The power of creativity. For some reason we think we lack it, but the truth is that is something that anyone can cultivate. It is both teachable and trackable. In a recent article in Scientific American Mind, three experts on creativity speak about powerful ways to unleash the creative self.
Mariette DiChirstina, the executive editor of SAM, brought together psychologist and professor John Houtz, poet and author Julia Cameron, and psychologist Robert Epstein for an article entitled, How to Unleash Your Creativity. During this discussion between the three, they reveal some fascinating aspects of creativity, the competencies involved in cultivating creativity and the impact of it on a person’s every day life.
While they do not discuss it specifically, their discussion has implications for leadership in the church. It helps us lead people through change, it helps us empower people for leadership, and it helps us to challenge people in how they live their life.
Teachable and Trackable
Cameron has found that the process can be teachable and trackable. She uses three simple tools to help people become more aware of their creativity. The result is more alertness, more friendly interacting with people and less threatened by change. Epstein concurs and has found four skill sets that are essential for creative expression. The first is is ¢â‚¬Å“capturing¢â‚¬”preserving new ideas as they occur to you and doing so without judging them…Otto Loewi won a Nobel Prize for work based on an idea about cell biology that he almost failed to capture. He had the idea in his sleep, woke up and scribbled the idea on a pad but found the next morning that he couldn¢â‚¬â„¢t read his notes or remember the idea. When the idea turned up in his dreams the following night, he used a better capturing technique: he put on his pants and went straight to his lab!”
The second competency is called ¢â‚¬Å“challenging¢â‚¬¢â‚¬”giving ourselves tough problems to solve. In difficult times, different behaviors compete with one another and their tension and interconnectedness create new behaviors and ideas. It is in the interconnecting of behaviors and decisions that creativity is born. This is the reason for welcoming different viewpoints and perspectives within the organization and within the leadership structure. A monolithic set of thoughts will create a stagnant organization, church, or ministry.
The third competency is ¢â‚¬Å“broadening. The more diverse your knowledge, the more interesting the interconnections¢â‚¬”so you can boost your creativity simply by learning interesting new things.” When you fail to branch out and explore new and diverse ideas, stagnation occurs and a monotonous tone resonates within the person or organization.
The last competency is ¢â‚¬Å“surrounding, which has to do with how you manage your physical and social environments. The more interesting and diverse the things and the people around you, the more interesting your own ideas become.”
Don’t Fear Failure. The creative individual thinks of failure as a new opportunity: ¢â‚¬Å“Okay, why did I fail? What was wrong? Let me try to do something else. Let me go forward with it.¢â‚¬ Epstein describes the impact of failure in the lab. He says, “failure also produces a phenomenon called resurgence¢â‚¬”the emergence of behaviors that used to be effective in that situation¢â‚¬”that leads to a competition among behaviors and to new interconnections. In other words, failure actually stimulates creativity directly. It really is valuable.”
Work Through Criticism. You need to be able to take criticism. Criticism is a driver to creativity. Creativity is not just about generating ideas, but evaluating those ideas. They should be tested and tweaked and evaluated by others. However, Epstein states, “A big mistake people make is to start visualizing the criticism or the feedback while they¢â‚¬â„¢re still generating. That can shut you right down.”
Take Breaks. Breaks allow your mind to integrate thoughts from a variety of contexts.
Cameron recommends a process called ¢â‚¬Å“morning pages”. These are
three pages of longhand writing about anything: ¢â‚¬Å“I don¢â‚¬â„¢t like the way Fred talked to me at the office¢â‚¬; ¢â‚¬Å“I need to get the car checked¢â‚¬; ¢â‚¬Å“I forgot to buy kitty litter.¢â‚¬ They don¢â‚¬â„¢t look like they have anything to do with creativity, but in fact, as we put these worries, which are sort of a daily soundtrack for most of us, down on the page, we are suddenly much more alert, aware, focused and available to the moment. And we begin to see that we have many creative choices. As I wrote those pages, new ideas began to walk in.
In addition, she teaches the outing, which is to take an adventure once a week.
The third tool Cameron teaches is “to walk out the door for 20 minutes or so and see what happens to your thinking. When people walk, they often begin to integrate the insights and intuitions that they have had through morning pages and outings.
Creativity is the key to freshness in the pulpit and freshness in ministry. But it is hard work. Our natural tendency is stagnation, not creativity; complacency, not compelling ministry. But when an atmosphere of creativity is built within the church, the tendency for people to resist change is reduced, because the creativity builds in a constant change variable.
One of our biggest hang-ups in implementing a creative type of ministry might be emotional. We all fear failure and criticism. But creative types embrace failure and criticism because it allows them to refine and evaluate not only their perspective but their life. That is an emotional hurdle that must be overcome for most because most are more interested in keeping their job than doing incarnational ministry.
If we do not let our fear overcome our creativity, then we can launch out into the deep waters of ministry and living. And we can breathe new life into stagnant waters.