Patience seems counterproductive to the creative process. After all, many of us have been instilled with an industrial model of creation. Produce! Produce! Produce! But our brains are constantly making and remaking meaning with every experience.
There's a wonderful metaphor in Cræft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts in which Alexander Langlands compares the creative process to the art of maintaining hedges, which often take years to grow into their full form. The gardener knows this, yet continues pruning and cutting day by day with a certainty of what will be.
I imagine that final works of art are much like that. I may not have a finished work at the end of the day, but in my own way, I have been "pruning" and "cutting" away. Every little note scribbled on a piece of paper. Every time I journal or revise (for the 100th time) a draft of a poem. And, if I remember to be patient, I know with certainty that I am indeed shaping something into being.
What does it mean to be a creative in a corporate environment? I was given Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace by Gordon MacKenzie during my internship at Hallmark, Inc. and while some parts seemed rebellious just for the sake of pure rebellion, there were a lot of takeaways in understanding how creativity can thrive in a somewhat rigid environment.
The "hairball" is the humdrum of corporate life with all of its rules and regulations. This type of environment, according to MacKenzie, is what depletes creatives of their natural talents. It is possible, however, “to actively engage the opportunities...without being sucked into the Hairball.... This is accomplished by Orbiting” (32)
I’ll admit that the metaphor of an organization as a “giant hairball” and creatively thriving as “orbiting” this hairball was a bit convoluted for me. However, MacKenzie does provide plenty of real-life examples as to what this looks like, which was much appreciated. What becomes clear is that MacKenzie “got away with” quite a bit and it doesn’t take much to consider whether MacKenzie’s situation is unique. After all, how many of us would be lauded for breaking our employer’s “rules” with intention? We're just trying to be creative after all, right?
MacKenzie does have a point though in remarking that “Corporate Normalcy derives from and is dedicated to past realities and past successes” (31). If companies wish to continue innovating, it would seem that “breaking the rules” will ultimately, lead toward new ideas and new thinking. For, “[o]ur creative genius” MacKenzie writes, “is the fountainhead of originality” (22).
I do think, however, that it’s a realistic outcome to consider that many artists will find themselves working at organizations that may or may not align with their own personal and artistic goals. After all, the “starving artist” look isn’t all that glamorous to many of us and in many ways, is a privilege only afforded to few. To this, MacKenzie has some advice that seems incredibly useful for all of us: “find the goals of the organization that touch your heart and release your passion to follow those goals” (53).
Some days my writing looks less like pen on paper and more like finding patterns of clouds in the sky.
I originally began my first book Stereometry as a short story collection. If you know anything about the project, then you know that the book is starkly not that. To be fair, my first short story collection didn’t go anywhere, so I was eager to start fresh.
But it just wasn’t working. On a emotional level. On a structure level. On an everything-level. So after dragging my feet awhile (a whole year in fact) I started making small changes. First, I rewrote the stories as they had actually happened, essentially converting Stereometry to nonfiction. It was getting closer, but it still wasn’t there. Over time, and little by little, I kept trying to solve the problem. After a lot of gradual changes, Stereometry became a highly conceptual, genre-queer, lyrically poetic manuscript.
This is all to say that innovation happens when we make the choice to do something different. As an artist, this can be an incredibly daunting choice, especially when we’ve put our everything into this one thing. Sure, we have goals to create the next masterpiece, but in reality, innovation happens a little at a time. It doesn’t always work. This was a hard thing for me to grasp. See, creativity doesn’t always lead to innovation, but innovation always begins with creativity. Choosing to do something different and making an effort to be open to small changes when we need to solve a creative problem is where the magic happens.
tiny writing thoughts is a space for my unruly ideas, plenty of creativity, and all things writing. As a writer, I’m always seeking ways to understand my art and be inspired. I hope you find a little inspiration here, too.