The seed of an idea parks in your head. And won’t dislodge.
The more you talk about it, the more it spools from vague to shapely. But it’s still elusive.
As you attempt to articulate, you know your speech is warbled. That doesn’t stop you.
People look at you like you have three heads. No matter. You continue your soliloquy.
Every. Chance. You. Get.
And then, one minute, you float from scattered to perfect clarity.
You’ve bubbled over.
Every molecule in your body shakes with new knowledge: it’s time.
Pick up the pencil. Flesh a first, clean line.
Welcome to the creative process.
The creative process
—”Hey, I’m thinking about having this roundtable,” I’d casually mention to people around town.
—”Yeah! On the topic: the creative process.”
We posted “Make” as a Facebook event page. Blogged it at our unknown-in-Durham Web site. Sprinkled it on Twitter. With no elaboration beyond: “The creative process. What is it? Who uses it? What changes as a result?”
That was enough to convince four dozen strangers to collect on the second floor of a small, noisy wine bar in Durham’s downtown.
Some drove 40 miles.
Durham might lack a perfect venue for this kind of open discussion. But certainly not the audience.
This town is budding with newly relocating creative class people. It’s getting trendy, sort of, too. Durham caught the eye recently of New York Times reporters listing “The 41 Places to Go in 2011,” beating out Budapest and Okinawa.
You kind of had that feeling, when you got here.
Something cool could happen.
It helps that we have local ties: Akira Morita and I started Design Kompany in the Triangle when we were college kids in 1995.
I invited eight people to speak as panelists.
Not in a line or anything, but just dotted about the “roundtable” chiming in when they liked.
Some memorable quotes from each of them at “Make:”
Information designer Beck Tench: The more you make yourself vulnerable, the more you can be rewarded.
Sociologist Javonne Clark: Is someone else going to think that what I created is good? Will someone else like it? That’s the first thing we think. That’s the first step of creativity.
WordPress developer Mark Branly: At some point, we have to rein in the curiosity. We have to give control to the left brain to make things happen, to solve the problem.
Photographer Alex Manness: People seem to be in a bubble—that’s the nemesis of a creative process. As I get older I see I’m letting go of what I think I already know. [I’m] getting out of ‘who you know’ and meeting different kinds of people every day.
Museum studies expert Tiff Broili: What do you want to do? Don’t shut yourself down. Research it. Find it out. Talk to people. Just call someone and ask if you can talk. Open the possibilities for yourself.
Architect Scott Harmon: Get rid of the BS in your brain saying, “You can’t do that. You don’t want to look like that.” I’ve been doing hot yoga and finding I’m doing things I didn’t think I could actually do. [Stepping out] breaks down fear.
Presentation designer Jeff Brenman: Whittling down for a purpose, creating with intention… This is inside me, I want to share it with the world, but also asking, “What if?”
Scientist-turned-Scientific American blog editor Bora Zivkovic: Just say yes! No matter what your lizard brain is screaming.
Like with any discussion about creativity, the usual existential questions emerged:
- Is it art, or problem-solving?
- Is it art, or is it craft?
- Is art design?
- Are we our own biggest resistance?
- Does it count as creative if there’s no product at the end?
- Will it sell?
- Is it self-expression or something for a client?
And the biggest:
- Am I an artist?
The single biggest finding to surface from “Make?”
People crave letting down their linearity.
We want to be allowed to be creative.
We want permission.
Showing up to “Make” was an announcement. I am creative.
It was an affirmation. I make.
“Once I listened to myself,” said landscape designer Sheldon Galloway, “I actually got better. This is the motion, this is the color… there’s a lot more to [design] than just how it looks.”
A woman whispered in my ear as she was leaving: “This was fabulous. I’ve just returned to creativity from the corporate world.”
There was only one thing to say in response.
How to get there
“Ask a room of five-year-olds, ‘How many of you are artists,’” said guest Jimmy Chalmers. ”’How many of you can sing?’” He raised his hand. “Ask them again when they’re 12. You’ve lost it.”
How do we get to be creative?
Tear down the blocks.
Words like “shouldn’t” dampen the child spirit.
We have to trust.
And the process.
“There’s an eight-year-old in you that wants to be creative,” Jimmy said, eyes gleaming. “Let’s get it.”
About Design Kompany
Design Kompany is a brand marketing studio based in Durham, NC. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919.886.6332.