Week 2 – The joys of single person conversations

I talk to myself. In fact, I’m doing it right now. In an unconscious way, you probably are too. I’m sure I’m not the only person I know who experience that constant stream of vocal narration – that person who is themselves but not themselves – watching with detached interest the ongoing cinematic experience that is our daily lives. In times of trauma, it is perhaps the part of you that watches your emotional self with a mixture of pity and distaste, outlining why you are foolish for allowing the trauma to get to you in the first place, but at the same time coming the logical solution to resolve it. And it’s perhaps not the only voice. There are other voices there too. There’s the ever present (or in my case, occasionally present)voice of reason that prevents you from leaping into the pool from the second storey of the house.

The worlds safest diving board

However awesome that may be (Rerun, 2010)

That authoritative voice of arbitration that helps you decide how which pair of batman-themed pyjamas you really need.

Batman PJ's

Trick question: the answer is all of them (JumpinJammerz.com, n.d)

And finally, the soft, whispering sound of the voice that comes to you in the pit of the night, to, with all the crushing realisation of mortality, remind you of all the ways you’ve failed in life, and the ways you will always, no doubt, fail in the future.

Kittens in teacups

Pictured: the medically recommended dosage of kittens after reading that sentence (innocentenglish.com, 2008)

But not often.

In fact a study conducted by the University of Manchester found that, of the possible four percent of the general population that experienced phantom voices, an overwhelming majority reported those voices affected them in a mostly positive way (The University of Manchester 2006)

Which is fine.

If, that is, you don’t start doing it out loud.

We were lucky enough to be lectured this week by John Harman, an author and retired journalist who shared his experiences as a novelist during the late fifties and early sixties with a sort of dry wit and affability that made it very easy to imagine him as one of those vodka swigging, chain-smoking journalistic wordsmiths popularised in a recent, and yet to remain unnamed TV show.

Mad Men Poster

You have two guesses – otherwise we replace the rock (Entertainment Weekly, 2009

He too, talked out loud to the people nobody else could see – a relief for me, because it made me feel just a little less outlandishly weird then I usually do.

So yes, I talk to myself.

And to the other people inside myself. From the cynic John Cleese-esque British bloke that picks on the bland stupidity of everything around e, to the enthusiastic, mindlessly naïve voice of optimism that assures me that sure, the little fuel lights been on for an awful long time, but I’m sure you’ll be able to make it to Joondalup and back again without filling up first.

And that’s just two of them. The sheer amount of noise that that goes on in my mind is deafening. Not to mention that just occasionally, I end up talking back.

I learned very early on in my bus-catching career that this was an extremely effective way of getting extra seats to myself.

Always alone on the bus

Because bus patrons are extra polite when it comes to leaving seats free for invisible people (Ben W, 2011)

but a not so effective way of making friends.

Mr. Harmen also talked a great deal about “The Box”, or the things we allow to stifle our ability to create. One of the ‘sides’ of the ‘box’ he described was the ‘Emphasis on rewards’ aspect of creation.

Now I’ll be honest, I love trying to solve a creative problem more then I enjoy actually finishing something. I have a terrible track record when it comes to completing things. The moment I experience my ‘Aha’ moment, most of the joy of creation flows out of me, and I move on to other, more challenging projects.

One example of that is this doll:

No chance of demonic posession here, no sirree

No chance of demonic posession here, no sirree (Rehana Badat 2012)

This doll is the product of about three weeks of trial and error pattern experimentation. I was, back then, delighted by the idea of a soft jointed doll – one I could sew clothes for an perhaps mass produce to sell online later. I spent hours upon hours drawing and sketching, working a pattern, constructing prototypes and tweaking seams until I got everything exactly how I wanted them. Every tiny detail mattered.

Doll shoes

Every. Tiny. Detail

After awhile my bedroom began to resemble the aftermath of some kind of horrifying act of doll carnage. To this day, I still use a leftover prototype body piece to keep my extra sewing pins in.

