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Rediscovering childlike wonder in creativity

Don’t get used to multiple posts in a day, but there was a rather serendipitous interview on tonight’s episode of the ABC panel show, The Drum, as I was writing the earlier post so I needed to add this immediately.

The final segment featured author Holly Ringland. I haven’t yet read her novel, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, but it’s on the list. And now she’s come out with a book called The House that Joy Built: The pleasure and power of giving ourselves permission to create. That means another book for the never-diminishing To Be Read pile (or to reframe it, another addition to my flourishing library).

The colourful cover of Holly Ringland's book, 'The house that joy built'

I always pay attention when the ABC has decent discussions about art and the arts in general, because it seems to have largely disappeared from the media. The arts are such a vital part of our lives, and yet they hardly rate a mention in news bulletins that tend to spend the first 15 minutes on war and disasters, and the last 15 minutes on sport.

The Drum as a program sometimes can take itself too seriously, but I always love it when Julia Baird is hosting as her topics tend to be more philosophical and introspective than those of the other hosts.

Ringland talked about ‘the adult pressure’ of financial security and the tension between it and the imperative to create. Or the sense that unless you’re creating fully formed, Michaelangelo-level art, it doesn’t really count. She said,

Again, it’s about this value of time and worth and what is the outcome and is it good? So that kind of stops us from being the kind of fearless explorers we were as kids when we were told, ‘Now it’s time to go out and play’.

And when asked, “why do you bother to write when the world is burning?”:

I think it is because creativity is the very best of humanity that we have to offer, because we’re creating something beautiful. . . we’re putting more beauty into the world. It’s what we have to offer each other. It creates connections, it opens us up, it creates empathy. That’s the power of creativity, because it comes from vulnerability.

One of the panellists was the wonderful Jane Caro, who said:

We take our innermost self and we put it out there, that’s what creativity is. We’re drawing on our own emotions, our own reactions, our own ways of viewing the world, our own experiences, and we might funnel them thorugh a painting or a dance or a song, or whatever it is, a story. . .the act of creativity is an act of trust. It’s an act of trust in other people, that they will take this gift you give them — good, bad or indifferent — of exposing who you really are and treat it with care. And mostly, they do. But some still find that hard to do, perhaps because they got blunted very early on.

Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity. Research, you know the kind of research that says ‘is this going to sell or is this not going to sell?’ If we had tried to do the Opera House now and we’d researched whether the population of NSW wanted it, we would never have designed and built a building like that, because research is conservative. It goes for what people know already. Creativity is the exact opposite of that. It goes with what people have never seen before. And that’s why it moves us forward.

And to write or to paint or do anything in a time when the world is burning is an act of radical hope for the future. It’s a way of saying ‘we can get through this, but we can only get through this by being creative. We can’t get to it by doing the things we’ve always done before.’

Well aside from the fact that the original plan for the Opera House was butchered by bureaucrats, she has a point. In general, we’re all far too safe, too risk-averse, too worried about being liked. We need to be bold, to create for the sake of creating, to continue to put that beauty out there. We need to keep popularity and saleability out of our minds at that early stage too, or else whatever we produce will be a pale imitation of something that someone else has done. You are the only one who can create something that is uniquely you.

You can watch this episode of The Drum on iView. This conversation starts at about 45 mins in. I’m off to buy Holly’s book.

A blonde child stands in front of a blank piece of paper and a paint-spattered wall