For thousands and thousands of years the thing we call “creativity” has been in evidence. We take that word to stand for everything from cave paintings to dreaming up bread to dreaming up round wheels to creating cosmology myths to turning reeds into flutes. That is too much work for one word to do. Can one word stand for writing a poem, producing a better fertilizer, and coming upon the relationship between energy and matter? Apart from the fact that the human brain did all three, are they really the same sort of enterprise?
So, when we talk about a creative person “getting better organized,” we must surely be talking about the very different needs of perhaps very different people. The organizational tasks of a potter, a physicist, and a CEO can’t much look the same, can they? On the other hand, might there be a thread that connects all people who “do creative things,” however different they may otherwise be and however different their products may be? If so, what might that thread be?
I think that thread is “imagination in the service of an intention.” First a person holds an intention: to capture the rain in words, to build a bridge from here to there, to make a useful pot, to figure out what matter is, to make music, to write a novel, a create a bulb that lights the night. That is step 1. But without the next step, step 2, not much that is “creative” will happen. Step 2 is engaging the imagination.
Without step 2 you will get some dull words about rain, a cookie cutter bridge, no answers about matter, and no bulb that lights. You hold the intention and then you must go somewhere, to that dreamy place, to that thinking place, to that mysterious place where innovation, problem-solving, and creativity happen. Unless you “shut your eyes,” there will not be magic. There will not be calculus or Crime and Punishment.
It may be funny to think of “holding the intention” and “engaging one’s imagination” as organizational tools. But they are in fact bedrock. You organize because you are holding the intention and you organize according to the dictates of your imagination. This sounds like, “I really, really intend to write that novel set in Paris. Let me begin to think about it. Oh, a scene is coming to me. Let me jot that scene down. Quick, let me save it and label it carefully or else I’ll misplace it. Oh, here comes another scene! What shall I call it? Quick! Let me name it carefully so that I can find it again. Let’s call it … Notre Dame at dawn. Okay! Oh, here comes another scene … ”
You organize not because “organizing is a good thing” but because you are holding a certain intention and you simply can’t fulfill your pledge to yourself unless you organize. Nor can you fulfill your intention to yourself unless you open up to your imagination. The procession looks like this: intend, imagine, organize. You start at the beginning of this processional, not at the end. If you hold stronger intentions and demand more imagining from yourself, you will discover that suddenly you want to be organized—for the sake of your intended outcome.
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Eric Maisel is the author of 50+ books. You can learn more about him at www.ericmaisel.com and write him at firstname.lastname@example.org