Creativity An Artists View (With a TIME-OUT for “Combinatory Play” by Albert Einstein) by "Bud" - Norris Martin Evans
The Cookbook, The Lion, and Dancing with a Relaxed Mind
cartoon by the author
The Cookbook: — How to be Creative:
The Psychologists of the 1970s give us a new way to visualize our thoughts. It was a “cookbook“. It told us how to make new ideas. The business community wanted it. They wanted something that was intuitive, credible, and something that everyone could easily understand and feel comfortable using. This “cookbook” pictured our memory as being divided into two parts, one active, and one passive.
The active part of memory is the one that we use every day. Let’s call it our ROTE MEMORY. It contains all of the things and actions that we use all the time. “ROTE” is defined as a mechanical way of doing something without understanding or thought. It’s fixed. It’s mechanical. It’s everyday-automatic.
The passive part of memory consists of the remainder. It’s our LIFETIME MEMORY. It contains everything we know, either known, unknown, forgotten, or suppressed. It’s our gold-mine for creativity.
Today, this “cookbook” has been simplified into the phrase: “thinking outside the box” — whereas the “box” part is our ROTE MEMORY and the “…. outside the box” part is our LIFETIME MEMORY.
The Lion: (?)
For creative thinking, the psychologists visualized that all we had to do was to slip out of our ROTE MEMORY and into our LIFETIME MEMORY to look for new ways to address the world. Easy.
Not so easy. We introduce the “Lion”.
Our brain always gets in the way. It easily drifts into a chaos of fantasies. These fantasies will always foul our most earnest attempts at creative thought. We call these mental fantasies, the “lion”. it’s just a symbol. You’ll recognize the “lion” when you see it, especially when it gets in the way of your creative energies. Stay-tuned. Later, we’ll suggest some tricky ways to avoid the “lion”.
Dancing with a Relaxed Mind: Another picture, like figure (1) — but this one includes THE DANCE.
THE DANCE: or, dancing the “two-step”, is characterized as a back-and-forth interplay between the two elements of memory: ROTE MEMORY and LIFETIME MEMORY.
This interplay is the creative process.
All we have to do is to figure out how to use it — how to make it happen.
This may be how. We assume that the quality of this “two-step”, or interplay, determines the value of creativity that you might experience. And, in turn, this depends upon the ease at which this interplay happens — which prompts us to understand that relaxing the mind may be the key. A relaxed mind allows for freer access to our LIFETIME MEMORY — and that’s what we want. This prompts us to say that for the creative mind, the mantra is:
RELAX YOUR MIND
TIME-OUT: (2 of 4) “Combinatory Play” by Albert Einstein. (*) reference page 10
In 1945, a French mathematician* asked Einstein to explain his thought processes. With editing, it goes like this: “The words or language, as they are written or spoken, do not play any role in my mechanism of thought”. Whereas, “the psychical entities, which seem to serve as elements in thought, are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be . . . reproduced and combined” — resulting in the combining of the two elements of memory — the “muscular images” of the unconscious mind, and the “logical concepts” of the conscious mind. “. . . this Combinatory Play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought . . . “. (my emphasizes)
Note the similarity between the DANCE and Einstein’s “Combinatory Play”.
This is all we need to know. We can end this conversation right now — but how do we reach creativity? It all centers around one thing — relaxing the mind. That’s key — but it’s not a “slam-dunk”. It’s tricky. I have included seven ways that I think might be of value. I have tried most of these seven and have found that the more you try, the easier it becomes, and you might even be able to feel it.
Please note: In keeping with the norms of the day, the following pages will refer to our ROTE MEMORY as the conscious mind and the LIFETIME MEMORY as the unconscious mind.
- MECHANICAL: Relaxing the mind leads to lessening the influence of the conscious mind. We can do this by simply giving the conscious mind something else to do. Something that will keep the conscious mind busy enough so that the unconscious mind can operate semi-independently. I call this parallel thought processing.
- SLEEP: Sleep effectively shuts down the conscious mind. It works. The unconscious mind runs — almost — free range. I use this mental scheme all the time. The words that you’re reading have their origin from sleep. More later.
- CONTOUR DRAWING: This effectively separates the conscious mind from the unconscious mind. Don’t expect too much from this if you are not a student of the arts. We’ll talk about how to do it, later.
- WINE OR ALCOHOL: I hesitate to mention any type of outside additive, but I will. For me, a small amount of wine takes the edge off of the conscious mind, too much creates an adverse effect.
- YOGA OR OTHER: I have no data, but I can imagine that mind control practice may easily yield positive results.
- PACE: This is working fast. It’s effective and easy to do. However, you must have adequate preparation to be effective. Working fast simply outruns the speed of the conscious mind, and that’s what we want.
