Long before there was the internet or YouTube when you wanted to make a recipe, say for example cream puffs, you used a cookbook or called a friend. Years ago while I was living in Alaska, my friend, Sue who was interested in making a fancy dessert for her dinner party called her sister in Georgia - long distance. You have to understand how uncommon and expensive that was back then. The sister was not at home, so Sue left a message for her on her answering machine, another old device! Sue requested the recipe for cream puffs. Sue’s sister called back leaving the following message with the recipe on Sue’s answering machine… “ ½ cup butter, 1 cup water, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 cup flour and 4 eggs, mix and drop onto cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes.” Sue timed her puffs to come out 20 minutes before her guests’ arrival. She mixed the ingredients, following her sister’s instructions. She called me in desperation, “They are as hard as hockey pucks!” I asked what the recipe called for – angrily she defended, “I added all the ingredients just like she said, and I didn’t leave anything out.”
This is the day I learned about the empathy of cream puffs … and the creative process.
To make cream puffs there is a process. What was left out of the phone instructions for my friend was that the cup of water and butter were to be “boiling” before adding the flour and salt. As well as each egg was to be added individually into the flour mixture, beating thoroughly before adding each one. There is a process for making cream puffs. Leave out this important part of the process, and there is something entirely different than what was expected.
This is the same for creativity. You see, a creative process takes
Just like the cream puffs, when you throw it all together with no awareness to the process, it might end up as disaster. This is why most people do not enter the world of creativity. And those that venture out in to it, often quit working on the projects they once were so excited about. “It’s just too hard,” and “it’s not worth it.” The Creative Process takes time. Something we humans become so frustrated by. We’ve even become more inventive to strategies that reduce time like developing paints that dry faster. For materials and skills, some do not want to waste their money to explore. Admittedly they never want to fail. They limit the Creative Process through an unwillingness to look at old beliefs or myths about creativity. Everyone is creative. You do not have to have the genes… that’s a myth. All humans come equipped with creativity. Creativity is a master strategy for problem-solving. Creativity is like a muscle, when you don’t use it, it atrophies. You want to keep it exercised, used on a daily basis. As Julia Cameron, the author of Artist Within, says “Creativity is the blood of the soul.”And lastly, the creative process is non-linear. A to B does not mean that C will happen. For example, I wanted to make a fabric piece using part of Gustav Klimt’s “Adam and Eve.” This Creative Process took me over three years to complete. I would get frustrated with the process sometimes not knowing how the process would work. I would put it aside only to pull it out when I had a new idea I would try. During this time, I went to many museums. I would often hear docents say “don’t touch the artwork!” Eureka! It finally came to me! Central to this piece was that I wanted people to touch it. The descendants of Adam and Eve became part of my creation by adding their DNA by touching my beaded fabric.
As for my friend Sue, I came to her house on that stressful day and brought over a cherry pie. I helped her get ready for her dinner party. I listened and laughed with her sharing her frustration of wanting to make something special and not having all of the information she needed. We all need to hold empathy for our own Creative Process. There will be times when we believe we don’t have enough time or the right materials, or become so frustrated with the limited skills we have for our creations. We may get stuck on the belief that “it” must be perfect, focusing only on the PRODUCT, not the process. What creativity is… in the idea world, seldom looks like I want it to in the real world. Holding on to ambiguity allows me to not give up when what I expected to happen does not. It happens they way it happens.
For your creativity, keep your focus on the process - the experience, not the product - the cream puffs.
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by Kelly Penrod
I consider myself a midwife assisting others in their discovery of the abundance of creative resources in their lives.