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Everyday creativity = happiness

"Creativity is a matter of perspective" Anon

I have been feeling a bit down this last week for a whole number of reasons, not the least of which is that it happens every now and then. Even so there have been happier moments in those days and all of those moments have been associated with some kind of creative act.

Today I feel better even though it is a very dull day and nothing is happening around the Dearman house today. It's a very ordinary day - a bit of shopping, a bit of blogging, a bit of cooking and a bit of TV watching. Plus a bit of planning, a bit of walking and maybe a bit of reading.

Now, if you look up everyday creativity on the net you will get a whole lot of stuff about innovation and art of every kind. Nothing about really basic everyday creativity. The implication - I believe an elitist one - is that creativity either leads to a work of art in the sense of the word that we would all understand - like the photograph at the top of the page as an example - or the creation of some amazing product, or company, or some massive advance in the sciences - the iPhone for example. Perhaps summed up by this from Albert Einstein:

"Creativity is seeing what others see and thinking what no one else ever thought." Albert Einstein

An impossible dream for all but the geniuses in the world, even if they make great art out of the everyday - like Van Gogh's shoes for example, or the tomatoes in that photograph above. For the rest of us, as soon as we think we have an original thought, if you investigate, you will find that somebody else, indeed almost everyone else, has had the same thought. "There is nothing new under the sun". Well that is perhaps equally extreme - on the other end of the spectrum of Einstein's statement.

As these people who are talking about ways of improving creativity, lower their sights you first come to lists of ways to improve your creativity at home, or at work - but always with those massive creatives in mind. Bright ideas, moderately wonderful works of art, but not works of true genius, true creativity, with some sort of physical thing as a result. Sort of imitations of the 'real thing'. Which, if you think about it too much is very depressing and demoralising.

Getting a little lower, but simultaneously perhaps a little higher we come to children, best expressed by Ursula le Guin:

“The creative adult is the child who survived.”

Children are, in a sense, truly creative. They don't know that they are aiming at being Leonardo or Van Gogh when they splash their hands in paint and press them on to the wall or the paper, and every now and then fitting in a smiley face or big green blob. They have no preconceived ideas. Everything is new and magical.

You might be just as happy to have the above painting on your wall rather than a Matisse say, or as in our case a painting created by our younger son and his friends at one of his early birthday parties - age 4 or 5 I think, is just as welcome as Blue Poles - now valued at $500 million. And they had such fun making it too. It made them happy, and Blue Poles probably made Jackson Pollock happy too.

But I guess Blue Poles does perhaps demonstrate Ursula le Guin's notion that the child within is a source of creativity. No preconceptions there.

However, not one of the articles or pictures I found on the net talked about the everyday creativity that exists in just about everyone's lives, and that should be valued just as highly as artistic, scientific or technological creativity. Every day. 'Creative' is one of those big aspirational words, and as such, we ordinary people, tend to think that we are not - unless we do have a creative hobby, at which we work hard. But I now think, having boosted my creativity over the last few days, when I did virtually nothing, that creativity is what keeps us going. Everyday creativity that is. Not painting a masterpiece or inventing a time machine.

Growing up and occasionally still - in my down moments - like last week - I think of myself as supremely uncreative. At high school I came to feel this was obvious. Not only was I supremely bad at sport - a fact that was rubbed in every day - but it was also obvious that I lacked the creative spark in art and music classes, also reflected in the poor marks I got for English essays. We had to choose between art and music for O-levels, and when I chose art, because I could not read music and was tone deaf - I think that's the correct term - my art teacher drew me aside and said "You aren't thinking of taking the exam are you Rosemary?" I was simultaneously relieved and devastated, so much so that I can still see her face as she said it. I also remember seeing somebody sketching the people around him or her - I cannot remember which - on a Channel ferry crossing, and wishing that I could do that, knowing full well that I never could. Well we all wish we could do something we can't. Probably even Einstein had his moments.

I also remember my great-aunt, who scared me a little bit, saying one of the most wonderful things anyone has ever said to me, when I said that I couldn't do anything creative, or something similar. She said, "I'm sure you can - perhaps you are good with colour or something like that." Words to that effect anyway. An everyday thing I could at least aspire to.

But now I realise that every day we all create something - even if it's something as simple as a garden, a meal, a reorganisation of a house, a room, a desk, the colour of paint on your walls ... Choosing what you wear in the morning is mildly creative even - although more thought is put into that when dressing for a particular occasion than just to get through the day. Every choice you make through the day - and we make dozens of them - has at least a small element of creativity within it.

This morning I chose to buy some peaches - not in itself creative - but it made me think creatively about what I could do with them for tomorrow's lunchtime dessert. Not that the recipe have now chosen will be mine - I have an Elizabeth David recipe in mind - but the choice of that recipe over others, and the cooking of it tomorrow are both mildly creative. It's everyday creativity. Small-scale creativity. And it made me happy - well pleased perhaps is a better word - because it solved a problem.

I walked some of the way home and as I walked I took the odd photograph on the subject of fences and walls - this week's subject in my little group's photography projects. Creativity was involved in the choice of what to photograph and creativity is sometimes involved in how it is edited back home. This is an example from today and I guess I am quite proud of the fact that I didn't edit this one. Not that it is a brilliant photograph by any means, but it's alright. It's not completely woeful. The photograph project is another small creative thing in my life because the subjects chosen make you look at the world in a whole new light. When you are photographing 'indents' for example, you suddenly see them everywhere. And how I choose to photograph that fence is all mine. David, for example would have done it differently.

As I walked I also thought. Well I suppose I - and you - think all the time. In this instance I was trying to think of something to write for this blog - and here I am rambling around the notion of everyday creativity and how it makes us happier, more fulfilled, more purposeful. I thought of something.

“A creative life is an amplified life. It's a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life” - Elizabeth Gilbert

Later on I shall be cooking. Today it is pizza which is not that exciting - but nevertheless at the end of the exercise we shall have something tasty to eat, even though it won't be a great competition winning pizza by any means. I shall also be beginning work on tomorrow's lunch by curing some pork chops for tomorrow's braised version à la charcutière and making Delia's Roast tomato salad.

There is nothing super creative about this as the recipes and techniques are not mine, but nevertheless when we sit down for lunch I shall know that I have created- in the sense of made - something. I have done what both Steve Jobs and Van Gogh think of as creativity:

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

Vincent Van Gogh

“Creativity is just connecting things,” Steve Jobs

But as Steve Jobs was also wont to say: "one last thing".

Anyone who has a family or belongs to a community has been supremely creative. If you have children whether your own or from some other source, you have perhaps done the most creative thing that anyone can do and which some of those geniuses never did. You have created a person both physically and developmentally. There is no greater act of creativity. It's a miracle. Then to expand that into a family - well ...

And yet it's so everyday. And it makes us happy.

"The goal isn’t to make something everyone will love; the goal is to get excited, and make a thing where something wasn’t before." Wil Wheaton


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