“Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth.”
-Tom Barrett

by Kyla Jonas

I’ve always been a believer that art, and other creative work, can help heal the sad or the sick. After reading a recent article about Onsite, the detox centre located above Insite on East Hastings, I’m convinced expression through art can help smooth the healing process.

The Vancouver article touches on Onsite and how it has established a creative writing workshop that helps recovering addicts, homeless and mental health patients tell their stories. This workshop is a type of art therapy that aids the healing process through expression and self-exploration of those who have gone unheard.

Although the program is still going on, in the past, stories and poems written during the creative writing workshop were published in a special issue of Megaphone Magazine, called “Voices on the Street.” Megaphone Magazine is a publication published and sold bi-weekly by the low-income or the homeless.

An article in the Daily Tarheel discusses how a hospital in North Carolina uses art therapy simply to distract their patients from the fact that they’re in the hospital.

“Art changes your mood, it gets your mind off things, it lets you express yourself,” said Katy Heubel, the president of ArtHeels, a North Carolina university group that brings art therapy activities to children in Hospital’s.

According to Karen Freud, art therapist, art therapy works because:

  • Art therapy offers the sufferer a safe method of self-expression
  • You can let your mind wander as visual expressions can help abstract problems take form through random design.
  • Talking about your art can help others find a way into your inner world, or the meaning behind the painting, providing insight to your suffering.
  • Art is often linked to emotions. If you don’t have a way of verbalizing those emotions, they can be discovered through art.
  • Producing art is relaxing to the body and mind. Creative acts like painting, can ease nerves and stifle anger.
Other art therapy organizations around Vancouver:

“Can anybody be given a great degree of creativity? No. They can be given the equipment to develop it-if they have it in them in the first place.” – George Shearing

Lately, there as been a lot in the news about recent technologies that are helping students further their education by opening the door to new types of learning and resources. Now with the launch of the iPad 2 and the kindle fire, books, and especially textbooks, are becoming obsolete.

Although it is a belief that creativity and directed-attention are an impossibility when technology is introduced into the equation, however, it’s quite the contrary.

A lot of new tools like tablets, eTextbooks, and smartphone app’s are catered to enhance creativity and the way we learn.

An example of this is discussed in an article in US News about global classrooms, which introduce the postive aspects of adding new technologies to schools.“Who does work just by pencil and paper anymore?” asks Shawna Sadler, technology officer at Taylor Family Digital Library. “It’s all digital. We want to make sure our students have access to these new forms of expression.”

New technologies are employed to help enhance:

  • collaborative work
  • exercises in creativity
  • preparation for the “real work world”
  • exploration of new brainstorming techniques
  • increased efficiency

In my experience, learning about new technologies helps to prepare yourself for becoming more open-minded, which allows you to have better access to the creative compartments of your mind. If you’re able to activate the parts of your brain used for learning and teach yourself a new technology, it’s easier to approach and encourage creativity.

People are often encouraged to “exercise the brain” by free-writing, reading, or working with numbers because more neural activity in your brain helps to regenerate your neural networks. Just like exercising the body keeps you flexible and able to participate in more activities, when you exercise the mind your able to keep the brain flexible and better prepare it for engagement in creative work. 

Other links about creativity, technology and education:

Photo and story by Kyla Jonas

I’m a big believer in boredom. Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity. Out of curiosity comes everything.” – Steve Jobs

Last week I mentioned that I would be discussing procrastination, but I haven’t gotten around to researching the topic, (just kidding). However, I do want to sidetrack a little and talk about the great creative and leader in inspiration, Steve Jobs.

Since Jobs passed away last week, I’ve been wondering, what makes certain people so successful and are their brains superior in the creative realm? Apple was at the forefront for a lot of great technology and a lot of unique designs. Most of Apple’s creative work was thanks to Jobs.

Science behind the creative mind

Studies are currently underway investigating the idea that structural differences exist in the brain for creative thought versus non-creative thought.

At the University of Iowa, Nancy Andreasen’s studies have concluded, through brain scans, that creativity has a lot to do with unconscious thought. An inspired idea is more likely to come to you when you aren’t looking for it.

A Toronto researcher, Oshin Vartanian, has determined that creativity is at its strongest when we are able to silence “our inner critic.” Through brain scans, Dr. Vartanian can determine which part of the brain is suppressed during creative thought experiments, and which parts are fully-active.

These experiments are fairly new and on-going. It’s not quite clear, at this time, which parts of the brain are in control of the creative process.

However, it is clear that Jobs was a creative guide to many, whether his brain was superior or not. In 2005 Jobs gave an inspiring speech at Stanford’s commencement ceremony about struggle, love, death and creativity.

Tips, from Steve Jobs, on how to stay motivated and creative:
  • “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.”
  • After getting fired by Apple when Jobs was only 30, he found the creative opportunity in his misfortune, “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
  • “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
  • “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”
  • “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
Photos and story by Kyla Jonas

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
– Scott Adams 

Creativity is an abstract concept, so instead of directly defining the complexity of this word I’ll guide you through ideas on the psychology behind creativity. Through exploration you can build your own definition and see where you sit on the creative spectrum. I’ll have input from creatives around Vancouver who will be exploring their tips and tricks for stimulating creative flow.

This week: Is it possible to be productive and creative? 

On the Psychology Today blog, Johnathan Fields discusses the difficulties with intertwining the relationship between productivity and creativity and why we get so easily distracted from tasks involving creative work.

“Time away. Room to process, synthesize, allow connections between seemingly disparate parts to effervesce out of the ether of the mind. Genius is the offspring of the in-between,” writes Fields.

Fields’ believes the problems with productivity can be summed up to this:

Hyperconnectivity – is when you have a connection to an overwhelming amount of multiple assignments. We construct a belief that we are efficiently getting work done because we’re using every minute of our day multi-tasking or tying ourselves to collective assignments. However, constantly switching tasks distracts your focus, which takes much effort to get back. Multi-tasking also destroys the creative flow by giving little time for reflection and evolving ideas.

This works negatively in combination with:

Intermittent Reinforcement – when you perform a distracting behaviour during a task, and that activity gives you pleasure – you’re most likely to repeat and crave the distracting behaviour. This repetition will barricade your motivation to return to your task and trump any chance of a creative flow.

Although it’s possible to be both productive and creative – try and complete one activity before beginning another or you’ll end up sacrificing a little of one to strengthen the other.

When your zen is gone and the creative flow can’t find the fastest route to you – try one of this week’s top five ways to get it back.

  • Try free writing. Find a pen and a pad of paper and start writing. Don’t think – just write. Your brain finds ways to work out problems on its own when you shut off your processing and let your brain let itself go.
  • Meditate. Here’s a different way to shut off your brain. Let your mind wander and escape the resound of the city surrounding you. But please, don’t go to hot yoga. (Seriously, it’s gross).
  • Read a page of the dictionary. I used to do this nightly before I went to sleep. It helped me sleep on the words and new ideas were produced just from extending my vocabulary. You’ll start picking up funny words like “Dandiprat” (which means small man). Clearly, I’ve found a number of ways to utilize that word.
  • Make lists. Start keeping track of things that inspire you. Write down every idea that pops into your head. Collect these lists and go back to them when feeling a loss of inspiration. Here’s an online list application to keep your lists organized.
  • Buy a book that helps spark creativity. A good example would be Cheerful In 3 1/2 Months. This adult picture book, by Gerard Jansen, shows you ways of doing things differently than you’re used to.
Next week: Procrastination!