- BIOLOGICAL: For Bodily Chemistry, I-know-not-what-I-speak — but I know it works — I have felt it. We’re talking about bodily produced chemistry affecting the neurotransmitters of the brain. It is, by far, the best and the most satisfying means to the creative process. Later, we’ll talk about the secrets of the MEDIUM and how it might be used to achieve this biological creative process.
NEXT: We Include twelve common and some not-so-common examples on how to cultivate that creative spark. These examples will center around two things: Relaxing the mind and how to null the effects of the conscious mind.
Examples 1 – 4: We start off with a few scenarios that require little or no use of the conscious mind. For sure, we still have the conscious mind, but we’ll put it someplace where it will not hinder our creative thoughts. This is what I call parallel thought processing. It’s a mechanical process.
Examples 5 – 6: We introduce a few exceptions that eliminate the perceived presence of the conscious mind.
Examples 7 – 12: Creative events in Acting, Sports, Pablo Picasso, Antoni Gaudi, and Jack Kerouac.
EXAMPLE (1): Driving to work: This is about parallel thought processing.
Remember the day, while driving the car to work — you suddenly had a revelation of thought — that’s the deft two-step. I say “deft” , because you’re driving skills are not hindered — it’s just a flick of an image. It’s an image gleaned from your vast memory of past experiences. This happens because your ROTE MEMORY is occupied (it’s driving the car). Your mind has a chance to wonder. Instead, if you had been a passenger in the car, this revelation might never have happened — as you may have been comfortably settled into your dominant “ROTE MEMORY” in the back seat.
EXAMPLE (2): Walking, jogging or running. Another way at parallel thought processing.
It’s hyperventilating with a view. It’s a pleasant way to unwind your daily problems — to side-step your conscious mind. I have seen a number of papers/articles published which describe the exhilaration felt while doing any one of these activities. It’s the mental freedom people experience. It’s keeping the conscious part of your mind busy while allowing your unconscious mind to daydream, or, daydreaming with a purpose — a creative behavior.
EXAMPLE (3): The “aha” moment: The “classic” example.
This is a story about the absent-minded professor/scientist. As the story goes, it’s the “scientist on the bus”. This is where the scientist, having a mind-set which is entirely consumed in thought, steps off the bus and suddenly experiences a sudden flash of insight while engaging the folding doors and deploying stairs. It’s the perfect setup for the “dance”. It’s that surprising movement, the doors, the steps, all of which may provide the mental diversion needed for that sudden insight. That’s the “two-step”(no pun).
Note: Albert Einstein would play his violin, at times, for this same purpose.
From Einstein’s Quotes: “I thought of that while riding my bicycle”.
Also: “I think 99 times and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the truth comes to me”.
EXAMPLE (4): ROTE STEW.
Figure (3): The basic idea of “ROTE STEW” is to side-step the “lion” by giving the “lion” something else to do. It should be something easy, something repetitive, and something that requires little thought. When the “lion” is occupied — your creative mind can find the door — that’s parallel thought processing. (I made a mistake while drawing the cartoon — can you find it…? ) (**) page 10.
EXAMPLE (5): Sleep:
The jewel of the unconscious mind. We all have it, but we may not all use it. During sleep, our unconscious minds have a field day. Personally, I try to steer my sleep-time thoughts towards my day-time problems. On the most part, it works — no guarantees. Mentally, it’s the same situation as described in the previous examples. We null-out the conscious level of our minds so we can dip into our unconscious memory. Dream on…!
EXAMPLE (6): Contour Drawing:
This is a special activity. It’s an experiment of the mind. It’s a secret that every little kid in school knows.
What does it do…? It separates the CONSCIOUS MIND from the UNCONSCIOUS MIND. But, fear not, no kid was hurt (to my knowledge) by practicing Contour Drawing. This is how we do it:
Get a pencil, paper, and a subject. This subject should not be a box or a ball shape, but a thing or person having compound curves and an identity— not a Rorschach image. First, you fix your gaze wholly on the subject and mentally focus on one point on the contour of the subject, then, drop your hand, with a pencil, on the drawing surface. Move the pencil on the drawing surface at the same time, at the same speed, and in the same direction as you move your focused eye along the contour of the subject — never looking at the drawing and never taking your focused eye off the subject contour. Your eye and hand activities must be kept separate at all times. If done successfully (practice helps), you will see surprising results. No cheating.
EXAMPLE (7): Being an actor (man or woman).
Being an actor is about a repeated interplay between the conscious and the unconscious and working with pace.
