Notes From the Wasteland No. 42 ‘How To Be Creative About Being Creative Part One’

Do you do something creative every day? I’m sure you do. Have you ever felt that some things you do are creative and some things you do aren’t? How can you tell? I am asking lots of questions because I’m fascinated by the answers they might generate.

Is Watching Netflix Creative?

Did you ever think that watching Netflix was an act of creativity? You know, that thing we all flick through and pick at, all those tv shows we start and stop and pause and start again, or add to our list and yet never watch. Picture this, the myth is that we are passive viewers of content. Apparently we sit back and relax and chill as we watch. We let the images wash over us like so much pixellated water. We fall asleep – the ultimate in being passive. But what if we saw our relationship with Netflix as an active one? After all, we choose when to watch and watch to watch. And each time we play and pause and stop and start and switch genres and watch one thing for a little while and then stop to watch two more things for a bit longer, do you not think that we are actually creating our version of Netflix, and by doing so, demonstrating the active and creative relationship we have with it? Try it next time you are watching Netflix and doing all the things we do when we aren’t actually watching something.

How Long Do You Spend Scrolling on Your Phone?

For many of us, our thumbs are the most active parts of our bodies. They get the most exercise, don’t they? What do we use our thumbs for? Holding things? Driving? Gripping? Kneading? Controlling incredibly complex miniaturised digital technology? This. Almost exclusively. How many different things can you do on your phone? How many different things can your phone do for you? The list is almost too long to type. In fact, if we were to type out this list it is highly likely that we would use our thumbs to type it out. And were we to do so, surely we would have to be proving our own point, wouldn’t we? But none of this is to say that this time is a waste of time, certainly not to my mind.

I take a more creative view of the many minutes and hours per day I spend on my phone. I marvel at the technology, convinced, somehow, that this is the closest I will ever get to experience real magic. I am certain that this thing I hold in mind, the rectangle I cradle, protect, feed, has mystical properties and rather than stunting my intellectual growth, causing me to look down instead of up, has opened the digital doors of my perception, using only my two thumbs as the key. In fact, the only thing I can’t really do with my phone is lose it. That would be a disaster.

How Many Photos Have You Deleted in the Last 24 Hours?

Taking photos is like writing sentences, isn’t it? Finding the subject, setting up the frame, making sure that you image you choose is the image you want to use, adjusting your focus, making your angle is right, asking yourself if you are too near or too far to best capture the image. Then, once the image is the one you want, you might choose to further develop the original concept; adding a filter, perhaps, to change the tone, layering other elements on top to further develop your theme. You might add more text as other comment or counterpoint. With all this done, you might then share what you’ve created, sharing your thought with other people. All of this seems right and sure and without a doubt, creative. But what about all those images that you choose not to use, the ones you choose to delete? For every one image we might decided to keep we might end up deleting ten, that’s some ratio. We remove nine images from our library so that we can keep one. As attrition rates go, that’s quite extreme. Then, bearing in mind the way things work, removing these nine images can seem like an awfully negative thing to do; we are actually negating them, making sure that they no longer actually exist – that is quite some feat of finality. But should we see this deleting nine images as a negative thing to do? I don’t think so.

Do You Mourn The Words You Delete?

In writing this post, I have probably deleted one hundred words or more, and doing this has helped me shape my thoughts and, hopefully, develop a coherence in relation to them. This can only be a positive thing and unless there was a situation where my deleting words had brought the actual loss of important words that I needed, I’m not going to start lamenting all the deleted words; they have helped me make positive active choices about my sentences. And this has to be same way to look, or not look, at deleted photographs – my deletion has always been a positive creative thing to do rather than a negative, destructive act. But sometimes, I guess, we feel differently about deleting things. I don’t imagine we would be quite as extreme as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins who one day decided to burn all his poems but there is something about the movement between the temporary and the permanent when we delete things. Nowadays we have Ctrl Z to stop us if we really want to bring our words back to life. It would be much harder if we were on our knees sifting through the soot, looking to piece together the pages of our work.

How To Be Creative About Being Creative

My sense in all of this, in all of these ordinary moments in our currently extraordinary lives, is that there is always creativity in (almost) everything we do. Some of this is blatant and obvious, like writing, some of this less obvious and far more latent, like shaping our own version of Netflix. But in both of these instances, and the many many others we could think of if we were to think of them, it is not that we don’t think of them as the same, we don’t always realise that we think of them as the same. This is not meant to be a tongue twister or play on words, it is simply meant to be an observation; a gentle thing, not earth-shattering or empire-building, just quiet and small but well-intended.

What do you think?

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