Pincushion of the damned

Or as my sister so lovingly refers to it: The Pincushion of the damned (Rehana Badat 2012)

So I finished it. Completely. Right down to the stitches on her tiny Converse shoes, and the details on her designer denim jeans (fun fact: the pockets and buttons are fully functioal). But the moment I completed it I….just….lost interest. My original plan was to make at least three more, all with different outfits and hairstyles. But the moment I stopped having to struggle to create, I lost the will to create altogether. It was baffling. Suddenly something I was willing to spend countless days on became something bland and unenjoyable. It almost began to feel like work by the time I completed the second one (and even then I cut corners where I could).

Which is why I find drawing so enjoyable. No matter how good you get at drawing, there is always room for improvement. You could figure out how to convey entire stories of heart wrenching emotion in a single brush stroke, and yet there will still be some achingly talented fourteen year old who can do it better. It’s the challenge that keeps me going – and the thrill of new discovery, the process of creation itself and not the finished product that keeps me going. Which is terrible because since I barely ever get round to making more then one of anything I produce, I don’t end up making as much money as I’d like to.

Target

In other words, I've yet to quit my day job (The Onion, 2000)

So it’s something I’d like to change. Somehow. It will take discipline, now that I think about it. And time. But it’s certainly something I’d like to work on.

Another challenge.

So far, I’ve neglected to talk about the activities we did in class. I do, first off, have to admit that the reading was a bit dry. Witnessing the clinical dissemination of the creative process – something that before the start of this course seemed like such a magical and undefinable thing, was, well not hard. However, it lacked the stylistic flair most creative topics possess. It basically broke the theories of the creative process into three categories: psychoanalytic, behaviouristic and self-actualisation views. Unsurprisingly, Freud linked it with sex.

Sigmund Freud

Pictured: an eighteenth century sex maniac

An interesting model was presented by Harold Rugg – that of the link between the conscious and unconscious mind containing a special ‘area’ between them in which creative thoughts – manifestations of the unconscious mind coming close to the conscious kind. The distinction between the conscious and conscious mind becomes more important the further we delve into Jungs theories on the psyche – which my group will be presenting about in next weeks tutorial.

A second concept – one less popular in my mind – is that our creativity is merely the result of positive stimulation in response to our creativity. In other words, the Mona Lisa was simply the proverbial saliva of Da Vinci’s Pavlovian response to the positive re-enforcement her received from society.

Finally, there’s Csikszentimihalyi (who for simplicities sake, we will further refer to as ‘C Dawg’) concept of creativity only existing as a result of the environment it was conceived in – and then, only labelled so as a result of society unanimously deciding it was ‘Art’

And Warhol Soup Can

Is it? (Warhol, 1968)

Personally, I’m not yet certain what to think yet. As with the somewhat murky definition of Creativity in the first week, the actual, functional source of our creativity is a thing of debate. I may have to research it further before coming to a decision.

As for the tutorial, the second question in particular brought me problems. How exactly did I come up with, and implement ideas? The truth is, it is usually idle thought – brought upon again by a combination of boredom and the endless chatter of my mind, that first sparks an idea. Often, the idea will just sit there, and do nothing for a long while – the ‘Incubation’ period that John Harmen briefly talked about in his lecture. And then, if the idea is still with me a few days after I’ve had it, I will attempt to sketch an outline of it. If I feel I am moderately incompetent in successfully drawing the subject matter – I’ll begin researching it, and making quick studies from images I’ve found using Google Image Search.

Then, and only then, will I sit down and attempt a completed work.

As you may have noticed, a huge part of my creative process involved trying to bolster both my confidence and technical ability in regards to the subject matter. Once again, it feels as though I gain the most enjoyment from, developing solutions in response to a problem, and carrying them out, as opposed to enjoying the accomplishment of the finished product. Sure, my goal is to have something interesting to look when I’m finished, but my first joy is definitely preparing for the task.

So it is with that that I remind you that Leonardo Da Vinci completed very few works in his lifetime. Much of his genius seemed to lie in the sheer joy he experienced from the thrill of new discovery and study. Take the Vetruvian man below. While certainly not a finished painting by any means, it still retains the sensation of the countless hours of prior study and research it must have taken to complete it. I have no doubt in my mind that Leonardo derived far more pleasure in the study the preceded this image, then the construction of the image itself.

Vitruvian Man

(Da Vinci, 1487)

Enjoy.

Additional Reading:

References

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