Exploring the Creative

Creative is a word most often associated with making something that never existed before, such as painting, music, sculpture, or some other aspect of the fine arts. A “creative” in the business world is usually a graphic designer or writer. It seems to me that creative, however, applies to so much more than that. So, I looked up the definition in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online.  One of the definitions said creative is “having the quality of something created rather than imitated; imaginative.” Brene Brown has said, “We are creative beings. We are by nature creative.”

Types or Styles of Creative Thinking

As I was researching the term creative, I ran across linear and creative or lateral thinking. Linear thinking moves an idea that we have chosen forward and I’ve learned how to do that very well and it is the skill that makes me a great project manager and has given me the reputation of someone who “gets things done”.

I remember reading Ayn Rand in my late twenties when individualism and linear thinking was the norm. She promoted the idea that the mundane and everyday type of work was meaningless and creating new things was worthwhile. The women’s movement fought very hard against the idea that women’s work was associated with the mundane and men’s work was the meaningful and creative. Looking back it feels like we were turning ourselves into men rather than creating equality which would have equal participation in the ordinary maintenance of life as well as the creative.

The description of the creative or lateral thinking process seems to describe the way I work, think and navigate the world right now. Lateral, sometimes called sideways thinking, is about following leads towards a goal that may not be known at the time.  The example given was of a reporter asking who, what, when, where, how and continuing to move towards the end result of a story. The story is revealed as the reporting continues to gather information.

This is a lot like listening to the Holy Spirit and paying attention to the experiential as guides as the story of the next phase of my life unfolds. It’s a lot of trial and error, noticing the pieces that bring joy and the ones that don’t. Being practical about taking care of the necessities of living as well as being present with others as they move through and to their own stories. It requires listening and empathy to understand what is really happening around you. It is letting your imagination free to see possibilities, options and patterns that reveal what is possible. It requires analytical skills, and some linear thinking, to make a decision and a plan to reach what you have decided is the goal.

But what if the creative thinking is the goal? What if the continual moving forward and experimenting with the “next right thing” is the plan?

As I continued researching creativity, I looked up circular thinking which I’ve always associated with non-productive hashing and re-hashing of an idea. I found an article which connected circular thinking with the circles and cycles of life itself. Celestial systems, tides, phases of the moon were examples. Villages and cities were created in the round. In Atlanta, we have built a circle around the city and marriages are celebrated with the exchange of a circle of metal. Circular thinking is relational, describing our circle of friends, our tribe. It’s the way of thinking of who the author described as Mother Nature. Not straight lines at all but feminine, embracing and in tune with the rhythms of life and our bodies. It’s something to think about as metaphor for this next phase of my life.

Linear, lateral or circular thinking. Less striving to move forward and more attuned to my own and other people’s embodiment in the world. Perhaps, it’s some of all of these types. Thinking and discerning when to use them is the key to being creative.