By Caitlin Kelly
I’ve been told for decades that I’m creative, which I consider one of the highest compliments anyone can ever pay me. (Of course, compared to people like famous musicians/artists/choreographers/thinkers, I know I’m not.)
So, for the hell of it, (and as research for a story for the BBC’s website), I recently paid $173 to take the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, which measures creativity — using a variety of criteria, from emotional expressiveness to openness to ambiguity to humor.
The assessment takes about 45 minutes, with a variety of visual and verbal tests, like a page containing a large black tilted oval with instructions to turn it into something — anything you want! — within a few minutes, then write a caption to describe your choice.
Other elements gave me a drawing to describe and interpret, a product to improve and a number of unfinished lines to turn into drawings or designs of my choosing, all with my own added explanatory captions.
I mailed my booklets back to a distant midwestern address and waited, with bated breath.
What if I wasn’t creative after all?
Luckily — whew! — I turned out to be in the 98th percentile, which felt good.
Now my much larger life challenge is to actually use this skill much more often, for work and for play.
There are days — and while I’m grateful to be this busy! — I feel like a one-woman industrial production line, moving as fast as I possibly can, gulping down lunch, to get the work out the door.
As a writer, this seems very much at odds with the notion that what I do is creative.
But I simply have no time to stare into space, waiting for some Muse to show up and tap me on the shoulder.
When other writers, (usually of fiction), complain about writer’s block, I laugh. I have no such luxury if the mortgage is going to be paid on time and there will be gas in the car and food in the fridge.
Here’s a post I wrote — chosen for Freshly Pressed — about the ongoing choice for those of us who make a living doing artistic work, between being creative (noodling, thinking, musing revising) and being productive (shipping.)
I’m not persuaded one can be both all the time.
We all need time to think, reflect, ponder, meander, take some detours, some of which — being immediately unproductive — lead into dead ends, some of which lead us off into totally new and hugely profitable (financially or creatively) directions.
Shutting down the production line for a while — silence! solitude! no immediate income! I’m wasting time! — can feel terrifying.
It’s absolutely necessary.
But we don’t talk about the downtime, the quiet moments of connection and insight that can, when allowed to blossom quietly unforced by another’s schedule, birth wonders.
Whenever I’ve taught or lectured on journalism, I crush a few young dreams when I make clear that traditional news journalism more resembles an industrial assembly line than an artist’s studio.
Editors aren’t terribly interested in whether you’re feeling creative — they want accurate
copy/content/visuals and they want it now!
Here’s an audio link to one of my favorite radio shows, Studio 360. The entire hour is devoted to a discussion of creativity, and ends with a seven-year-old girl talking about her paracosms — worlds she has created and populated.
Are you a creative person?
How does that play out in your life, personal and/or professional?