Hard-wired or soft? Brainstorming 5 misconceptions about creativity!


Years ago, in around 1993, I created and delivered what was my first piece of home grown curriculum for a cohort of district nurses. It was a teaching series on pain and symptom management.  I had experienced my fair share of workshops and trainings that felt to me to be fuzzy, short on content and over-reliant on peer participant contribution.

The second time through my new content I invited an anaesthetist to lecture on neural pain pathways. I had prepared the nurses earlier with an overview of the evolution of the science, anatomy and physiology of pain perception.  I should have known better than to construct an over- tidy version of reality for them!

What happened next, created chaos for my conscientious crowd!

Here are five misconceptions I had unwittingly absorbed and may helpfully alert you as you consciously embark upon a creative venture of any kind.

  • Learn from the Masters

My guest, a stereotypical Professor Branestawm character, with his shock of grey hair and crumpled jacket cut an awe-inspiring figure. However, in all his innocently wise and self-deprecating confidence he airily dismissed my carefully imparted body of knowledge.  Everything I had taught them about pain management to this point. I was horrified and the students shifted uncomfortably at my unease.

It was happening again.  That phrase that teachers say when you start a new programme of study “You know everything you were taught at GCSE? Forget that!”

Or “You know everything you were taught at “A” Level? Forget that!”

That day, for the first time, we were hearing about the concept of neuroplasticity.

“Think “spaghetti in soup” rather than “hard wiring”” he said.

Along with these disruptive and unqualified doubts and questions about what we actually knew about the brain with reference to pain (amongst many other things) my tidy theoretical world collapsed. I wasn’t sure I wanted to familiarise myself with yet more new horizons.

It is valuable to know what came before.  However it is also wise to value the innocence you bring to a new endeavour and to keep it free from contamination of old ways of thinking that no longer serve you or your generation.

  •  “There’s nothing new under the sun”

I wanted to help colleagues learn and apply new information! I demonstrated my propensity to biting off a good bit more than I could chew with this huge topic of pain control.  It was a severely underwhelming service generally to dying patients and their carers’ at that time.

I used words, pens, flipcharts, models, discussion, Q and A, guest speakers and group-work techniques. Barely cutting edge then, before video-clip, social media interactivity or even power-point. There was nothing new in any of that.

However, I did offer a brand new compilation and context. There is always something new about everything, every group formation, every new face, ever new act of creation.

  • “Wait for your muse”/ spontaneous inspiration

As a newly married, I spent my Monday evenings in front of this group. Three hours a week for ten weeks! This was quite a commitment, a specific plan to rack up my teaching hours.  There were plenty of other options, no inspired promptings, just an entirely deliberate effort. The result? A piece of professional development that was really unique in its day and very helpful in promoting consistent and contemporary practice.

There was nothing inspired about it, it was a necessary development I chose!

  • Debuts are definitive

I was a graduate nurse in a full time hospice role, training for certification as an adult educationalist.  This teaching commitment was a test bed for my adventure into education. I was terrified about teaching QUALIFIED and EXPERIENCED nurses.  Yet I was passionate about how much could be learned to improve the experience of the incurably ill patient.  This was a pain barrier of my own I had to overcome.

Remember the first time IS MERELY the first time!  I am sure most of those learners have long forgotten me and my outdated material content.

All you and I need to focus on is getting consistently and incrementally better at what we create EVERY time!

  •  “Now for something completely different”

Ah now THIS is the real bottleneck to creative activity!

We are SO scared of repeating a trend, of being “beige”, we have forgotten that we need some familiarity in order to breed contempt (read curiosity). If we are so radical that there are no longer any landmarks anchoring our efforts to commend novelty as valuable, its value as a statement is lost.

The need to be different is so, so inferior to having to be authentic. Authenticity will always be the convincing point of contact with your cohort, your crowd or your client.

  • Start with the end in mind?

This is one of my favourite quotations.

However, when it comes to creative work, this could be the biggest block of all. Our best inspiration comes when we are not attached to a fixed idea. So just start, listen and pay attention to the unfolding of the created with the creator

Finishing isn’t the deal. Doing it is.

Next time we will re-visit this curious thing called neuroplasticity and what it has to teach us creatives!

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