Thursday, September 30, 2010

On Intiution and Creativity

As I prepare the last bits of my paper for this weekend's Midwest PCA Conference, and bounce back and forth between that task (and the nearly mandatory Powerpoint presentation) and the grading of students' rough drafts (some more rough than others, but overall pretty good), my thoughts turn to the nature of creativity and approaches to it.
This morning I heard an episode of the radio series Engines of Our Ingenuity that was on point. The transcript is posted at the live link. I encourage you to stop and read this- it's quite good. In Leinhard's discussions of the place of intuition in the creative process and ways in which direct Net research can inhibit that process, I see parallels to my own processes.
My mind seems to be a randomizing search engine, taking me to unexpected places as I try to hold to a deliberate path from point A to point B. There were times in the past when I found this inhibiting, frustrating and shameful, as it seemed to preclude any significant level of accomplishment. It still had its down side in terms of time management issues. Now, however, I've begun to see it as an example of what I call the Timothy Mouse Syndrome. Taken from the timeless film Dumbo, possibly Disney's most profound feature, the rather blatant message is from Timothy's line to Dumbo (who never speaks in the film) that "the very things that dragged you down will bring you up!"
Two days ago,  the MacArthur Genius Grants were awarded to a phenomenal group of individuals. Here's stone cutter Nicholas Benson discussing his work.

"This is the only way to do this." That's not a didact, that's a recognition of his own process and the tradition from which that process stems.
Discussion of process, especially traditional, non-digital process, inevitably leads to accusations from some of the speaker being a Luddite.
To offer another perspective on that issue, here's another MacArthur Grant winner, type designer Matthew Carter.

The call to "do more" is the drive for many people. I'm reluctant to say "all", as many, including my brother Craig (ironically, the only member of our family to have a whole book published to date), feel no such calling, claiming that simply being is reason enough for life.
Though my own work falters at times, I disagree. I can't say why it's important to create, but I know it is. And seeing masters at work in such diverse fields as the recipients of the MacArthur Grants (only nicknamed "genius grants") is both inspiring and inhibiting.
Well, that paper's not going to write itself.
Then again, given the free association nature of my writing, in a way, it will.