On Creativity and Tortoises

Definition of creativity

the use of imagination or original ideas to create something;

“Being creative is what sets us humans apart.  It is the wellspring of wellness”, according to Betsan Corkhill in her book Knit for Health and Wellness.  This rich source to enhance our wellbeing is something that knitters and crocheters tap in to almost instinctively and without even realizing how they are benefiting their brain.

Have you ever wondered how some people are always brimful of ideas? The most creative people find ways around problems because they see them as opportunities and because they are ready to fail and learn.  But this isn’t something that you can necessarily train yourself to do, but rather something that we have forgotten.

So what goes on in your brain when you tap into your boundless creativity? Scientists know physically what happens in a brain when it generates ideas, but they have yet to come up with a way to train people to be creative.  A psychologist in the 1970s called Donald MacKinnon wrote that: “Most creative people get into a mood to allow creativity to function.” He suggests that creative people retain an ability to play and a childlike enjoyment in things.

Maslow, he of the Hierarchy of Needs, defined a link between psychological health and ordinary creativity, between cheerfulness and openness.  So it seems if we can get in touch with our inner child we can all be more creative.

As Pablo Picasso said; “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”  If you think of a group of young children happily painting or making something in the classroom.  They are all being creative in their own way, making decisions about colours and textures.  They are also problem solving which is something we all need in our everyday lives.  As we get older life gets in the way, we get scared of making mistakes, and the danger is we lose the ability, or opportunity, to be creative.  This is why taking part in craft is such a boon to us.

You don’t have to be able to design a pattern to be creative with your craft.  Simply choosing a pattern, the colours you want to use and anticipating the enjoyment you will experience are all highly creative processes.

My favourite theory is by comedian John Cleese.  He says that creativity is like a shy tortoise, tentatively sticking its head out to make sure it’s safe. Cleese suggests we all try to create a safe environment against the craziness of modern life – that’s what our craft can bring us.  A safe haven where we can be meditative, relax and allow our brains to unwind, be flexible and open to whatever life has to throw at us.