Last week I had a talk with my step-daughter out in Rapid City. The conversation began in the dark. She had just lost a job, was turning in applications with no results, feeling the money pinch. Our efforts to “solve the problem” just intensified the darkness. As we talked, we began to steer the conversation toward what she is good at. Lorna can step into the middle of any mess and begin instantly to make sense of it—a cluttered garage, a tangled office, files in piles. She has worked for us on and off and kept her too-creative parents in line.
“Why don’t you start a business doing this?” I asked her.
“Yeah but, who, what, how, when . . . “
Then, we started “creating” versus “problem-solving.” We began to “dream up” a new life for her. Within days we had a website, a name, ideas for promotion, etc, etc,
Desperately seeking to solve a problem has this dark, heavy energy. It is filled with why bother and yeah buts and frustrating little loops that take you always back to the problem and, in fact, can deepen it. Creating is a light, open-ended, waiting to be born energy. We look at a single moment in time and wonder “What COULD it look like?” Then we begin to visualize possibilities, explore avenues, overturn old ideas and patterns in favor of new ones until we see the new picture.
I’ve studied the creative process for many years. Dabrowski, a human development researche,r wrote extensively about how the human mind is driven by a dynamic urge to look out beyond a single moment to see what could be. Rita Smilkstein says the seven magic words for the human brain are, “See if you can figure this out.” Robert Fritz (The Path of Least Resistance) has devoted his life to understanding (and using) the creative process. He says that when we are creating, we set up a wonderful tension between what is (current reality) and a vision of what could be (our desired outcome). It’s like we string a rubber band around the two and tighten the creative tension between the two. Then we let that tension pull us toward what we want via our action steps. Rather than have the path of least resistance lead us further into the problem, we use the creative process to move toward a desired outcome.
Here is the kicker. We have to practice it. Most of us are used to trying to problem solve. I wish I had a nickel for every dollar spent trying to solve a problem in committee, in congress, in schools, in society, in my own life. I could create a beautiful world—and I’d be a wealthy woman.
You know you are creating versus problem-solving when you are energized and excited about reaching your outcome. It is like a big board game and you are tracking your way toward the finish line. Along the way, new ideas are jumping in to help you get there even faster, and one by one the obstacles (current reality) are evaporating.
I am busily creating new outcomes myself. Last summer I had the thought that I really want to work with young people in a setting that is not issues based, not teacher based, does not beat young people over the head with what they “should” do–more mentor than teacher. I wanted the creative process to be central to the picture. I called my friend who runs two community stations here and suggested a Youth Radio Project. Milt and I have attempted to do this several times but without any long term results. Since then, “structural tension” has been built between a current reality (we have no money and no kids) toward the picture that a group of teens are hosting, designing, and creating their own program. North Country Youth Radio Connection is born. Steps taken include recruiting kids, finding space, holding a series of producer’s camps, etc. Lots of steps. My list now has 36 young people on it, we’ve gained a valuable DJ volunteer, we’ve had three camps and last weekend a small group of four girls designed a first program. Monday we meet with the station director and program director to decide when they should go on the air. It is so exciting to bring something that did not exist into existence. It is giving birth—that is when you know you are creating and not problem solving.
Here is another kicker. We all have parts of ourselves lurking in dark corners that like to repeat mantras of not good enough, it could never happen, no money, no time, too disorganized . . . whatever. We spend a lot of time and money trying to hush these negative mantras with therapy, drugs, busyness . . . whatever. In reality, we don’t have to resolve old issues in order to begin creating. We don’t need therapy! We just need to sit back, fall in love with a pretty idea, measure current reality accurately, and then begin filling in the action steps necessary to move from one to the other. A lot of these steps will be boring (that is a given) but you are caught in the creative tension between current reality and what you desire and it makes the hard stuff easier, the boring stuff less boring, and you JUST DO IT. It’s fun. And when you have closed the gap between current reality and your outcome, you create another structural tension system. You “dream up” something new or add a new dimension to your existing picture.
Because you are actively using structural tension, you don’t have to try to change your mantras, learn to manifest, use crystals or tarot cards, or find out if the stars are in the right place. You just do it. Cool.
Tell me what you would like to create in this new year.
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