How do you live the creative life? I’ve gleaned tips from some of my favorite Creators. For five days I’m writing about these insightful suggestions. Yesterday I wrote about Vitruvius’ Tips for Architects.
The philosopher John Locke tells parents to answer every question a child asks, respecting her intellect; that is, truthfully and patiently. What if this gets annoying after a while? Locke suggests imagining yourself arriving in Japan (you don’t speak the language or know anything about the culture) for the very first time. In Japan, an English-speaking guide awaits you. You have a million questions– silly and irrelevant to a native, but crucial to you. You, Locke says, are your child’s guide to this new-to-her world. Be nice.
Three centuries later, the father of Quantum Theory, David Bohm says original and creative work requires watching the world with newcomer’s eyes. You start life with newcomer’s eyes and constantly discover things new-to-you. Bohn says,
[A child] spends his first few years in a wonderfully creative way, discovering all sorts of things that are new to him.
As a child grows older, however, learning takes on a narrower meaning… So his ability to see something new and original gradually dies away. And without [this ability] there is evidently no ground from which anything can grow.
In his book On Creativity, Bohn explains the creative process, which is the same regardless of discipline. His ideas apply to all. Check out his tips on how to be original:
- Look to learn something totally new with your work.
- Pay attention.
- Remain alert and aware.
- Court sensitivity to changes.
- Mistakes and failures are part of the process. Only people who already know the outcome of something (and are therefore mechanical and not creative) don’t make mistakes.
- Note differences between what actually happens and what is inferred from previous knowledge.
- Expect to overturn comfortable ideas.
- Modify your ideas and your art by what you learn.
As I finish this post, I’m wondering where to turn my eyes to see things new-to-me. But Bohn explains this isn’t quite possible. You can’t become truly creative by process. You can only get close. Originality cannot be planned. It is, well, original. That isn’t very inspiring. But no worries— I can at least answer all my kids’ questions until I come up with my own.