My premise for this post is inspired by my father (a mechanical engineer). Occasionally he would be stumped by a problem at work, and to solve the problem, he would drive home and start mowing the grass. I came to appreciate that if I saw our lawn mower abandoned in a random location in the yard when I got off the school bus in the afternoon, dad would probably come home with a triumphant story of problem solving and success.
I recently read an article on the Art of Creativity, and what caught my eye was the section on creativity in children, and it reminded me of my father’s unique problem solving methodology. The article states:
Our experience of creativity in childhood shapes much of what we do in adulthood, from work to family life. But if creativity is a child’s natural state, what happens on the way to adulthood?
Amabile’s research has identified the main creativity killers:
- Surveillance: Hovering over kids, making them feel that they’re constantly being watched while they’re working.
- Evaluation: Making kids worry about how others judge what they are doing. Kids should be concerned primarily with how satisfied they—and not others—are with their accomplishments.
- Competition: Putting kids in a win/lose situation, where only one person can come out on top. A child should be allowed to progress at his own rate.
- Overcontrol: Telling kids exactly how to do things. This leaves children feeling that any exploration is a waste of time.
- Pressure: Establishing grandiose expectations for a child’s performance. Training regimes can easily backfire and end up instilling an aversion for the subject being taught.
One of the greatest creativity killers, however, is more subtle and so deeply rooted in our culture that it is hardly noticed. It has to do with time.
The article continues to discuss how important it is to have uninterrupted periods of “flow” and deep concentration to develop our creative skills. I have noticed that our current way of living has created a surplus of stimulation and placed a high value on multi-tasking and fast-paced living. However, when faced with a problem or need for creative thinking, we need to find space and perhaps even permission to cultivate an idea.
Anne Sullivan gave a wonderful Modern Quilt Guild webinar discussion in 2014 about Quilt Design a Day. Her talk, Discovering Your Creative Process, focused on the simple fact that being creative is something we are all capable of and how the simple act of a daily practice can increase creativity, help you gain confidence, and help you find your own style and process.
I am a creature of habit. My routine consists of getting up early in the morning and preparing for the day with my husband. I see him out the door for work and then I spend a bit of time on household chores (30 minutes or less). Then I make a cup of tea, sit down with my cat in my lap, and I read the latest blog posts from blogs that I follow. I usually then finish up the remaining household chores. I even have a pretty good chore schedule worked out:
- Monday: weekday grocery shopping and laundry
- Tuesday: trash to the curb and vacuuming
- Wednesday: clean the bathrooms
- Thursday: laundry and weekend grocery shopping
- Friday through Sunday are a bit more loose and free form
Mid-morning I make it into my sewing room for the first time of the day. I typically know what project I will be working on and I can work uninterrupted until lunch. At lunchtime, I first take a break to chat with my husband. We used to spend a lot more time in our day together on the commute to work and at lunch, so making the time to chat with him when possible is a big priority for me. Depending on the day, I am either done with sewing for the day and head to the gym for the afternoon, or I have a few more hours that I can dedicate to sewing. I dedicate my evenings to walks with my husband, making dinner with my husband, and one final hour of online time to wrap up the day. Weekends are my blog post preparation time, and I will tweak scheduled posts in the evenings before they are scheduled to be published. Weekends are also my quiet time for design ideas (I work on creative design in the quiet house while my husband sleeps in). This works really well for me, but again, I am a creature of habit! I am definitely still inspired at other random times and locations. I designed the Racetrack Quilt while I was on the treadmill at the gym, in fact!
Have you noticed when you are the most creative? What helps you get into the creative zone? Do you have a system of “mowing the grass” that engages your subconscious mind?