How to be creative


I thought this video, produced by PBS, took an interesting look at the creative process. Though it’s called “How to Be Creative,” the video actually doesn’t (and probably shouldn’t) provide any step-by-step instructions or dogmatic rules. Instead, it examines the circumstances and attitudes that are most conducive to creativity.

Let’s get negatively capable!

There’s a brief discussion of Keats’ concept of “Negative Capability,” a quality which allows a person (like Shakespeare, for instance) to remain “in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”

In the video, they seem to suggest that Negative Capability is a useful mindset for discovery — allowing you to stay open to new paths, solutions, etc. While I think that’s certainly true, I also believe Keats was suggesting that Negative Capability should be evident in the work itself.

In other words, it’s not about remaining open to mystery for the purposes of  SOLVING some mystery; it’s not about experiencing contradiction for the purposes of resolving that tension; it’s about leaving elements of the mysterious and irrational within your creative output.

Who decides on punctuation?

Another part of this video I was intrigued by is the emphasis on collaborative creativity, and it made me curious how this kind of collaboration would work with literature, a field we often (if not always) associate with individuality, authorship as “authority,” and lyric expression. Sure, a dozen of the best minds in computer programming could perhaps create the world’s most brilliant, newfangled thing-a-ma-bob, but would a book written by twelve great authors be better than any one of their own novels? Maybe so. This part of the video made me curious.

Check out the video yourself and let me know what you think in the comments section below. Is creativity just the synthesis of pre-exisiting ideas? When do you feel most creative, and how do you get yourself into that space?

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Chris Robley
Chris Robley is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."



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