Saturday, November 5, 2005

Creativity Requires Tension

I got a bunch of emails about my "Heisenberg" post asking me, "What the heck are you talking about with this creativity and uncertainty stuff."


Here's what I meant by the
uncertainty = something to do with creativity thing. When you observe something (in quantum terms), you can either nail down its position, or its momentum; its present state or its potential. The closer you get on one, the further you get from the other.


I think that in a weird way, creativity is based on both rigid processes (some might call this "craft") -- very defined ways of observing the precise methods of creating art/writing/design/etc -- and also on indefinable, whimsical, chaotic "muse" driven elements. Some types of "art" have always relied totally on one, some on the other. For example, architecture relies heavily (pun intended) on craft. If you don't obey the rules, house fall down. Painting has fewer rules; or it can, anyways. Writing has more rules, generally. You need, for example, words and letters.


Losing the balance between craft and muse is where, I think, artists get confused. We sit and "wait for the muse to strike us," or we get bound up in aspects of craft, leaning too heavily on systems and methods that aren't our own.


My take on being "creative" is that you need this balance. If you trot too far towards craft, you lose something in your art that comes from the random, winding, soul-ful, wondrous, child-like place. If, however, you only ever rely on that place for your art, you become unable to create "on demand." You can't link your art to the demands of, let's say, a job in the arts or to the specifics of any requirements.


Place vs. Momentum. Present vs. Future. Status Quo vs. Potential. Conservative vs. Liberal. Chaos vs. Order. It is not the one or the other that produces great art, but the tension between the two. Moving back and forth, trying some of one, caroming back too far in the other direction, correcting, overcorrecting, swerving back, observing how the journey has impacted the result. The whole "process of process" (metaprocess?) is part of being an artist. Part of understanding one's own creative pulse.


Let's be clear on one thing -- I don't really think that observing the creative process is in any real way like observing sub-atomic particles. I just thought it was a kinda cool metaphor. And I, in my own art, always struggle with the tension between craft (order) and muse(chaos). At one point in my life, I found the struggle frustrating. I'm not sure how it happened, or exactly when... but I now find the struggle exhilarating. Fun, even, most days.


The struggle is, I believe, necessary to the creative process. It is not always -- and for most people not ever -- conscious. I think that when you are aware of it, however, you can control it more fully. And that gives you even more creative potential.

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