‘Scratching’ Creativity

“A good idea is one that turns you on rather than shuts you off.  It keeps generating more ideas and they improve on one another.  A bad idea closes doors instead of opening them.  It’s confining and restrictive.” -Twyla Tharp ‘The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life’

We sometimes have this tendency to still buy into the myth of the creative and innovative ‘type‘.  To believe that some people are just born with this special ‘gene‘ that makes them more creative and innovative than the rest of us mere mortals.  We take a ‘fixed’ rather than a ‘growth’ mindset towards creativity and innovation.  You either have it or you don’t.

And that’s unfortunate…

So we wonder about these types, “Where do they get their ideas?”  “How do they get them?”  Often believing that they are cast down upon them from ethereal beings that have chosen them to be the creative and innovative ones.

The problem is that it does not work like that.  More often than not it comes down to how much work and effort you are willing to put in.  (Back to the ‘growth’ over the ‘fixed’ mindset).   Being more creative and innovative is not a once in awhile proposition.  It requires digging in and putting in effort and hard work towards it on a daily basis.  It is not granted, it is earned.

Or as Twyla Tharp shares in her work, ‘The Creative Habit’…it requires “scratching”. “Scratching is real and tangible.  It bloodies your fingernails.  The key is not to block yourself; you have to leave yourself open to everything.”

According to Twyla, “scratching” is about moving away from the proposition of finding that one ‘big’ idea, and “scratching” for those ‘little’ ideas that invoke momentum and action.  Or as she shares, “That is why you scratch for little ideas.  Without the little ideas, there are no big ideas.  Scratching is what you do when you can’t wait for the thunderbolt to hit you.”

Scratching is the hard, deliberate work of kickstarting your creative and innovative thinking and energy when you can’t seem to find it, when it seems to have abandoned you.  Scratching is what you do when you can’t seem to wrap your mind around that one ‘big’ idea that you need.  Scratching is the 99% perspiration of creativity that we often hear about.

As Twyla shares, “Scratching is a means to identifying A, and if you can get to A, you’ve got a grip on the slippery rock wall.  You’ve got purchase.  You can move on to B, which is mandatory.  You cannot stop with one idea.  You don’t really have a workable idea until you combine two ideas.”

Scratching is about connecting the dots…the small dots.  Coalescing until they congeal into that one big dot.  It is about connecting and cross-pollinating, until that ‘aha’ moment arrives.  An ‘aha’ that arrives on the back of hard work and diligent effort.

Scratching is the divergent side of idea gathering.  It is about pulling and connecting.  It is about sharing and collaborating.  It is about generating ideas that lead to more ideas.  “Scratching is not about control and repose.  It’s about unleashing furious mindless energy and watching it bounce off everything in your path.  The hope is that a spark will fly from all that contact and combustion— and it usually does.”

Scratching is about fervor and passion.  It is about digging in, when the creative and innovative muse has seemed to have left you.  It is about understanding that it’s less about the ‘myth’ and more about the ‘effort’.  It is about scratching off the surface that is keeping you from the creativity and innovation that resides within you.

“It’s the same with scratching.  When you’re scratching for an idea, you don’t need to think ahead.  You have to trust the unconscious rush and let it hurtle forward unedited and unencumbered.  Let it be awful and awkward and wrong.  You can fix the results later, but you won’t generate the ideas at all if you cool down the white hot pitch.  Scratching is where creativity begins.  It is the moment where your ideas first take flight and begin to defy gravity.  If you try to rein it in, you’ll never know how high you can go.”  -Twyla Tharp ‘The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life’

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