The probability of achieving a desired result, resolving a pressing problem or pursuing a goal with the most profound outcome is function of the presence of clarity, commitment and creation. Creativity is that vital ingredient that turns the mediocre into the inspiring. Creativity is not a learned capability but an open mode of operating that yields an outcome what would otherwise not have been possible in our normal day-to-day pursuits. There are a number of essential and extraordinary factors that make creativity possible with the appreciation that creativity produces its best in carelessness without any inhibitions and restrictions, especially when you create the space and time to let it happen.
John Cleese (in a Video Arts talk on Creativity, 27 August 2012) says that creativity is not a special talent. It is not an ability that some people have more of than others. He says that according to Dr. MacKinnon, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, there is no correlation between IQ and creativity. The most creative have a particular faculty of being able to get themselves into a mood – a way of operating which allows their natural creativity to function. Being in creation is likened to play in a child-like fashion.
For creativity in this context to have meaning requires that “play” function in the presence of clarity and commitment,
Clarity: on what you want to achieve exactly, what is happening in the moment, where you are going (direction) and where you want to land up (destination). If this is not abundantly clear, then clarity about your lack of clarity is an essential departure point. The end-in-mind may be to be in creation of your direction and destination.
Commitment: accepting full responsibility for and ownership of the execution of how (strategy) you are going to achieve your desired outcome – not the content thereof, just the commitment to the journey such that the result has the possibility of manifesting in your life.
Creation: what needs to happen in space and time in order to achieve the awe-inspiring outcome that requires creativity.
John Cleese says that creativity is only possible when we are in an open mode of operating, which is relaxed, expansive, contemplative and less purposeful that our normal closed mode of operating. The closed mode is what we are in most of the time; in action of those essential high priority, urgent things that need to be done. Creativity is not possible in this mode. in the closed mode, there may be slight anxiety brought on by uncertainty and unpredictability about what the future may hold because we are operating in the “now”. There may be stress due to the level of activity and impatience about the pace at which outcome realisation is anticipated. There is purposefulness in the closed mode but certainly no creativity. The open mode of operating, on the other hand, is reserved for those high impact and important possibilities.
There are 5 key factors that make creativity a reality according to Cleese:
The first factor is Space which sets the conditions for transformation to happen on its own, away from closed mode demands. Physical isolation accompanied by psychologically being present and available creates an “oasis of quiet” by the setting in space and the second factor, time.
Dedicated Time to ponder a problem that creates the possible opportunity is essential.
Being present and available for creation to happen requires acknowledgement of what “is” in that moment distinct from the illusion about your current state of being and circumstances; making that vital decision to let go of the immediacy found in the closed mode of operation and setting a solid foundation for the creative to come up for you without cluttered thinking and feeling. Dedicated time has to accommodate a time for your mind to settle down by tolerating the racing of closed mode thoughts and feelings that will inevitably come up. Accepting the “off at a tangent” subconscious originated stuff and gently settling back to ponder mode take a while and dedicated time has to make allowance for this. It is also suggested that a number of shorter dedicated, quality open mode sessions serve the purpose of infinite possibilities rather than long drawn-out sessions.
The third creativity factor is also Time but in a different context. The challenge with the pursuit of possibilities is that the problem space is uncomfortable; clearly out of our comfort zone. This discomfort causes some anxiety and tension brought on by uncertainty. This is human nature and what we tend to do is suffice when the first solution becomes apparent. McKinnon’s research suggests that the most creative amongst us play with the problem longer. The more pondering, the greater the creative response.
John Cleese suggests that pondering a problem is distinct from real decisiveness. If a problem resolution can be deferred, as opposed to a “snap decision” being made, it should be and further be allowed to exist in creative discomfort for the richest creative response possible to emerge.
The final creativity factors are Confidence and Humour. True creation is exploratory. It needs to be unrestricted by the fear of the impossible becoming a reality and not limited by the fear of making mistakes. Creativity needs to exist in an environment in which whatever happens, it is okay. Creativity is stifled when one party has to be right, asserting their will over others in an arrogant way, being predisposed to making others wrong. Confidence taken to imply assertiveness and narcissism detracts from creativity.
John Cleese quotes Alan Watts; “You can’t be spontaneous within reason” relating confidence and humour to creativity. He says nothing gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than humour.
We may not all have the John Cleese natural aptitude and capacity for turning ideas and circumstances into humour, however, he makes a point that even serious matters when tackled in a lighthearted way yielding creative solutions under conditions of space and time.