Perspective: The Beginnings of Creativity Perspective: The Beginnings of Creativity

September 2, 1996

If it is a room, then it is a dark room. You have chosen it, though you have only a slight awareness -- something like the thinnest gauze, a vague memory -- of walls, light from a bulb, perhaps from a window, or a door. But because you are alive, because you want to define yourself -- your impulses, that which makes you who you are, where you are -- you find that you move, seeking light and shape, despite the shapeless dark.

You are uneasy here. You are in the grasp of your own desire, all its unnamed mysteries and obsessions. This ambiguity is both loneliness and crowding, joy and pain, doing and undoing, yes and no, silver and gold. You almost give up, resort to distraction, or worse, belief in the niggling argument that this process is fluke, whim, a waste of real time. All you have learned about productivity, work that matters, the dangers of self absorption rings in your ears, but you manage to trust your instincts.

You go on, adjusting to the dark -- a new kind of seeing -- and so you begin to shape your way. You are making the opening that leads to light, the expression that gives you your bearings, that bears your mark as a creator. It is this making that gives you who you are, what this room is, will be. This is creativity.

A process fueled by desire and a willingness to trust the unknown, creativity is, at its heart, risk. Moody, intuitive, and at times impish, the creative process is genuinely unpredictable; therefore, its outcomes cannot be forecast. But they can be characterized, shaped through a variety of materials. Artists, who regularly invite creativity into their lives, use a variety of media to shape desires; and even though each artist has special knowledge of, say, oil or aperture, marble, stage, sinew, metaphor or drum, there is always vulnerability in a medium.

As a poet, my chosen mode of expression is words, their connotative and architectural possibilities; yet as comfortable as I am with words, and despite past successes, I am often lost in their power and confused by their resistance to my vision. It is this vulnerability -- its paradox and freshness -- that keeps me going back to that dark room where I trust that words will eventually bring me to light.

if creativity means to make, then it also means to unmake. To shape a vision means to unshape another, so any creative act is by design a destructive act as well. Perhaps the performing arts embody this notion most clearly; every movement of a dance or action in a theatrical performance is possible only if the previous moment is erased, destroyed, or reshaped. This seeming paradox is also beautifully expressed in Hinduism by the god of dance and theater, Shiva, who stands for both destruction and reproduction.

Creativity is the seed, and the seed broken open. It thrives in darkness, since it seeks light, and it is inexhaustible as long as there is desire.

-- Mary Pinard teaches poetry and literature at Babson College, in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

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