I’ve been fairly productive as of late and, as a result, I’ve been thinking about the creative process.
It seems to me there are two different approaches to creation : representational and emergent. By representational, I mean, a creative process whereby a person begins with an idea, a feeling, a story — whatever — and sets out to render it in her preferred medium. By emergent, I mean, a creative process whereby a person begins with an idea, a feeling, story — whatever — and allows the final product to emerge out of her interactions with it. In music, it is the difference between a composer who hears the music in her head and needs only to write out the notes and a composer who starts with an improvisation and eventually ends up with a composition that emerges out of her explorations of its possibilities. In science, it is the difference between a person who sets out to build a better mouse-trap and a person who mucks about in the lab with chemicals until something interesting turns up.
It occurs to me, as I write this, that the difference between these two approaches may simply be in terms of when and where the emergent process occurs. Perhaps, the composer who has a specific composition in his mind has already undergone the emergent creative process internally and even unconsciously, whereas the person who likes to muck around in the lab prefers to externalize the creative process — that is, to think / create out loud.
At any rate, practically-speaking, I think the difference between these two models is relevant for persons who suffer from creative blocks of one kind or another. I suspect, these persons think the creative process is essentially representational. So, when they sit down to create, without a clear destination and, therefore, no clear idea how to get there, they are paralyzed and are unable to begin. Under the emergent model, however, this isn’t an issue because one simply gets to work on whatever is at hand and does not worry about the short-term results. Sometimes the work generates good results, sometimes it does not.
So, yes, to all you poor suffers of creative blocks, who are reading this now instead of working at whatever it is you need to be working at, I am offering the rather stale advice: get to work and don’t worry about the short-term results. Nevertheless, I am hoping the distinction between a representational creative process and an emergent creative process may allow some of you to understand this advice in a light which will help you to put it to work. I know it has helped me.
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