How many of us lose any sense of our creative selves and never recover? Between the schools, soul crushing jobs, and the myths that surround creativity, it’s hard to find your creative self. And there is no lost and found for creativity. Well, maybe there is…
I’m thinking about this because The Creative Problem Solving Institute just concluded in Atlanta, Georgia. Also known as CPSI (“sipSee”) it’s an amazing event and it’s been happening for over 55 years. Normally I’d be there but work has conspired to keep me away. CPSI, was my creativity lost and found, really, an inflection point in my life.
Trust me, you are creative, and there are lots of ways to “get it back.”
In 1987 I was in my mid-30’s and in the brutal trench warfare of mainframe software sales. Aggressive selling, unethical tricks, and constant pressure go against who I am, and after several years of competitive battles my psychic energy was worn down. I’d had a career in television, where I had a good deal of “creative” opportunity, but in spite of some innovative work at QUBE, I’d not been able to monetize my talent. I thought of creativity as something that came as a bolt from the blue — and that happened to me now and then — but it was frustrating. One day I’d be the creative hero, the next day vacant of ideas. The ups and downs were emotionally exhausting, and it had me drinking too much, and searching for other muses, etc. At the time I believed creativity was something that artists did, and, since I was no longer involved in the arts, even remotely, I’d pretty much given up thinking of myself as creative. I was a salesman, and creativity was not the key job requirement (or so I thought). It gets worse, I was unduly influenced by a succession of sales managers and colleagues — whose cynicism and world views were much like the characters in the play Glengary Glen Ross. Creativity as a concept was something they would, and did, actively sneer at. Truthfully, I would have myself.
How many of us lose any sense of our creative selves and never recover? If you believe, as I do, that creativity is nearly akin to the spirit or soul — that’s not good.
So, it was good fortune that I landed one summer day at the SUNY Buffalo campus. How I got there is another story, but I found myself in a “Springboard” course, led by a retired Naval officer, and a Home Ec teacher from Washington DC. I was taught, experientially, the CPS process (aka Osborn-Parnes model, which I wrote a business novel about, Jack’s Notebook, years later) and — my life changed forever. Learning the model was powerful. Perhaps more important was the fact I started thinking of creativity as problem solving and not just self-expression or the arts. I started thinking I was a creative person, again, but in a new way, and that alone was profound. The community of people at CPSI was also transformative. People at the conference were open-minded to an unusual degree, openly warm, supportive of ideas. The “culture” of CPSI gradually broke down a thick layer of ice over my creative soul. Creativity is problem solving, AND, it’s about self-expression. When you feel free to be self-expressed, creativity flows. When creative flow is aided by deliberate process you become a very dangerous person (in a good way).
A funny thing happened in the years after my first CPSI — I steadily became more successful. I kept going to back CPSI, kept learning, and started to use and facilitate “the process”. Meanwhile back at my career, I bounced from company to company and every time I did brought me a bit closer to work that was fulfilling and worthwhile financially. By 93 I was a founder of an innovative software firm that went public in 97. Since then I’ve been busy writing and consulting, and, trying to communicate my message of creative empowerment, and innovative results, to anyone who’s interested.
If you’re in need of finding or re-finding your creativity, a good first step would be to read Jack’s Notebook (now available on Kindle, and sorry to plug my own book, this is why I wrote it). After that, consider CPSI. Read this blog as a weekly dose and reminder. And remember, you are creative, say that to yourself all the time…it will all flow from there.