Why creative pursuits matter

Once upon a time in London, my week turned into a series of creative pursuits.

  1. I went to a pottery class
  2. Listened to a talk by performance artist Marina Abramovic
  3. Watched a startup pitching competition

I am not an aspiring potter, an artist or an entrepreneur but…

I found myself bent over a throwing wheel.

Then at the Southbank center, I sat listening to a brazen voice against the anti-sound of awed silence.

And at the London Business School I saw technology materialise dreams.

Seemingly random, these were all manifestations of creativity to me.

Why did I go?

More than anything else I want to see how and why things get made.

On the scales of life, my work and human commitments are heavier than creativity. I fill up on everyday living, getting hungry in other ways.

The deficiency builds up.

When it gets too much, I look for creative pursuits.

And I think you should too.

Chase creativity in all its forms. Irregular, seemingly irrelevant, only vaguely creativesque. 

Exposure to creativity changes you. Small incremental changes, to significant realisations.

Let me show you mine.

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Contentment through concentration


When I put my hands around the clay and turned on the throwing wheel the clay fought me.

I wasn’t expecting this kind of demanding immediacy.

I am used to things taking a long time to come into being. Writing is for the patient.

But the intense, frantic spinning of the wheel meant there was no time. Something was already there – imperfect and shapeless, demanding intense focus.

So I focused. No intrusive thoughts. And let me tell you (although you probably know): single minded concentration gives the ultimate rest.

Also known as ‘flow‘,  it has been described as the source of happiness.

You should have seen the other people though. They brought out their materials (half finished creations, glaze, brushes, sponges, mould frames) like it was a meditation, a ritual. As they settled to work I could almost hear their thought slowing.

Neurons shooting a little less anxiously.

Inhalation of peace. Exhalation of work.

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The price a person must pay for a singularly creative life


Marina Abramovic spoke at the Royal Festival Hall as part of a publicity tour to promote her new book. The Artist is Present made her famous. But she was doing performance art long before that.

Her words, accompanied by the collective silence of in-drawn breath, were willful.

All living energy in that room centered on the stage where she sat. Three things I remember.

She said: She never asked anyone for permission to do anything. She just made the art she wanted to make.

She said: Wanting to do art for her was like a fever.

She said: There was only one energy and she chose to direct her energy at art. This is why she always knew she would not have children.

In other words – obsessive single mindedness.

You won’t find this quality in your colleagues or friends.

Seeing people like that and hearing their words is like reading fiction only to realise you’re half way through a memoir.

Lives like that are not for everyone, but it is so important to know they exist.

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How creating something new accelerates knowledge


Eight companies, 90 seconds each to share their core offerings. Then five minutes of intense grilling by a panel of judges.

The people I saw pitch came from all sorts of backgrounds.

But they answered technical inquiries about blockchain, financial questions about business models, business questions about patents and regulations like it was nothing. Common knowledge. Or reciting their own dreams.

It made me think that kind of accelerated knowledge is only possible for a goal that matters so much, a person reaches beyond their ability to achieve it.

To create new products or services is such a momentous thing, people have no choice but to step into the version of themselves they need to be to succeed…

Exposure to different forms of creativity can do profound things.

It can open up avenues of thinking you had never considered; bring you in contact with people very unlike you.

And there is nothing more stimulating than being challenged by a startlingly different point of view.

So I dare you to do just one thing outside of your normal.

Your own random creative pursuit. An event, an activity, a talk… anything.

Like this week. Like now. Here are some suggestions. Go.

 

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