Creativity and the Clock



I have something I need to say. But I can't get the idea to form. I just can't see it yet. 

I'm stuck. 

Give me insight, illumination, intuition, inspiration.  

No. It's not happening.  Creativity refuses to be coerced by the clock.


I had gone to a conference wondering if I could find a way for PhD students to study care, respect, mutuality or love. Given the events of the last few weeks, it seemed to matter more than anything else I could imagine.

But a question arose: "How should we set milestones for progression and creative achievement?"

This week (at last) I have an answer: "Wrong Question."

My inquisitor was well-intentioned, wondering how to help doctoral candidates make their unique, creative contribution to knowledge in a controlled, regular, timely fashion.  It's a seductive idea that cascades down throughout our schools and colleges, and woe betide those whose creative insights occur just after that assessed paper is due... At all levels of education,  time runs out when we are waiting for creative moments to occur.  

Education runs to a timetable.

Creativity is a non-linear process; we can measure our effort (that is, real effort - not the effort that goes into sharpening all our pencils or noodling around wishing it was easy...) but we can't presume that our effort is directly connected to 'results'.  

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Discipline, holding ourself accountable for showing up and committing to actually do some work, is helpful.  Then the clock might be kind to us.  


And now a phrase is coming to mind....

'Sustained engagement.'

I've almost certainly stolen those words - that's one of the ways creativity works. 


So, if we can sustain our engagement, keep trying, constantly setting the conditions, supporting each other, promoting mutual synchronicity, having the right conversations, doing the work, then maybe we could measure that?  (And the 'we' is important here...).

And if, as tutors and administrators, businesses owners and leaders of institutions, we can find a way to disconnect the tyranny of the clock from our precious creativity then we might be able to focus our attention on what really matters in the world.



Take a look at Elizabeth Gilbert's funny, poignant and fascinating TED talk on 'Your elusive genius.'

Hugh McLeod's advice on creativity: "Ignore Everybody."

From the bookshelf; 'Steal like an Artist' by Austin Kleon.




Steve MarshallComment