Deep creativity is the phenomenon of becoming more fully human and humane. Deeply creative people are driven by an innate passion to imbue the experience of being alive with meaning, purpose, and depth. They feel at home on the formidable frontiers between the conscious and unconscious, knowledge and imagination, culture and nature, as well as the sacred and profane.
The term “creative” is commonly used to describe three kinds of things: a type of person, a process or activity, or a product, whether it is an idea, an observable performance, or an object. It is often assumed that creativity results in novelty, originality, or innovation, but even nonsense can be novel, original, and authentic. I use deep creativity to describe a way of engaging with experience, a mode of being, and means to navigate the full force of life. In this sense, the novelty, originality, and authenticity produced must be compelling, practical, and dynamic.
In modern culture, creativity is prominent in two realms – the arts and business.
In the arts, creativity is an end unto itself. In a traditional sense, the purpose of a artistic endeavour is to create something that is aesthetically pleasing. The function of an artist is to produce an authentic insight and creatively express that insight through various modes of expression including writing, painting, drawing, sculpture, music, and theatre.
In the corporate world, creativity is more closely aligned with problem-solving and innovation focused on the design and development of products and services that are profitable, which only require the illusion of being genuine, safe, reliable, necessary, truthful, or ethical. Creativity inside a corporation is confined by economic servitude and the relentless pursuit of never-ending growth. In other words, creativity is peripheral because it requires no philosophical ground.
Deep creativity is internal, personal, and unique. It is serves the basic human desire of living a life worth living. Deep creativity is the means by which we turn into the full force of our own life and learn to make decisions, develop perspective, adapt to the unexpected, accommodate new challenges, adjust to difficult circumstances, confront anxiety and fear, seek consolation during traumatic situations, respond to unintended consequences, accept the transience of life, move through periods of hardship, and cultivate wellbeing in the world.
The experience of deep creativity is always improvisational, interactive, and emergent. It hinges on a willingness to experiment and risking the inevitable onslaught of trial and error. Deep creativity is always animated by a relentless desire to broaden, expand, and celebrate the experience of being alive by cultivating individual and collective wellbeing.
The demands deep creativity are formidable:
- Asking questions that, once asked, refuse to leave us alone
- Work at the edge of our knowledge, skill, and control
- Seek liberation from unexamined and unfounded belief
- Confront stress, tension, anxiety, and depression
- Find release from cultural conditioning, assumptions, and routines
- Cultivate an inspired approach to living that is authentic, genuine, and meaningful
- Cultivate wellbeing for self, others, and nature at the same time
Throughout this series, Deep Creativity, Music and Life, I explore some personal encounters with creativity. My focus will is on the intersection of my experiences with music, deep creativity, and how playing an instrument can become a source of insight into living a life worth living.
- In his book, Deep Work, Cal Newport defines deep work as: “Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship.” The idea of “depth” in work is partially a response to an attention-deficit cultural malaise fuelled by the superficialities of social media. I applied it to creativity because, in my opinion, it has suffered a similar fate as work.
- In business, creativity is often viewed as the underlying mechanism of problem-solving. Otto Rank thought that the arts and creativity “could be understood as a joining of the material and the spiritual, the specific and the universal, or the individual and humanity.” Deep creativity, like deep work, is a way to draw attention toward creativity in a different realm of experience, which is the full force of life.
- David Mackinnon notes that, “Creativity, although currently much emphasized in psychological research, has been one of the most neglected topics in the history of psychology.” I would add that creativity is also more than a psychological concept; in other words, psychology offers one important perspective on creativity. My focus is the subjective exploration of creative experience.