Tale of a tadpole’s talent

One thing I love about early spring is frogspawn season.  At primary school I used to be fascinated to watch the transformation take place before my very eyes in a large tank in the classroom.  A person on Streetlife is offering handfuls of the stuff…if only I had a pond.

But I don’t.  So this year I’ll have to use myself instead, despite being slower and much less reliable than your average tadpole.

tadpole's talentHaving lived for much of my life as a mere tadpole in the creativity pool, it feels that the past year has seen tiny legs start to sprout.  As I notice certain patterns slowly form, and old “industrial” habits slowly slough off, what is it that I have learned for myself about creativity?

1. There is no creativity gene, it’s a case of how deeply the innate ability has been buried away

2. Confusion and failure seem to be part of the process, and it’s important for me to co-habitate with them for a while.  Having spent some time learning this, there’s so much less to fear from them any more

3. I can’t just sit down and Be Creative.  I can only wait for ideas to come to me, and grab them when they do.  The secret to this would appear to be to do something totally unrelated to whatever it is I think I want to do, and then Whoosh! something jumps out.  Various things that seem to work for me include:

– Distancing myself from the familiar (my initial departure point was my career)

– Questioning what I used to take as obvious (some people can find this irritating)

– Exercising (this seems to work unfailingly…usually in the shower afterwards…unless, of course, I ever expect it to work or start trying to make it happen)

– Whittling spoons (works for me, but whatever rocks your world)

– Reading a lot of new, thought-provoking stuff (for example, here’s a list)

– Experimenting: Trying out lots of random new things, purely for their own sake (parkour, fasting, speed poetrymentoring, balloon sculpting, rap)

4. Thoughts and ideas are pointless if they aren’t turned into experience.  I keep forgetting this.  But when I do remember, I get a lot out of taking a few experiments further and totally immersing myself in them for a longer period, so I can find a way to integrate their wisdom into my life (writing, cartooning, meditation, improvisation, slacklining, barefoot running, bushcraft, sprinting, early rising).  I suspect there is something interesting that connects a number of these together.  Perhaps it’ll come to me in the shower one day

5. Solitude is essential for me, but I can’t get anywhere without the help of supportive, free-thinking, funky folk.  Meeting a new world of people like this has perhaps been the most important thing that has happened

The great thing is that there’s nothing that can be directly controlled; the most that can be done is to bring about encouraging circumstances.  This sort of thing clashes directly with the ‘management theory’ that dominated my thinking in the past, and where my position on the above points would have been something like:

1. We hire talent.  We can’t exactly nurture it

2. Confusion and failure are NOT AN OPTION

3. Unstructured time is pure laziness.  Get back to your desk and do something productive

4. Focus is good – I heard that on my MBA.  How do we monetise wisdom and what are the margins?

5. We’re all for teamwork.  And if you outcompete your team-mate you get a reward!

There’s a lot that would benefit from a bit of metamorphosis.

What I love is when I find people, bullfrogs who actually know what they are talking about, more clearly articulate things that I have stumbled across in my own experience.  For example, this lecture by John Cleese or the people at the School of Life.

As for me, I’ll keep at it and hope for an arm to poke out one day.


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