Creativity and morningness

Are people really more successful creatively because they’re alert earlier in the day?

The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman wrote a brief reflection on his attempts to implement some ideas from the routines of history’s most creative minds, based on a book by Mason Currey recently reviewed by Seb Emina.

What most intrigued me as a person whose work depends on creativity, was the clear implication from Currey’s book that those who are marked by “morningness” tend to be more creatively successful than those marked by “eveningness”. (Incidentally, those terms remind me of a great barber comedy sketch by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.)

Here are the “six lessons from history’s most creative minds“…

  1. Be a morning person
  2. Don’t give up the day job
  3. Take lots of walks
  4. Stick to a schedule
  5. Practice strategic substance abuse
  6. Learn to work anywhere

Despite considerable examples, I’m not convinced of either number 1 or 5.

I have been afflicted by what appears to be an unshakable case of eveningness. Despite my genuine love of mornings, I seem to be wired for working through the night and stumbling through the morning. Case in point—though I have an early morning meeting, I am awake late into the night writing this short reflection. Perhaps I am simply in denial, or defensive, when it comes to admitting that my “wiring” is limiting my effectiveness as a creative person.

What about you? Do you find that being a “morning person” or a “night person” affects your creativity in some way?

Eve’s Response

This week we celebrated the marriage of Emilee and Brad in San Antonio. The following is an epithalamion (a marriage poem) that takes the original marriage of Adam and Eve in view and imagines Eve’s response. Wildflowers and color were a particular feature of the wedding and are reflected in the verses below.

Eve’s Response
an epithalamion

Wild waking wholly woman washed
by wind, clothed in sun, I stand.
Alive anew in Eden my eyes drink
deeply of the lush dancing green,
my ears caressed with angel song.
All of me shot through with delight.

A flash captivates me amid the trees,
my Father, robed in light, hand extended
to my own, helps me walk the aisle
valley of wildflower-flecked green
toward his very good choice for me.

Radical generosity—from free verse to open verse

Recently I read about being marked by radical generosity in Ian Cron’s Chasing Francis. Saint Francis gave away everything he owned to follow Jesus. He encouraged others to do the same. This was radical in his day, argues Cron, because of the immense materialism and pursuit of wealth that characterized his time in history—very like our own today. Cron encourages his readers to think of more than monetary generosity.

I posted the following on Twitter as I considered this challenge:

It inspired me to consider how such a challenge might apply to words. As one who works with language, I find myself naturally bent toward a ‘trademark’ or ‘copyright’ mentality. I believe poets are, in a sense, guardians of language—but I also believe we are to be innovators and shapers of culture. I believe that words, particularly ones that reflect goodness, truth and beauty, should lead to action.

This public notebook is an exercise in being generous with words, but thus far I would not call it ‘radical’ generosity. As a poet raised in the West, I have at times coveted being put into print by publishers who are equipped to market and sell books, to expand influence through economy. I have been guilty of such desires.

Radical generosity could push a poet to offer words for free, released to the public as on the wind. Such generosity requires trust or faith—likely both. Convinced that such an exercise will address my own fears that keep my words too closely to myself, I am committing in 2013 to push beyond these self-imposed, fearfully encouraged boundaries.

Much of my poetry is ‘free verse’. What might ‘open verse’ look like? I’m eager to discover what awaits off the beaten path from the publishing superhighway. I hope you’ll join me on this journey.

The power of a story to change the world

I caught a segment on National Public Radio today about the Common Core curriculum which aims to address a significant shortfall in literacy among American youth. The point-counterpoint had to do with what kind of balance should exist between the use of fiction and nonfiction in English classes. The new Common Core attempts to increase the amount of nonfiction taught in public school classrooms.

There is never enough time in a lifetime to read everything that’s considered valuable, as Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch knew too well from his teachings in early 20th Century Cambridge (I will definitely comment further on that in a future post). Still, the battle rages on as to what limited canon is worth the little time available to us.

