Guestpost: Exploring Creality

TJ Goerlitz as an avatar, so youll recognize her on the internet.

Note from QuinnCreative:  TJ Goerlitz is a peripatetic American artist living in Germany. I ran across her blog, Studio Mailbox, by accident. Her wonderful talent in describing the fun and frustrations of living in another country and struggling with the culture and language has made coffee come out my nose more than once. Her experience of giving birth and being an American mother in Germany has made me smile in recognition of my own childhood. TJ and I have discussed creative topics, and she first used the term “creality” to describe. . .well, here, I’ll let her tell it.

Before I begin, please let me say that although creality is something I “made up” I’m convinced that it’s very real.   The hardest part of inventing stuff (besides the stereotypical bad hair) is deciding how to define the invention.  Is it a concept?  An affliction?  A tangible thing?

In my initial post on creality I tried to define it although I’m the first to admit it’s a bit rough.  And it focuses only on how I experience creality which tends to be in the negative sense.

The Germans use the term zwischenraum to literally mean “between space.”   In traditional printing, the little flat spacer that was used between the words in a line of type is also called a “zwischenraum.”

Creality is much like the literal German printer’s zwischenraum except it’s invisible.  Creality is the space that’s sitting between the idea you have in your head and the outcome of whatever you just made while attempting to manifest your idea.

Creality can be experienced in a negative or positive sense.  There are times when your created result exceeds your initial expectations and you might respond to it with terms such as; happy accident, the unfolding process, or better than imagined!

TJ Goerlitz © All rights reserved.

If you’re hardwired like myself however, you might be experiencing creality in a primarily negative sense.  We’re the ones responding to our creations with terms like; dissimilarity or variance.  Which also sometimes masquerades as “I’m so disappointed with this shit.” And in the event that the creality spacer for a particular project just happens to be huge, some might call it a mutation or in other circles an “epic frigging failure.”

For years, I thought two things could be the culprit for my episodes of my negative creality:  either my ideas were too idealistic or my skills were too remedial to achieve my desired result.  Both reasons put the blame on my own shoulders.

Yet over the years I started recognizing the same problem in every creative person I met! And I’m talking about all the creative fields:  actors, writers, cooks, painters.  The only difference being that we express it differently depending on our personalities and our perceptions.

The idea that started it all. TJ Goerlitz © All rights reserved.

All this might sound super nuts-o.  But I feel it would be helpful to other creatives to simply know about this phenomenon.  I’m willing to bet that very few things have ever been brought to completion exactly as imagined or planned.  And the power of knowing this ahead of time might just really help us not be so attached to the original idea in the first place.

Imagine if from the very beginning we could say to ourselves, “hey look.  I know exactly how I want 70 percent of this to turn out.  So let’s get that right and I’ll cut you some slack on the other 30.”  Wouldn’t that be the better way to start out instead of rigidly attempting to achieve something that isn’t going to hit 100 percent anyway?

*Insert fine print.*  Obviously the dialog above is probably not the best plan if you’re an architect or a heart surgeon.  Clearly we don’t want walls falling over or blood spurting out of our stitches when we sneeze.  What I’m talking about is journaling.  Quilting.  Self portraits.  Photography.  Wedding cakes.  Writing.  The kind of stuff where the consequences of creative liberties aren’t typically death.

Being aware of creality spacers can give you a whole new perspective.  For instance, have you ever taken on commission work where the client didn’t like the outcome despite the fact that you were sure that you created something to specification?  Although it’s possible that your interpretation of their request was way off or that your work in general is total crap, there’s also the possibility that you got yourself all messed up in their creality!  The point is, knowing about creality can help you stop blaming yourself for undesired outcomes.  And c’mon; who doesn’t appreciate something besides ourselves that can take the blame?

