Alaska Robotics

Running in the Shower

Friday, February 20th 2009 by Pat

dinoMy friend Heidi recently asked “..when and where and what activity are you doing when you come up with your best ideas?”

  • The shower
  • Late late late at night
  • Walking or running
  • Right before falling asleep

My own answers aren’t different from many of the others I’ve heard but it got me thinking more about the creative process. These activities are all repetitive or relaxing tasks that give me room to disengage mentally and just allow ideas to unravel. It’s like watching clouds float across the sky and I can just pick through the fluff of my brain looking for new shapes and ideas.

There is one other time I find myself incredibly creative and it’s in direct contrast to the lazy, thoughtful bliss of daydreaming. Sometimes the most direct route to creativity is pressure. Deadlines, promises, and the threat of failure are fantastic motivators. Sarah Elliott summed up this type of creativity best when she said —

“I work best under pressure, in fact, I only work under pressure.”

-Sarah Elliott

I was in a meeting last week and someone mentioned that the idea of the starving artist was ridiculous because artists who are starving are more interested in finding food than in higher, contemplative thought. Aside from the numerous historical examples in direct contradiction, I would argue that the pressure of their situation actually leads them to more creative thought. The discomfort of financial instability pushing them towards creative solutions… like Tristan, a college roommate who learned all the edible plant life on campus and made a habit of grazing on the way to class.

Our current economic crisis creates the same sort of pressure and I didn’t intend to bring this around to any specific point but while I’m here, I think the federal bailouts should have been directed at small businesses, non-profits and individuals.

If we had dumped a trillion dollars into jump starting creative programs with intelligent oversight there would have been billions of dollars in failure but all that money would have been flushed back into the economy and the success stories would have become the next wave of Googles, Fords, and Union Pacifics. It could have created a commercial and cultural renaissance. Instead, we’re digging deep to pay salaries for unsuccessful executives and bailing out failed businesses.

There’s no right way to be creative though, you can frantically write a screenplay under a boiling deadline or you can allow inspiration to settle in as you drift off to sleep. I prescribe a balance of both for less jangled nerves and a modicum of efficiency — forced creativity mixed with time for casual contemplation.

Of course, creativity isn’t productivity. I need to go write.

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