Let’s talk specifics. Consider Colin Firth, the English actor. Colin Firth starred in the movie “The King’s Speech” as Prince Albert (Bertie). As an actor, Colin Firth was required to immerse his own personality into another who had the immense psychological problems of a ridiculed sibling who was frightened and tormented since birth. He was mulch in the hands of his out-going older brother who was next in line to be King. The younger Prince was constantly devasted with life. So much so that he developed a life-stopping stuttering problem. Later on, as he was surprisingly and abruptly ushered into becoming the new King of England, he had to take on all of these emotional problems in secret, away from the discerning eyes of the entire English Nation and do this, while his country was approaching a world war — and all the English people were desperately clinging onto every one of his spoken words.
WOW …. can’t do much better than that.
EXAMPLE (8): Let’s talk Basketball.
This is about working fast = “zoning it” — working fast nulls the influence of the conscious mind.
Working fast forces the mind into an array of automatic actions that out-run the speed of ROTE MEMORY. Basketball players are good examples. At top speed, they describe themselves as “being in the zone”. It seems that the conscious mind has a speed limit. If you exceed this speed limit — you may be “in the zone”.
That “array of automatic actions” is important. In the case of basketball players, this array will be composed of basketball moves or actions learned and stored in the player’s conscious minds. That’s the “PREPARATION” part. Putting these learned moves together, successfully and efficiently, requires a mental quickness that out-paces the speed of the conscious mind, that’s the “DANCING” part. It takes both PREPARATION and the speed of your unconscious mind (THE DANCE) to operate efficiently in basketball — that’s “zoning it”.
EXAMPLE (9): Let’s talk Baseball:
Working slowly— This is about the “lion” in your head and how to counter its influence.
Speed is not of the essence. “Slow” interferes with the mind (the presence of the “lion”). This is about the mind of the quintessential baseball player, the pitcher. Have you ever noticed a pitcher’s “eye dip” (my term)? Just before a pitcher’s violent arm action of throwing the ball to the target, he momentarily takes his eyes off his intended target — this action is the “eye dip”. During the ensuing violent arm movement, the pitcher’s eyes reconnect with the target. This is quick, too quick for the “lion” to interfere. The pitcher’s eye view is clean, and his mental view is clean. It’s “clearing the mind”. This has nothing to do with physically “resting” the eyes — it’s all mental — it’s all in the “head”. Be advised, however, that this technique does not replace the years of practice and natural talent that makes success possible. Note also that not all successful pitchers use this “eye dip” technique.
This “clearing the mind” brings us, briefly, back to basketball. Have you ever wondered why so many good basketball handlers have difficulty standing at the line, making free throws..? Mentally, it’s the same processes that goes through the mind of a baseball pitcher. It’s a slow process — the mind gets in the way. Avoid the “lion”.
NEXT: We consider creativity — as applied to painterly artists, sculptures, and writers:
This opens everything. Before we proceed, let’s get a few things out of the way. Let’s define art. As the saying goes: Art is in the eye of the beholder (or, beer-holder). Anything goes. Everything qualifies as art. BUT — for those of us who think we can discern things better than most — it’s not what is on the paper or canvas or other — it’s the interplay of what is on the canvas and what was in the mind of the artist while making the art — the vision of the artist — how the mind interprets this vision — this remains the absolute underpinning of all artistic creativity. It’s judgment one.
EXAMPLE (10): Picasso:
This is about working fast. A technique that nulls the effect of the conscious mind.
Image this: Your art teacher puts a red apple on the table and says, “Don’t paint the apple, paint the “RED”. This notion runs parallel to the life-long ambition of Picasso — It’s not unlike painting the “RED”, it’s painting the intrinsic nature of life.
Let’s talk “Guernica”:
Arguably, “Guernica” was the epitome of Picasso’s life. It was Spain, 1937, Picasso was asked to provide a large painting to cover the entire entry wall of the Spanish International Exhibition. Picasso accepted the commission in January but could not start his painterly work until months later. During this time, Picasso ingested the outward political hatred of the Spanish regime and the World’s “first-ever” war-time bombing of civilians in the small town of Guernica. With this and the onset of the Spanish Civil War as a backdrop, Picasso started his 12 ft x 26 ft painting. He started in May — he finished in June — one month.
Given his wealth of preparation, Picasso, like the basketball players, was “in the zone” when he assembled Guernica. I’m sure his conscious mind could not keep up with the immense and quick energy of the unconscious. That’s working fast.
A MISTAKE ?…! ….. Did Picasso make a mistake while drafting Guernica …? It is my view that every single element of Picasso’s Guernica was thoroughly and mentally processed. Ever distorted hand, every distressed body part was put there with meaning. I’m sure that Picasso lived and felt each brush stoke — except, maybe, one —
It’s the little finger. The little finger of the woman holding the oil lamp, center-top. The finger wraps around the oil lamp in the wrong direction. What’s your opinion…? Was it on purpose or not…?
Whatever your answer, Picasso’s unconscious was working at top speed.
EXAMPLE (11): Antoni Gaudi — imagination gone wild — a delicious array to fill your appetite.
