chapter 6 - creative surroundings
- even the most abstract mind is affected by the surroundings of the body. no one is immune to the impressions that impinge on the senses from the outside. creative individuals may seem to disregard their environment and work happily in even the most dismal surroundings. but in reality, the spatiotemporal context in which creative persons live has consequences that often go unnoticed.
- the right milieu is important in more ways than one. it can affect the production of novelty as well as its acceptance; therefore, it is not surprising that creative individuals tend to gravitate toward centers of vital activity, where their work has the chance of succeeding.
- but in the last analysis, what sets creative individuals apart is that regardless of whether the conditions in which they find themselves are luxurious or miserable, they manage to give their surroundings a personal pattern that echoes the rhythm of their thoughts and habits of action. within this environment of their own making, they can forget the rest of the world and concentrate on pursuing the Muse.
being in the right place
- the great centers of learning and commerce have always acted as magnets for ambitious individuals who wnated to leave their mark on the culture.
- the place where one lives is important for three main reasons
- the first is that one must be in a position to access the domain in which one plans to work. information is not distributed evenly in space but is clumped in different geographical nodes.
- the second reason why a place may help creativity is that novel stimulation is not evenly distributed. certain environments have a greater density of interaction and provide more excitement and a greater effervescence of ideas; therefore, they prompt the person who is already inclined to break away from conventions to experiment with novelty more readily than if he of she had stayed in a more conservative, more repressive setting
- finally, access to the field is not evenly distributed in space. the centers that facilitate the realization of novel ideas are not necessarily the ones where the information is stored or where the stimulation is greatest. ofen sudden availability of money at a certain place attracts artists or scientists to an otherwise barren environment, and that place becomes, at least for a while, one of the centers of the field.
- in sciences and in the arts, in business and inpolitics, location matters almost as much as in buying real estate
- creativity is not determined by outside factors but by the person's hard resolution to do what must be done. which place is best depends on the total configuration of a person's characteristics and those of the task he or she is involved in. someone who is relatively more introverted may wish to perfect his act before stepping before the limelight. a more extroverted person may enjoy competitive pressures from the very beginning of her career. in either case, however, choosing the wrong environment will probably hinder the unfolding of creativity
- the belief that the physical environment deeply affects our thoughts and feelings is held in many cultures. unfortunately, there is no evidence - and probably there never will be - to prove that a delightful setting induces creativity.
- when we think intentionally, thoughts are forced to follow a linear, logical - hence predictable - direction. but when attention is focused on the view during a walk, part of the brain is left free to pursue associations that normally are not made. this mental activity take places backstage, so to speak; we become aware of it only accasionally. because these thoughts are not in the center of attention, they are left to develop on their own. there is no need to direct them, to criticize them prematurely, to make them do hard work. and of course it is just this freedom and playfulness that makes it possible for leisurely thinking to come up with original formulations and solutions. for as soon as we get a connection that feels right, it will jump into our awareness. at that moment the novel idea seems like a voice from heaven, the key to our problems.
creating creative environments
- most of us cannot do a great deal about the macro-environment. there is not that much we can do abotut he wealth of the society we live in, or even about the institutions in which we work. we can, however, gain control over the immediate environment and transform it so that it enhances personal creativity. on this score, there is much to learn from creative individuals, who generally take great pains to ensure that they can work in easy and uninterrupted concentration
- we need a supportive symbolic ecology in the home so that we can feel safe, drop our defenses, and go on with the task of life. and to the extent that the symbols of the home represent essential traits and values of the self, they help us be more unique, more creative. a home devoid of personal touches, lacking object that point to the past or direct toward the future, tends to be sterile. homes rich in meaningful symbols make it easier for their owners to know who they are and therefore what they should do.
- the person who creates a more uique home environment is likely to be more original to begin with. yet having a home that reinforces one's individuality cannot but help increase the chances that one will act out one's uniqueness
- many people claim that their car is a "thinking machine", because only when driving do they feel relaxed enough to reflect on their problems and to place them in perspective.
- it is not only through personalizing the material environment that we are able to enhance creative thought. another very important way to do so is by ordering the patterns of action we engage in. again, there is no best way to structure our actions; however, it is important not to let either chance or external routine automatically dictate what we will do.
- most creative individuals find out early what their best rhythms are for sleeping, eating, and working, and abide by them even when it is tempting to do otherwise. they wear clothes that are comfortable, they interact only with people they find congenial they do only things they think are important. of couse, such idiosyncrasies are not endearing to those they have to deal with, and it is not surprising that creative people are generally considered strange and difficult to get along with. but personalizing patterns of action helps to free the mind from the expectations that make demands on attention and allows intense concentration on matters that count.
- a similar control extends to the structuring of time. some creative people have etremely tight schedules. other are much more relaxed.
- the implications for everyday life are simple: make sure that where you work and live reflects your needs and your tastes. there should be room for immersion in concentrated activity and for stimulating novelty. the objects around you should help you become what you intend to be. think about how you use time and consider whether your schedule reflects the rhythms that work best for you. if in doubt, experiment until you discover the best timing for work and rest, for thought and action, for being alone and for being with people.
- creating a harmonious, meaningful environment in space and time helps you to become personally creative. but if creativity with a capital C is largely beyond our control, living a creative personal life is not. and in terms of ultimate fulfillment, the latter may be the most important accomplishement.