Creativity: Mysteries, rituals, and the power of practice

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

For the artist, the wellspring of ideas is like the Holy Grail: the elusive key to eternity, the stuff of legend. Creativity goes by many names: inspiration, invention, genius, The Muse. Where, though, does it come from? As writers, we’re obsessed by this question, desperate to derive a map to it, that we might come and drink from it as we desire, fearful that at any moment we may be cut off from it forever. 

As parents, you are confronted daily by the spontaneous creative explosions that are the norm for kids. What’s the only thing more creative than a bored child? A group of children. Hyped on sugar. 

I had a front stage pass to this innate, if raw, creative capability recently. When the play-date ended and I had a few minutes of quiet to work in my office, I sat staring at the cursor while it blinked at me. I had just been tossed about by a whirlwind of creative play, and yet found myself unable to articulate an idea, let alone a useable sentence for my Middle Grade fantasy-in-progress. (O! The irony!) Instead, my mind kept wandering not only to the question of where ideas come from, but to why it is it that kids and adults experience creativity so differently. 

Photo by Nick Hillier on Unsplash

So I turned to Google. What could it tell me about the sources of creativity? Apparently, it doesn’t exist in any one part of the brain. According to professor of psychology Arne Dietrich, author of How Creativity Happens in the Brain, creativity taps into many different mental processes. And contrary to the old adage that ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ this 2016 Scientific American article from Tim Vernimmen posits that plenty may actually foster greater creativity. Very Maslowian. The other key factor? The degree to which we are interconnected as a society, at least according to psychologist Michael Muthukrishna. He’s supported by evolutionary biologist Joe Henrich, who (in the same paper) states, “History shows that inventions invariably build on earlier findings that are recombined and improved upon. Most of the things we use every day are inventions that no single human being could ever design within her lifetime.” 

So there are really no new ideas? Just new combinations of ideas? This sounds not only like it could be a quote from Audre Lorde or Mark Twain (which it very nearly is) but like we’re getting close to the idea of a universal mind, or “Over-soul” as Ralph Waldo Emmerson dubbed it. If you think this concept belongs purely with the Transcendentalists and psychologists (a la Carl Jung’s collective unconscious), then you might be interested to learn that eminent physicists David Bohm and Erwin Schrödinger (who won a Nobel prize) also support the theory that there is a single human consciousness which we only perceive as being individual.

I guess it could explain how multiple individuals, or even groups, can arrive at the same point of invention at the same time without communication: whether we’re talking cave paintings, pyramids, or plot lines. But why do kids seem to be able to tap into it so much more readily than those of us with a few more years under our belts?

It all basically boils down to consistently opening the door to invite the creative into our lives. The more often we open the door, the easier it swings on the hinges.

Continue reading “Creativity: Mysteries, rituals, and the power of practice”

The Funny Thing About Mental Illness…an Interview with Deena Nyer Mendlowitz

I’m so happy to introduce my friend Deena Nyer Mendlowitz as our guest this week. (bio here) Deena  is a former colleague from the social expressions industry. We sat through many not-funny  meetings about funny greeting cards together.  She is that friend who deeply believes in you and will encourage you in any pursuit. She’s also the first person who got me on stage to read my writing. (And that’s a serious accomplishment!) Her work in Cleveland (and elsewhere) to destigmatize mental illness is inspiring. Through comedy and candor she is educating and encouraging discussions on the way we perceive and treat mental illness. She is a mom and a creative force. We are grateful for the chance to interview her on The Space Between.

 

Note: The specific mental illness Deena refers to when speaking about her own experience is  Chronic Suicidal Ideation.

Deena, tell us a little bit about your creative pursuits at the moment.

Currently I host and perform in three shows monthly. I host my own live comedy mental health talk show, Mental Illness and Friends. I also host and perform in This Improvised Life, which is on the third Wednesday of every month at Happy Dog East. It is a live show that mixes true life stories with improv. I also host Dana Norris’ Story Club Cleveland Show the first Tuesday of every month at Bottlehouse East. People tell true stories from their lives based on a theme.

 At what point did you realize you were dealing with mental illness and not “just” emotions or phases or whatever we tend to pass these things off as? 

Five days before I was set to graduate college I attempted to end my life. Before that I’d never really even seen a therapist, besides after my grandmother passed away to talk about my profound sadness at that. The suicide attempt seemed sudden and out of nowhere, but really these were feelings I’d been contending with and fighting with and dealing with, all internally for years.

Since that day it’s just been a continued mission to build up skills to gain more resources because to me that’s how I fight this disease. There’s a quote that really shaped this:

“Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.”

I realized that I couldn’t have a lot of control over the pain, but I can have a huge amount of control over building up my resources.

Continue reading “The Funny Thing About Mental Illness…an Interview with Deena Nyer Mendlowitz”