Here’s some more thoughts for you:

  • Negative creality is directly proportional to the degree in which you are attached to your original idea.
  • Creality can be especially painful for high achievers, and those who “set the bar high.”And sadly this has nothing to do with actual creative skill.  This has to do with a mentality that if you do not reach “the goal” then you have failed.
  • Creality doesn’t have to be painful or negative.  It can be a positive experience for those who can detach from their original ideas.
  • Creality spacers shrink in size and emotional significance at the same speed as which we forget the original concepts.
  • Thinking of your original idea as a catalyst instead of a rigid plan will help turn a potential negative creality experience into a positive one.

The only way I’ve been successful in handling my negative creality is to separate myself from the work.  And I specifically mean hiding whatever I just made in a spot where I know I won’t re-discover it for a few weeks.  I have never resurrected something and still been disappointed.  In fact, I’m normally really confused why I was so pissed off at it when I made it.

Distance is creality’s enemy!!

You can follow TJ on Facebook.
You can tour TJ’s studio in her blogpost. Hey, she cleaned up just for the post.

–Quinn McDonald is a recovering perfectionist who has suffered from Creality and been delighted by its surprises. She’s delighted to have talked TJ into doing this guestpost. © Quinn McDonald, 2011. All rights reserved.

20 thoughts on “Guestpost: Exploring Creality

  1. Pingback: Guest Post: Creality « Collidescopes Blog

  2. WOW, all these beautiful comments have made my morning cup of coffee so much better! Thanks everybody for your lovely thoughts, it means a lot. I’m a bit teary-eyed over it… Best wishes for all your happy creations, tj

  3. Pingback: Guest Post: Exploring Creality « Collidescopes Blog

    • Please remove my post from your site. You have not asked for permission and posting the whole thing, including the photos, is simply not ethical. <—- Thanks for doing the right thing. I appreciate it, as does the artist and guest post writer.

  4. I think this might be why I am not an artist. I don’t think I can “visualize” this way, or at least I generally don’t. I’m much more in the “try things and see what happens” approach. I can usually tell what I want to change after I do it, but before I do something (which is usually in words or code, not visual) I don’t have anything to change. More of a critic than a creator, I think!

    • Wow, Pete, you’ve found the perfect way to always have positive creality. My best creations have been like that too – progressing from, for example, “This looks like a fun pattern” and “Ooh, I like these colors together” to “Wow, that looks so much like an ocean coral reef, I just have to add fishies.”

  5. Pingback: Creality Reality and Judging Creativity

  6. This is great. I know exactly what you mean and it’s nice to have a word for it now. As for your putting your creations away for a while I find that works great for my students. When they come back to their unloved projects the next week they usually find things are not so bad as they thought. I tell them the painting fairies have been in my studio working again.

  7. Love reading about this concept. Of course the original idea never matches the outcome, so it’s a wonder we even expect it to, but we always think next time it will be just as I intended. Next time I will get it right!

    I am relieved I don’t have to worry about next time–just go with the concept and see what happens. Experimenting is much more fun than being bound to internal rule-making, anyway! Thanks for a great article.

    • Interesting that you don’t have an outcome in your head. Maybe it’s the photographer thing at work. When I imagine “let’s try this” I have an intended outcome, and ohhh, reality bites!

  8. Thanks TJ for yet another clarification of the human conditions that we all experience from from time to time and another great word to add to my vocabulary.

  9. Thank you so much Quinn and TJ! Love, love, love this post. It’s so spot on…my favorite quote is, “For years, I thought two things could be the culprit for my episodes of my negative creality: either my ideas were too idealistic or my skills were too remedial to achieve my desired result.” How did you get into my brain?

    Thanks for letting me know that it’s not just me!

    • if you saw the post about learning to sew on paper–where I put the completed piece in upside down–you might come to the same conclusion I did–this is part of the creative process. It just is.

  10. Holy guacamole! That was fast Quinn. Thank you so much for sharing the concept of creality! It’s an honor to be a guest on your blog… best wishes, tj

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