Creativity is Complicated
Creativity is complicated. There’s just no getting around it. How one manifests thought and emotion into action is as enigmatic and mysterious as how I manage to get out of bed each morning. We just don’t fully understand how it happens! Despite this, we as a species continue to heavily rely on the creative process for our survival, and with this in mind we’ve learned quite a bit about how to keep the creative engine running, even during those times when all the mind can do is draw blanks. The good news is that although the source of creativity is a strange and magical entity, the manipulation of creativity (regardless of how little of it might be available at any one moment) is a purely technical process. As someone who has made creativity their business, I can say that the technicality of it all is really where the magic hides. With that in mind, here are my top 5 technical solutions to creative problems.
1. Try a different creative methodology. - In terms of choreography, this simply means that I use a different technique to generate movement. For example, if I’ve been working by simply creating movement that follows the melody of the music, I’ll switch to a technique which creates movement by using the body to describe physical objects. Just pick an object in the room and describe it using your body. Boom. Instant movement phrase. I also enjoy using William Forsythe’s improvisational technologies (available to watch on youtube!) to get through creative blocks. This method is just about channeling your creativity through a different conduit. A conduit that (with any luck) is not currently blocked. I’ve had great success with this method and turn to it frequently during my improvisational exercises and movement research sessions.
2. Manipulate what you already have. - Think of your source material as a lump of clay. Take what you’ve got and twist it, break it, throw it, bend it, squish it, and stretch it. The list goes on and on. It’s quite feasible to create 30 minutes of material out of a 16 count phrase. Not only that, it can 30 minutes of good material. Material with value! Material with depth! Material with emotional meaning! The good news is that our brains assign meaning and value to things automatically, so if you can at least take what you’ve got and spread it around a bit then you’ve already built the scaffold upon which your audience will construct meaning.
3. Seek out alternative energy sources. - Go to a museum! Read a book! Listen to music! Step outside! This method of jogging your creativity is ICONIC. The brain thrives off of having multiple, disparate streams of information flowing through it. The more information you take in, the more information you’ll put out. The best example I can give of using this method is how I write these blogs each week. I head up to a wonderful little coffee shop on West 73rd and Columbus Ave on Saturday afternoon, sit down, open my laptop, and listen to the most raucous EDM mix that I can get my hands on. (If you’re interested, look up “Monstercat Uncaged Vol. 2.” Definitely my favorite mix to work to.) The stuff is earsplitting and I love it. The sheer force and energy of the music acts as a puppeteer, with my fingers acting as little puppets upon the keyboard, taping out letters fast as they can while I look out onto the street in front of me and take in the constant rush of color and life going by. All this plus the cappuccino in my hand gives my brain enough excess information to play with that the words just flow out of me.
4. Ask for help. - Perhaps the most forgotten about solution to a creative block. I think that at times we have this perception of artists as solitary explorers, out on the path alone. The truth could not be farther from that. If you’re stuck, ask a friend. Ask a teacher. Ask a mentor. Ask your dog! Two brains are better than one. No creative professional works in isolation, and the idea of the lone genius is a tired concept. When we work together, we work better.
5. Go to bed. - … This one’s my favorite. It is tried and true, proven and tested. Sometimes you really need to just go to bed, sleep on the matter, and then awake the next morning and tackle the issue from a new frame of mind. It really can be that simple. I often times dream about my choreography and awaken to realize a glaring flaw which I hadn’t been aware of before. The arts are a strange and mysterious craft, which makes it just as wonderful that often times the solutions to our artistic struggles are the ones which are the most simple and uncomplicated.
I hope these methods help you push forward with whatever artistic journey you happen to be on at the moment! Be sure to check out some of the posts by the other bloggers for more great content!
Juilliard Dance 2020