Creation, beyond utility

Creation for the sake of creation?

Will you be able create something only for the sake of creation – just because you enjoy creating it? Without really worrying about the end-results from the word go? Without really worrying if the final creation would be somehow useful? Creating only because you want to create it? And while creating it, have you experienced that childlike joy of creation – irrespective of the outcome itself?

In the last article The bliss of solitude, I had mentioned this about creativity

Creativity is not a privilege of few gifted creatives – we all can create, and it doesn’t have to be a piece of art.
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When we are working on something new with our own hands, it is an immersing experience – sort of a meditative flow. As compared to consumption, actually creating something yourself is so much more involving & satisfying. I wonder why we miss out on  joy of creation because we tend to leave creativity and its pleasure for the creatives, say – artists or artisans.

Moreover, when we are working with our on hands, we are more focused on the task at hand and our attention is less likely to waver. These days most of us are spending our spare time in front of some screen (phone, laptop, TV), and we are constantly juggling between mobile apps, browser tabs, or TV channels. The attention span is lower than ever before, and it does take toll on our brains, this is what the research says –

Every time you shift your attention from one thing to another, the brain has to engage a neurochemical switch that uses up nutrients (glucose) in the brain to accomplish that. So if you’re attempting to multitask, you know, doing four or five things at once, you’re not actually doing four or five things at once, because the brain doesn’t work that way. Instead, you’re rapidly shifting from one thing to the next, depleting neural resources as you go.

~ Dr. Daniel Levitin [1]

On the other hand, creating something with our own hands is immensely useful for our brains as well. When you are not doing something mechanically (for example – driving, which primarily uses CNS, not brain), it does lot of wonderful things to your brain and health. It helps you to focus, to become calmer, and being mindful. That’s the reason many of us (including myself) find cooking or gardening almost therapeutic. And all of us are creative – I had written about this with insights from IDEO founder David Kelley and several discussions related to Being Creative.

Creativity, a child’s play?

Kids often like to play with their hands in the early age – besides developing their motor skills and dexterity it also helps them to focus intensely with their mind. And we all have seen how happy kids could get playing with their creations – even though only their doting parents (occasionally) appreciate the results. No wonder kids are usually creative because the ability to “play” aimlessly but wholeheartedly is so crucial for the creativity. This is what famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung says about creation, intellect and play –

Carl Jung on Creation
Carl Jung on Creation, intellect and play (PC: izQuotes)

Simone Giertz is a Swedish inventor, maker, robotics enthusiast, TV host, and a YouTube creator. When I saw her spirited, joyous presence in the featured TED talk, she reminded me of the energy and joy that a kid carries – happily doing their own thing. And that’s exactly what she does – in her own words, she makes those “useless” machines. She created a ‘toothbrush helmet’, made its creation video that went viral, and lunched her career as a YouTube creator (her channel has 2.2 million subscribers today). Among other things, she has created a hair-cutting drone, machine to help her wake up in the morning, machine to chop vegetables and so on. You can visit her YouTube Channel to find out more about her experiments. To experience this level of childlike joy in the creation itself, it is crucial that one is able to look beyond its utility or commercial value, this is how Simone Giertz puts it –

And even though I didn’t realize it at the time, building stupid things was actually quite smart, because as I kept on learning about hardware, for the first time in my life, I did not have to deal with my performance anxiety. And as soon as I removed all pressure and expectations from myself, that pressure quickly got replaced by enthusiasm, and it allowed me to just play.

Watch her machines and listen to her own story moving away from her ‘performance anxiety‘ in this TED talk ‘Why you should make useless things’:

Why do all this?

In case someone is still wondering what’s the point in creating all these useless machines? This is how Simone Giertz answers it beautifully –

I often get asked if I think I’m ever going to build something useful, and maybe someday I will.
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It (her work around her machines, robots, and YouTube channel dedicated to it) happened just because I was enthusiastic about what I was doing, and I was sharing that enthusiasm with other people. To me that’s the true beauty of making useless things, because it’s this acknowledgment that you don’t always know what the best answer is. And it turns off that voice in your head that tells you that you know exactly how the world works. And maybe a toothbrush helmet isn’t the answer, but at least you’re asking the question.

To me her relentless efforts, enthusiasm, and joy while building those machines are far more valuable. It is more of a childlike play of creation – here the process satisfaction is more important than the end-goal satisfaction for her. Don’t you think that joy of fulfillment exudes in her entire persona?

Anil Awachat
Anil Awachat (PC: Muktangan)

The process satisfaction approach reminds me of the renowned Marathi writer Dr. Anil Awachat. He studied medicine, although he never practiced as a doctor. Besides his illustrious writing & de-addiction work, he is also famous for the range of his interests – wood-carving, sketching, photography, flute, origami and so on. Interestingly, he hasn’t sidelined those interests due to his writing or work. He still actively pursues them, and has written a book about his hobbies.[2]  Despite being in his 70’s he is still a regular participant in origami exhibitions and has built few of his own origami models over the years. He keeps creating relentlessly, without bothering about its superficial utility value. Joy of creation is the way of living for him. I think ‘The journey is the reward’ fits Anil Awachat perfectly. This is what he told me once –

“Our ability to create is our very own feature – just like our skin, or voice. Neither inferior nor superior to anyone else. If we are able to disassociate it with the monetary rewards, or with the competition, then we can really enjoy our own creation. Moreover, then we can appreciate others’ creations as well.”

I have nothing better to say! 🙂


References:

  1. Manoush Zomorodi quoting neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Levitin in her TED talk: How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas
  2. Chhandanvishayi (छंदांविषयी – Marathi) book discussing his hobbies/interests by Dr. Anil Awachat

The featured image:

The featured image by Anke Sundermeier from Pixabay and I am using it here with gratitude.