Archive

#creativity

Have you given this answer when asked “Tell me about your weakness”. That you are a perfectionist.

According to Sharon Begley, author of books such as “The Mind and the Brain”, “The Plastic Mind” and “Can’t. Just. Stop. An Investigation of Compulsions“, many of the creative types have traces of OCD and anxiety in them.

Her book begins with a story of blind John Milton who wrote the epic 10,000 plus lines of “Paradise Lost” by dictating his lines crafted at night and memorised until daylight broke, to one of his three daughters. Milton had a palpable need to be unburdened of the memorised lines of verse that filled him with anxiety until he could be “milked”. Hemingway described himself the same way “When I don’t write, I feel like shit”. Vincent Van Fogh produced more than 200 paintings of sunflower in a short span of time equivalent to one painting every 34hrs.

Begley observed that these geniuses’ work sprang from a “deep creative impulse and genius” that also came from something “deeper, darker, more tortured”. Driven to keep the psychic pain away. Compulsions so desperate and tortured.

Who exactly is a perfectionist?

Begley cites Caroline Meyer of Loughborough University in a 2011 study in the International Journal of Eating Disorders discovered a link between perfectionism and compulsive exercise. The falling short of perfection provokes anxiety which only the compulsive behavior can quiet – the result is a compulsion to work out to a self destructive extreme.

Is there a difference between addiction and compulsion?

Addiction begins with a flash of pleasure overlaid by an itch if danger. It’s fun to gamble or drink and puts you at risk. You like how you feel when you win.

Compulsion in contrast is about avoiding unpleasant outcomes. They are born in anxiety and remain strangers to joy. Such behavior is repeated to relief the angst brought about by negative consequences. “If I don’t do this, something terrible will happen.”

Note: Perfectionists have the potential to self destruct. Not a good answer in a job interview.

Begley cites another creative type, Joan Rivers who was working very hard just before she died in 2014. Rivers worked as compulsively as a kid trying to break into show business.

Begley went on to observe that the compulsion to do good in the world can “emanate from as many sources as a river of snow melt water “. Positive such as seeing one’s work make an impact in the lives of others, or a sense of connectedness. Or negative forces such as a repulsive force of anxiety.

Drive to work can come from the anxiety that no one will do a job as competently as you will. Or an anxiety that comes from contemplating one’s own mortality or the existence of suffering in the world and saying “not on my watch”? What compels people to do good?

What compels people to create?
According to Marcy Seaham, who advises corporations on creativity there are 4 temperaments that drives people to create.
1. Artisan/ improviser – restlessness from feeling “Ive had enough” of this way of doing things or imperfect device
2. Catalysts/ idealists are restless as long as things dont change. Impelled by curiosity.
3. Creativity comes from enjoyment of mastery and accomplishment. “Incompetence and stupidity makes them restless.” Perception of themselves as not accomplishing.
4. Guardians/ Stabilisers feel restless when things are not going smoothly.

Conclusion

A very well written book, except that what’s amiss in my view is any attempt to help those of us who suspect we may have some secret compulsive behavior. Her aim is to create a “realization that there is no bright line between mental illness and mental normality”.

You’ve succeeded Ms Begley. Now every colleague looks suspiciously having OCD traits. Including myself.

Next time you describe yourself as a perfectionist in an interview, think again. You may be revealing more than you should.

image

The Japanese are masters in creativity. Here leveraging on tradition of Kabuki tradition, entertainment for common folk and make performance as part of your beauty care. Beauty face masks with Japanese stage makeup printed.

Kumadori is the stage makeup worn by Kabuki actors. Its designed to reveal the personality of a character at a glance. Red depicts a good character, those coloured blue, black and brown are wicked.

Himself gifted me this pack wrapped origami style with the wrapper doubling up as information pamphlet that is at once informative as well as functional and great marketing. No doubt a winner of a Tokyo Midtown Award.

To lend credibility, a Kabuki actor born into a family of Kabuki actors served as Pack supervisors.

