear and Macbeth, were written during the plague of 1606:

“Plague was the single most powerful force shaping [Shakespeare’s] life and those of his contemporaries.”

Professor Jonathan Bate 

The Guardian: Shakespeare in Lockdown…

Plague is mentioned several times in Shakespeare’s plays:

“The dead men’s knell

Is there scarce asked for who, and good men’s lives

Expire before the flowers in their caps

Dying or ere they sicken.”

Shakespeare, Macbeth 

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.”

Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley wrote her novel in lockdown; in 1816 she was isolated at Lake Geneva with other writers because of a volcanic eruption. Percy Shelley and Lord Byron were with her and Byron suggested a horror-story writing competition. Frankenstein was the winner.

Frida Kahlo and Creativity as Defiance.

“Creativity is an act of defiance.” 
Twyla Tharp

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Frida Kahlo – Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940)Flickr:cea

Frida Kahlo experienced many crises in her life; she was severely injured in a ‘bus crash and managed still to paint on a special easel whilst lying in bed.

Her art is full of fighting spirit and defiance. Her creativity was a brilliant and courageous way of processing and managing her own personal crises.

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“She transformed her suffering and made that transformation eloquent for others.”

Jay Griffiths.

©Linda Berman.

 

4 comments

  1. Another thoughtful post. Re who am I, creative thinking and how to reintegrate into the new normal.. the crisis has reinforced who will I rejoice in seeing again, what activities do I love versus what will be a chore and what/who de energises me? I really want to chose carefully rather than being sucked back in to life as I knew it…. if it exists!

    Liked by 1 person

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