I found Azar Nafisi’s short interview midway through the segment very inspiring. She’s the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran and apparently a new forthcoming book entitled Dispatches from the Republic of the Imagination. (At the end of 2004, The Washington Post published an article of a similar title by Nafisi.) Here are two quotes I found particularly inspiring:

I agree that there’s no substitute for the power of a well-formed imagination. Creativity, innovation, and leadership—among other critical faculties necessary to a flourishing culture—depend upon it. To the degree that we neglect the imagination, we starve the human spirit until it is something much less than the Creator intended.

Imaginative stories (fictions) help to form our imaginative capacities. Imagination is what makes possible an alternative way, a new day, a change in a life or community. While imagination does not always lead to positive or healthy change, it cannot be ignored as the fulcrum that makes possible a turn toward the true, the good, and the beautiful when such elements are otherwise impossible to find. Paradigms shift because imagination makes possible what appeared impossible the moment before.

Some tensions are unhealthy to resolve

I just finished my first conversation with @ljseverson and found myself once again championing the idea that some tensions are unhealthy to resolve. This seems like a theme that began this past year, but it continues…

The idea started with some conversations in 2012 on leadership. There are situations in leadership that create tensions. A good leader feels the tension between being on the hill like a general with a wide-angle perspective of the vision of the battle, and being in the trenches slogging through mud with the team. A leader cannot resolve that tension without compromising something vital to leadership.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…

 

The Bourne Legacy — A Theological Review

Ten minutes after experiencing the packed-action of The Bourne Legacy, I found myself wondering why it was not simply an enjoyable action-thriller to me. There was something deeper, almost like my first experience of The Matrix. It wasn’t immediately evident, but something about the simplicity of the storyline took me to a deeper place than I expected. Recalling the work on archetypes pioneered by Jung and the mythological insights about story so well articulated by Joseph Campbell, I discovered a new lens into the film.

Disclaimer: I don’t think the filmmakers were necessarily intentional about this; rather, as Jung explored in his theories of the ‘collective subconscious’ there is a grander story that continues to play itself out in our lives and in our creative efforts at storytelling—even when we think we’re being particularly novel. I think that’s what The Bourne Legacy taps into.

Let me attempt to articulate some of these ideas: There is a tremendous creative power in the world. In the Creation story of the Bible that power is with God. In The Bourne Legacy that power is the United States government. In the Creation story, Adam and Eve desire to be better than they are. This comes about through the intervention of the serpent who suggests that God may not have their best interest at heart. Adam and Eve disobey God in order to attain a higher level of goodness—to be like God—by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Their innocence is shattered by the experience. In the film, the government uses science (Treadstone and Outcome) to vastly improve the physical and mental capacities of soldiers. As the protagonists discover that they are at odds with their creative power, their experience resonates (at least imaginatively) with something of what Adam and Even must have experienced as they hid from God in the Garden of Eden.

Adam and Eve are exiled by God from the Garden. The close relationship they enjoyed with God is broken. In The Bourne Legacy a particular turn of events (the lack of government control represented by the reappearance of Jason Bourne) creates insecurity that leads to the government’s decision to take out the very elites it created. (I also think there’s a mythological connection here to the Greek story of Kronos who devoured his children.) The majority of the film is about how one man and one woman take on that power to escape destruction. Their exile is their salvation.

Now, if the serpent had his way, this is the very story he would like us to believe—that God, our Creator, is bent on destroying us in a cold, calculated way, and that our only hope of survival, let alone happiness, is to escape from God. The truth couldn’t be more different. The Bible depicts a God who loves his creatures so much that he couldn’t allow his children to be lost and separated from him forever. The Bourne Legacy taps into a deep, primal story that resonates with us, but ultimately, leaves us in the emotional exile inaugurated by Adam and Eve.

The beautiful start of a new beginning

Sometimes a new start is what’s needed, and that’s what this site is getting. I wanted to create a space to write more frequently, so I’m standing on the shoulders of another WordPress designer to free me to focus on the writing. I may, in time, modify this theme, but for now, I believe it will serve nicely. Welcome to the new site, and please step over the construction equipment. I look forward to interacting with you in the comment area about a great many things. Onward…