Marketing as play. Get into character with a Kabuki Face Pack and transform your mood with a special play time.

What you observe creates your reality.

Those of us who drive know the danger of blind spots and the need for side mirrors.

According to Shawn Achor of “Before Happiness“, a reality at work based on only one vantage point is limited and full of blind spots and that prevents forward movement.

Achor suggests that the perspective is in the details. He cites Dr Irwin Braverman, a professor at Yale School of Medicine and Linda Friedlaender, the curator at the Yale Centre for British Art who came up with an exercise that helped doctors improve a skill that actually could save lives.

In the midst of training, students were taken to an art museum to see the world in multiple dimensions.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the students who took this class exhibited a 10% improvement in their ability to detect important medical details.

“Once they are able to see this wider rave of details, they were better able to leverage their IQ and EQ and all their other cognitive abilities to knit these details together and see previously missed connections.

Those details were the vantage points that broadened their perspective and made them more successful in their work. ”

Achor notes that in medicine , as in all professions, it is easy to get stuck seeing things from only one vantage point and approach problems with a broader and deeper perspective.

He gave the example of a doctor who observes the lips of a patient and noticed something all other doctors missed and saved the patient’s life.

Seeing reality from different angles can allow us to open our eyes to a broader range of opportunities and connect more deeply with our team and family.

Please also catch Shawn Achor’s very humorous TED talk.

image

Broken pot becomes a work of art. At the 2016 Singapore Garden Festival.

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. Twyla Tharp

image

Not exactly art but a watercolour  painting session at today’s #carfreesundaysg# at the civic district.

image

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. – Pablo Picasso  ( quip taken from the brochure of Singapore Association for Mental Health)

The night before, I was reading  “Secrets of a creativity coach” where Eric Maisey bared his email coaching with artists, writers and others in the creative profession.

For writers, he suggested to write a few minutes day (aka 3 pages of Julia Cameron). For artists, he suggested 45 mins a day significant art.

1. List down 3 goals. (WOW goal)
2. Work on the first goal on day 1, second goal on day 2.
3. Work on the goals for 3 weeks.

For the clients who cannot find time, he advises them to list down the areas that they can do less of.

While these instructions seem easy enough, the typical goal setting plan that every self help book starts with. I realised that coaching ultimately is also about commitment to spend time on your goals and accountability to someone.

Don’t wait for inspiration to strike.

Seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world.

Marxist art critic John Berger’s “Ways of seeing” peels through the layers of meaning in these oil paintings arguing that paintings project the painter’s (or patron’s) assumptions of beauty, truth, civilisation, taste, class and gender.

Take this painting of the”Ambassadors” I saw at the National Gallery, London last year.

image

Who are these people being painted ? How do they look at the painter or at us (spectator/owner)?
What were the relations of such men with the rest of the world?

“Centuries later, we can interpret the objects on the shelves according to our perspectives. The scientific instruments on the top shelf were for navigation. This was the time when the ocean trade routes were being opened up for the slave trade and to siphon riches from other continents into Europe and later supply the capital for the take-off of the Industrial Revolution. “. A class of people, convinced that the world was there to furnish it’s comfort.

Man and nature. And Gainsborough’s Mr and Mrs Andrews as proud landowners. Why did Mr and Mrs Andrews commission a portrait of themselves with recognizable landscape of their own land as background.

image

Source: https://mydailyartdisplay.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/mr-and-mrs-andrews-by-thomas-gainsborough/

Consider the category of nudes in paintings. In them all remains the implication that the subject (a woman) is aware of being seen by a spectator. Is it merely a celebration of the human form? Or a depiction of the painter’s experience, turning desire into fantasy.

Women are depicted in quite a different way from men – not because the feminine is different from the masculine – but because the “ideal” spectator is always assumed to be male and the image of the woman is designed to flatter him.

