For ten days I’m writing about what it really takes to be Highly Creative and whether greater opportunities make for greater Creativity. Yesterday I wrote Using Strengths and Shadows.
Highly Creative people find ways to get their work done.
Creativity scholar Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi says,
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. If nothing else, this distinguishes them from the rest of us.
Sometimes getting your Creative work done requires walking around the city, pushing your baby’s pram, fervently hoping she takes a long nap. J.K Rowling did. She walked to Nicolson’s Cafe, almost every morning, to write Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Other mornings, she walked to The Elephant House Cafe instead. Rowling chose her place of work based on when and where her baby Jessica finally fell asleep in the pram.
Maybe, your daily walk is much longer, so you relate more to Nobel Laureate Biophysicist, Manfred Eigen. Eigen worked among the most distinguished scientists in post WWII Germany at the University of Gottingen. But before he enrolled as a student there, he escaped a Russian POW camp and walked half-way across Europe to reach the university. Gottingen University had not yet had a chance to open when Eigen arrived, but he waited and was admitted with the first cohort of students, even though he lacked a high school diploma.
Not all Creators have to stroll their babies to sleep or walk 1,00o miles in the snow to do the work they love. You may instead, work in Manhattan, but can’t seem to Create in your nice office. In an interview with Guardian reporter Sandra Deeble, writer Malcolm Gladwell says,
I hate desks. Desks are now banished.
I refer to my writing as ‘rotating’. I always say ‘I’m going to rotate’ because I have a series of spots that I rotate.
There’s one in the lower East Side [in New York City]. The waiters are all Australian and they play The Smiths all day long which I find so fabulous. I always go there on the weekends. Then there are restaurants in Little Italy that I go to. I often go to these places in the middle of the afternoon, when they’ll let me linger.
Gladwell started his working life as a newspaper writer. He says,
I loved the newsroom. When I left it I wanted to recreate the newsroom and the closest thing to a newsroom is any kind of random active social space… A café where “different people are doing different things” is perfect.
Having life going on around him is something Gladwell describes as “the right kind of distraction“. He says, There has to be some sort of osmotic process. In a newsroom, you soak up a lot of what’s going on around you.
Psychologist Nicholas Humphrey remembers his Nobel laureate grandfather taking him to the lab one early morning, the day after Christmas. They went to measure the heat output during muscular contraction in lab mice. Humphrey says,
His instrument was so sensitive to vibration that every car passing in the street outside,every footstep on the landing, created a false reading. So a day like this [when everyone else was sleeping off their Christmas dinners]…was the ideal time to make a perfect measurement.
He could have done the experiment alone, but science for my grandfather was nothing if not a family affair, and he had long been in the habit of engaging his children and grandchildren as assistants.
Highly Creative people adapt and use what they have to get the work they love, done.