Note from QuinnCreative: In 2011, TJ Goerlitz, contributor to the Inner Hero book, guest-hosted a post on creality. I’m a big fan of TJ’s work (and blog, Studio Mailbox). She has a sharp wit and a wonderful talent in describing the fun and frustrations of being an artist. Her experience of being an American mother in Germany made coffee come out my nose more than once. TJ and I have discussed creative topics, and she first used the term “creality” to describe. . .well, here, I’ll let her tell it. Again. Just as she did in 2011.
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!
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.
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!!
–Quinn McDonald is a recovering perfectionist who has suffered from Creality and been delighted by its surprises. She re-read this and realized some people may not have seen it. A wonderful re-run and thanks, again, TJ.