Creativity and Abraham Maslow

August 24, 2010

by Leslie Zeigler

Abraham Maslow was a humanistic psychologist who believed that  in every person there is a strong desire to realize his or her full potential. He believed creativity was an aspect of personality.  He was different from other psychologists of his time in that he chose to study healthy individuals, rather than like  Freud, those with serious psychological issues.

He went on to clarify that he saw creativity as a special perceptiveness on the part of the individual. He said that creative people can see the raw, the fresh, the concrete, the generic, the abstract,   the categorized and the classified.   Other qualities he described as characteristic of creative people   include  independence, self-confidence, openness to experience, sense of humor and playful childlike attitude, a preference  for  complexity and acceptance of  disorder, and  a tolerance  for  ambiguity.

I think that what makes his beliefs so unique is that he does not link creativity with psychological problems.  Sometimes people believe that  creative people have to be suffering from depression or alcoholism.   Obviously this is a very complicated issue and there certainly have been famous artists and writers who have  suffered terribly.

L. Frank Baum – Creative Pioneer

August 6, 2010

For those of you who love the Wizard of Oz – and who doesn’t? – I recently wrote an article for Interstitial Arts on L. Frank Baum, the creator of the Wizard and Dorothy, and the performances he used to give with film, music, and actors of his fairy tales.  Mr. Baum, like us, suffered through critics inner and outer, difficult day jobs, and uncertain finances, but through it all, continued to write, and invented a highly original (and very American) fairy tale world .  If you’d like to read a little more about him, you can check it out at theIAF blog.

Slow Starts

August 3, 2010

Sit and Wait for Inspiration?

I start very slowly, and don’t actually begin to write the book until I can’t stand not to write it. This method derives from my sense that one can start a book too soon, but almost never too late. (Stevan Polansky in GlimmerTrain)

We writers and artists almost always have a bad word to say for ourselves, and often it is on our inability to get started on a project.  Sometimes, even if we have a deadline, even if our food and rent depends on it, we just cannot begin. We have an idea, yes.  We may even think it is a pretty good idea.  But it isn’t ready.  We aren’t ready, and we aren’t sure we will ever be ready.

How do we know when to begin a project? Steven Polansky says it all when he says,  “one can start a book too soon, but almost never too late.”  (Of course, we haven’t heard from his editors on the subject.) But perhaps the reason most of us have drawers full of unfinished manuscripts, basements full of half-done canvases, hard drives full of video and photographs we’re not sure about and scripts without an ending, is not because we don’t have the will to finish, but because, driven by our own anxiety to begin,  we started too soon.

Great ideas may seem sometimes to spring out of nowhere and demand our full attention, but the truth is, they’ve probably been stewing for some time, in some form, before they assume a final shape.  Our minds take a little bit from here and a little bit from there, throw in a dash of this and that, do a rain dance to the muses for inspiration, and only then hold the concoction under our noses and insist – okay, okay, this is how it will be! Pay attention and get going!  And it is in that moment when we really do have to build up some steam and prepare to chug away.

This isn’t like waiting to be hit on the head by an apple (although one can argue that Mr. Newton’s inspiration, as well, owed a lot to creative stewing.)  We have to feed the process, with reading, or going to galleries, or watching films,  and thinking, and sleeping, and possibly striking up a chat with the morose person sitting next to us at Starbucks who is also waiting for his or her moment.  If you and nature are on close personal terms, you can go take long walks, and even try sitting under a welcoming tree.

While you are doing all this, you must make the attempt not to torture and threaten your idea into existence, but to gently lure it out, with the promise that it will have your full attention and its moment in the sun.  Be kind to your idea, and be kind to yourself.  And when, finally, it manifests itself in full – or at least close enough to be getting on with – don’t be afraid to jump in and move forward.  Institute your creative ritual; protect your creative time; let it be as central to your life as it can be without completely disrupting the rest of your life.  It’s almost never too late to start, but when it’s time, it’s time, and it’s a moment to savor before you begin some of the hardest work of your life.