The claim of the theme is made empty by the way the subject is painted, writes Berger. He compares 3 different paintings of Mary Magdalene of the Bible in different levels of undress. Mary Magdalene was depicted in the bible for her love of Jesus and transformation of her life by her repentance. The way her pictures are painted contradicts the essence of her story. (A naked Mary Magdalene certainly does not evoke images of religious piety in the spectator regardless of how the painter chooses to name it.)

Next time you look at a painting or a advertisement, look at the devises (Berger):
The gesture of models and mythological figures
The poses taken up to denote stereotypes of women: serene mother (madonna), sex-object (Venus, nymph surprised)
Materials particularly used to indicate luxury: furs etc
Equation of drinking and success
Gestures and embraces of lovers, arranged frontally for the benefit of the spectator.

Does venting help with anger management?

image

Painting by Thai artist Tang Chang at the National Gallery, Singapore. The painting was painted in remembrance of the brutal police oppression in Thailand in 1973.

http://www.amazon.com/Originals-How-Non-Conformists-Move-World/dp/0525429565

Psychologist Brad Bushman designed an experiment to make people angry. He found that venting doesn’t extinguish the flame of anger, it feeds it. When we vent our anger we put 😠a lead foot on the gas pedal of the go system, attacking the target who enraged us.

Instead, focusing on the victim activates what psychologists call empathetic anger – the desire to right wrongs done unto others.

Research demonstrates that when we are angry at others, we aim for retaliation or revenge.

But when we’re angry for others, we seek out injustice and a better system. We don’t just want to punish; we want to help.

Next time when someone makes you angry, don’t think about the countless times s/he has disrepected you or disregard your feelings. That’s a sure way of exploding. Instead, think about why this person is a victim of his or her circumstances/ stress. Focus on what can be done.

Adam Grant concludes his chapter on those who championed women suffrage and minority rights that “becoming original is not the easiest path in the pursuit of happiness, but it leaves us perfectly poised for the happiness of pursuit.

“Originals – how non conformists move the world” by Adam Grant

Recently I saw a young man explode because his dish was accidentally cleared by an old cleaner. It was obvious that it was the old man’s first few days at work and he made a mistake. Instead of confronting the young man to give the guy a break, I slipped money for him to buy another plate. Berating him for showing his temper over something so insignificant and cheap like a $4 plate of rice will only embarrass him and not change the world. Surprisingly he accepted the money. Perhaps he’s under dire circumstances as well.

What would you do? Something similar happened recently and someone chose to take a video for the whole world to see.
http://mothership.sg/2016/06/food-rage-lady-gives-her-side-of-the-story-says-she-had-a-cold-that-day/

Disney will be filming Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” soon. Jennifer Lee of the wildly popular Disney movie “Frozen” has written a screenplay. Its a science fantasy novel about a young girl (misfit) whose father, a government scientist, went missing after working on a mysterious project called a tesseract.

Not an easy book to convert to film. I read the graphic novel version. L’Engle reading a book on quantum physics when she wrote this Children novel. It went on to be rejected by 26 publishers.

Fast forward many years – it was picked up only when she threw a party for her mom. One of mom’s guests happened to know a publisher (who didn’t publish children’s books at that time), aka JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame.

In Creativity, L’Engle told Prof Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, that she wasn’t very bright and didn’t do well in her early school years.

But a bad school experience “shunned by peers and teachers”, forced her to read and think alone. (On hindsight, would she have written her books if she had been happy and successful. She had learned to turn her disadvantage into advantage.

Later in college, she found supportive teachers and her literary career became confirmed. Her family environment was also supportive. Her fiction reflects this theme, of “doomsday scenarios that reach a happy ending because the main characters never lose hope even in the grimmest situation and they learn from adversity to act with mercy and forgiveness.”

“This whole century has been difficult, but wonderful things have happened even while there’s terrible things. … Its like the weather, unpredictable. The amazing thing is that despite all the things that happen, the human spirit still manages to survive to stay strong.”

This is also a relevant book for our times. One of the themes is how IT forces people into conformity.

When life gives you onion, make French onion soup

When life gives you onion, make French onion soup