Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesday lessons

I'm just on a blogwriting roll today, aren't I? For some reason spellcheck is refusing to work and I really don't feel like combing this to find typos, so please forgive them for now? Thanks.

Tuesday was our first lecture type class, which was a welcome change for me. I really enjoy the experiential practical things that we have been doing, but it was also so nice to be sitting there taking notes, reading things in academic jargon, and then debating what they really meant. Okay, so I was sitting on the floor with my legs crossed and at one point we spent a lot of time drawing cakes, but still- it was more academic than anything else we have done to this point.

The seminar was taught by Jan Hendrickse who conducted most of it with a handy dandy powerpoint presentation. He started out with three questions: what is creativity? what is music? and what is a workshop? I found this mildly obnoxious because they are the sort of questions that you can't actually answer and if you do give a definitive answer someone will come up with an example that expands the definition just to be contrary, and you know, all inclusive.

The rest of the presentation was much more fun. He talked about some of his research in to types of rolls that workshop leaders use. They were teacher, which is very didactic - here is a song, you learn it; facilitator, here is a beginning riff I want you to do a very specific task with it (harmonize, compose a counter melody, etc.) and bring it back to the group; and participant where the leader is just part of the group and allows the group to create in a democratic way.

Andreas thought that was all pretty self evident, but it was really helpful for me to have those roles verbalized. Now that they've been indentified I can pay attention to when our tutors (or the rest of us) are using the various roles.

Jan then moved on to a bunch of different theories on the origin of creativity as well as research done on the characteristics of creative people. The theories on origins that I thought were interesting/relevant enough to actually write down were transaction theory which holds that creativity is a natural human state and that the real question should be 'what is the origin of noncreativity?' and convergent/divergent thinking model, which actually I now notice I didn't write enough down to know what I meant by that.

Cake time! He gave us a task (we're big on tasks here in the leadership department): We had a cake and 3 cuts we could make to get 8 equal pieces. I love questions/exercises like that so I was totally thrilled and figured out an answer within 30 seconds and then snottily blurted out that I had done so.

After a couple of minutes Jan asked us not what answers we had come up with, but rather how we felt about it. I was the only one to have totally positive reactions which included "whee!" and "I won!" Oh, except that Jo had really enjoyed drawing circles.

The rest of the reactions were more along the lines of feeling pressure, like they wanted to cheat, feeling stupid, competitive, annoyed, or that they hated questions like this.

So then I felt embarrassed because I *love* those questions and also have done enough to know that you have to think a little differently so I immediately made the cake 3D. Anyhow- what suddenly dawned on me was that those are all reactions that people have in workshops especially with improvising. I've certainly felt all of the negative reactions with regard to improvising (okay, and the positive ones but less frequently and more recently).

So then we got to try again, but this time in a team and with the direction to question our assumptions. My favorite results from that included a cake that had 8 physically unequal pieces but that were still equal because they all tasted the same, and a cake that was made up of 8 cupcakes that all came from the same batter- the cuts were to open the flour, the sugar, and the frosting packet.

Then it got even more fun because I was raised by my mother. We started talking about models of creative processes and types of brainstorming. All of this is pretty hard to describe without diagrams but just for you I'm going to try.

We started with a western model from Russell and Evans from 1989 which was a cycle that went from preparation, to frustration, to incubation, to insight, to making it work, and back to preparation.

Then we looked at a Japanese model from Sheridan Tatsuno, also from 1989. This was also a cycle, but it had "core values" in the middle that had arrows to each portion of the cycle which was: recycling, search (have v. need), nurturing (playing/tinkering), breakthrough, refinement, and back to recycling.

I love the japanese model with the component of recycling- because you never have an idea that didn't come from something else you had already thought of or experienced. Also, isn't it interesting that the culture that has "frustration" in the model also has the figure of the tortured artist? Actually, I don't know that Japan doesn't have the figure of the tortured artist, but it would be handy for my argument if they didn't.

Anyhow, because I spent this summer with Mommy reading her little books about brainstoming activities, I'm much more used to thinking of creativity and brainstorming in the context of coming up with a new object or idea or concept as opposed to something musical. Now I get to figure out how all of this applies, because I'm sure it does.

Though maybe not- so much of the work that we've been doing has been very much on the spot and in the moment- 'think up a riff now', or 'make up a rhythm now' as opposed to 'Thanksgiving and the Holidays are coming up soon write down on cards what the things are that you want to make sure you don't miss' or 'write down all the activities that we do, group them together and name the catagory but move the activites around until everyone agrees and condense or expand definitions as necessary.'

So now I'm thinking and thinking, there's got to be a way to bring this all together. We talked about some other stuff too, but now I'm back to thinking about how all of this goes together so that means this is the end of this blog entry, bye now.

Okay, so the thing about a lot of the brainstoming ideas and 'thinking outside the box' aids is that they are trying to get you away from your internal critic/editor so that you can let everything come on out- particularly in a group evironment where collaborative ideas that are larger than the sum of their parts can show up because everything is being put on the table and you can more easily see where new connections can be made. So if the goal of all of this is to get yourself away from the internal critic- then speed, which is what we've been using in the programme a lot works, as does Peggy Zhering's technique of drawing behind your back with you eyes closed and with a tool. Handicapping yourself in some way so that what you're doing is alien enough that your mind doesn't immediately recognize what you're doing as something to criticize...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The two books I use most often are The Memory Jogger II (a pocket guide of tools for continuous improvement and effective planning)and Creative Whack Pack (actually a pack of cards based on A Whack on the Side of the Head)

that's my girl!
love, Mom