This is about preparation and intent.
It’s the flowers. Antoni Gaudi had an amazing imagination and gleaned much of his extraordinary flights of fantasy from the structure of flowers. It was the twining of stamens and the surround of seed. Mother nature and Gaudi’s creative mind had no bounds.
Arguably, it is the juxtaposition of dissimilar objects that might signal the presence of Gaudi’s creative genius. On first sight, Gaudi’s solutions might have been shocking — but then, reasonable, and still, later, it was satisfying — always beautiful and, maybe, even lustful.
As for “PREPARATION”, Gaudi’s life was it. He was forever conscious of his surroundings, the immense truth of nature. As for his unconscious mind, Gaudi’s intent was emphatically and energetically transmitted to trusted artisans.
As an example of Gaudi’s immense preoccupation with nature, consider Gaudi’s life-ending work, the Sagrada Familia. This is a monumental chapel reaching to the sky. In his mind, it was a living flower. Look closely and you might identify the internal supporting structures as — stamens of a flower.
EXAMPLE (12): Jack Kerouac:
This is a story of the unconscious mind — working fast and never stopping.
Kerouac does the “Scroll”.
CIRCA 1950. It was Jack Kerouac and his traveling buddy, Neal Cassady, both traveling West. They were a team, both were about the same age, both were exposed to the same drug culture of the ’50s. They called themselves writers — looking for adventure. It was catch-as-catch-can on trains, either under or over, never inside. Maybe a hitch on 66, if lucky.
Jack split. He wanted to record their adventures, typewritten, on paper (no computers). His title work would be “On the Road”. In the meantime, Neil would continue sending his hand-written stories via mail. Neil’s letters were rich with excitement, mostly women and alcohol.
Jack was about to present his final draft of “On the Road” to the publisher when Neal popped another letter. This one was special — maybe greased with extra stuff. It was long. It was rambling, and it never stopped ( 18 +/- pages). Neal’s “style” blocked Jack. Ideas flowed like never before. Jack had no choice. He tucked his newly completed draft of “On the Road” under the covers and began rewriting from day one.
This was the beginning of what we now call, “The Scroll”. It was a new style of writing. Today we call it “stream of consciousness”. It was a new genre. For our purposes, it wasn’t what jack wrote, it was how he wrote the “Scroll”. Jack produced about 125 feet of continuous type, without stopping (except as necessary). Mechanical typewriters of that day called for the taping together of hundreds of paper sheets. Essentially, it was — never stopping — many sentences — one paragraph — three weeks.
TIME-OUT: (3 of 4) What to expect if you are a painterly artist — using the MEDIUM —
— in an Isolated environment —
With a relaxed mind, reaching the “zone” — no sense of time.
At the height of your energies (the “DANCE”), your unconscious will control your body.
Arms may move without your conscious control.
Decisions will not come from your rational self.
A “second body” may feel its presence
In time, exhaustion occurs, energy drops, and you will wonder what just happened.
>>>> In this regard, here is a significant comment from Albert Einstein: “The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, the solution comes to you and you don’t know how or why.” (my highlights)
Ever fry chopped unions without Olive Oil? Can’t do it. You need Olive Oil. Olive Oil is the MEDIUM.
Define MEDIUM: Something intermediate, an intervening thing or agent through which an effect is produced.
In the above “TIME-OUT”, the MEDIUM is the painterly artist. Being a painterly artist is the REASON for that isolated environment and the subsequent extreme mental processes. Keep this in mind. To reach a biological state of creativity, having a medium is very helpful, and, in my view, a necessity — PLUS — you need a passion that exceeds life itself, but please, don’t cut off your ear.
TIME-OUT: (4 of 4) Simplicity:
Creativity is the gathering together of life things — and re-putting them in startling ways.
May you feel it — may you live it.
The author’s background: I am not a psychologist. I call myself a non-retail artist. This is somebody who elects not to gather money from the inherited talents of being a painter/sculpture or an innovator/inventor. Not counting being in the Army during the Vietnam era, my most freighting, or, maybe, the most challenging, of life’s episodes, was being a frustrated w-a-n-a-b-e particle physicist who dropped out of UCLA and one who believes that the fundamental particle of all the Universe is not a particle at all, but a packet of energy — can’t see it, can’t feel it — but the like-intertwining of same, creates mass and the observable Universe.
Putting this weirdness aside, let me say that I have experienced all (except acting and sports) of the scenarios of creativity described herein and, therefore, will accept all criticisms and relish your comments.
We advance and discover together.
Norris Martin Evans
(*) from page 3
Jacques S. Hadamard, “An Essay on the Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field” Princeton University Press, 1945, pages 142 and 143
(**) from page 5
The chair of the lion left floats in space — should have a passing indication of an attachment to the floor.