The Problem With Creativity

This is not a post about work. I repeat: this is absolutely not a post about work. In my day job I do have books to sell about creativity and of course they are all brilliant and you should buy them them when I tell you to because then you would be brilliant and insightful too. And that was quite a long sentence. It got away from me a little and that’s what I want to talk about. I’ll come back to it.

I used to draw a lot when I was a child. An awful lot. My grandfather was an artist and my mother was an artist and there were always paper and pencils and crayons and paints in the house. Whenever I didn’t have a book in my hand, I had a sketchpad and a pencil. From quite an early age I had a very definite idea about the lines I wanted to see on the paper. They were precise and they flowed just so. I wasn’t really bothered about representing anything in particular but I did want the lines themselves to work on the page.

Later, when I took up music I could hear my own tunes in my head and they were interesting and complex. They had strange intervals between the notes and the key shifts made things fizz just a little. I sang and played a guitar and bass and much later took up saxophone too. I’ve even plinked a few keys on a piano from time to time to no good effect, sadly.

That’s the thing. Nothing has been to much effect. I have a surfeit of ambition over ability. I’ve always been like this. The line never worked out on paper in the way I saw it in my head. The curve just wasn’t ever quite elegant enough. The shapes turned out ill-proportioned and just wrong. My fingers wouldn’t do what they needed to do with the pencil. It was frustrating.

Nor could I ever sing the melodies which rang out so clearly in my imagination. They came out more like some old hymn tune. That much shouldn’t be a surprise given my upbringing but it’s always been a disappointment. In this case, it’s as if the muscle memory generated by years of singing Abide With Me completely overwhelmed the most interesting tunes which still want an outlet from the sweary confines of my head.

And at last we come to the point. I try to craft the things which appear on these pages as carefully as I can. I throw away much more than I publish. Sometimes that’s because it’s just another empty rant about politics. The bitterness and disappointment evident in the previous post is still very real for me. At other times, it’s been one more In’t Running Great! post and it is but saying so again and again isn’t necessarily interesting.  Sometimes, most of the time in fact, it’s just been a good idea poorly executed like one of the drawings from when I was ten or twelve or that tune which popped into my head in the shower last night but sounded wrong when I tried singing it later. The problem with creativity isn’t necessarily having the idea, it’s executing it to any great or lasting effect.

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