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What rose trellises have to do with your creativity (& your business)

One of my pet peeves is something I see all too regularly: people using stereotypes as a shield. Specifically, stereotypes about themselves. Specifically, this whole “I’m an ARTEEST, I don’t need no stinkin’ structure” thing.

Here’s the deal: there is some small amount of people who actually do thrive in complete and utter chaos. A very, very small amount of people. Everyone else who uses the “I’m an artist/creative/right-brainer, I can’t do it” excuse is shooting themselves in the foot. (Ow.)

It’s a false divide.

This whole issue of creativity being at odds with other things seems to be a fairly recent development. One that is probably based in that ol’ “right brain vs. left brain” chestnut. Which is kind of ridiculous, given that people (people like cognitive scientists) have been saying for some 25 years that dividing broad activities (such as creativity) up according to brain hemisphere is – well, silly. And, you know, not backed up by the science.

(And I quote, “What we call “creativity” is so diverse that it can’t be localized in the brain very well.” In other words? Creativity: a whole brain activity.)

It can be useful as a shorthand, a tool, but, like many tools, somehow the relationship has got turned around so that the tool is the master and we’re working for it, instead of the other way around. Not very helpful now, is it?

Da Vinci was a painter and a sculptor, a mathematician and an engineer. Nobody told him these things contradicted each other. Ben Franklin played three instruments and composed music in addition to being a crazy-smart scientist. I’m sure there are more examples, but that will suffice for now. (We could probably add JK Rowling to the list – author & amazing business woman.)

It kills your creativity.

When you don’t have any idea where your art supplies are at, or where you left that first draft, or you forgot that awesome new thing you wanted to work on, or you don’t keep track of your ideas so they die on the vine, never coming to fruition…it is not beneficial to your creativity. One would argue that it is, in fact, the other way around.

It kills your business.

And, of course, if you can’t keep track of your art supplies or your first draft or your ideas, chances are you’re having a hard time keeping track of other things, too. Like your clients, and where their projects are at, and what round of revisions you’re on, and how much time you’re actually spending on work, and what your profit margin is. Which translates into:

  • less customers
  • less time
  • less money
  • lots of frustration & overwhelm

Yuck.

You weren’t taught how.

And here’s the reason that, although this myth-shield-excuse really bothers me, I don’t blame you for ending up believing it. The simple fact is, you weren’t taught how to be any other way. People assume that creative folks are a lost cause when it comes to these things, that they really do work best in chaos, that that’s just the way they are. Most schools are woefully inadequate in many areas, and this is one of them – they still encourage this false divide.

Then, by the time you do start hearing about things like “systems” or “organization” or “productivity”, they’re packaged as one-size-fits-all solutions – the assumption being, if it doesn’t fit you, something is wrong with you, not it. They don’t work for you, and you don’t know what does. And it’s easier to just work in the current, somewhat restrictive chaos rather than cut off a part of yourself trying to fit into a too-small box.

You are a rose.

Yes? Hopefully we can agree on that – you are totally amazing & wonderful & beautiful. I believe it wholeheartedly.

Picture a rose bush. This rose bush in particular, it’s not looking bad, per se, but it’s kinda…all over the place. It looks like it’s not really sure where to go. Got it?

Now: give that rose bush a trellis to twine around. Shazam! How’s the rose bush looking now? Much better, yes? Growing tall, reaching towards the sun, dazzling bystanders with its beauty.

Structure will not kill creativity, any more than a trellis will kill a rose bush. It’s an incredibly useful tool that can put you back in control and in power. And it doesn’t have to feel confining or stuffy or boring – it can feel supportive, and bring an ease to things. This might seem totally baffling, but trust me when I say that it can. The results? So, so gorgeous.

What trellises have you built for yourself in your life and work? Where do they need shored up a bit?

Oh, and if you loved this article, please tweet it, like it, share it! I want to get the word out to as many people as possible. Let’s build some trellises!

20 Comments

  1. God bless you for saying this! Structure is not the enemy of creativity. In fact, the more open and creative the tasks I give my students, the more of a framework I need to put into place so they don’t collapse into a gooey heap. Mayhem and meltdowns happen if something doesn’t have enough of a scaffold.

    Reply

    • Thanks Ellen! I’m glad you liked it 🙂 I read a study a while ago that actually said some restrictions increase creativity in solving a problem…which goes along with what you said about your students. You just have to use the right kind of restrictions.

      Reply

  2. Society seems to have this odd idea the creativity is separate from certain tasks or that only certain activities/people are creative. This has never made any sense to me. Structure and organization are important.The trick is finding what works for you, which being an arteest usually means making up your own thing. Sometimes we need someone to show us how to do that. Custom handmade trellis anyone?

    Reply

    • “Society seems to have this odd idea the creativity is separate from certain tasks or that only certain activities/people are creative. ”

      Yes. Yes yes yes. So much smartness, Delisa – thank you for commenting, I very much appreciate it!

      One of the services that will be available soon is actually focused around creating a custom handmade trellis, so to speak. It’s something I see a great need for, because the one-size-fits-all solutions are just not cutting it for people!

      Reply

  3. Creativity seems to thrive best within limits… or something like that. And I’ve long loved the trellis metaphor, it seems to be the best approach to structure, for me. It’s just there, to offer support, and I’m free to reach out beyond it, when I can!

    Reply

    • Isn’t it such a great metaphor? It’s not there to limit you or hold you down or box you in, it’s there to support you & let you stretch towards the sky. 🙂 Thanks for commenting, Tori!

      Reply

  4. This is a fantastic post! Creating a framework to hang your creativity from is vital. Very few people I know can work in an unstructured environment, and those that can are often partnered in some way with people who are very organized. I find that I, personally, need structure in order to feel safe enough to express the depths of my creative self.

    Reply

    • “I find that I, personally, need structure in order to feel safe enough to express the depths of my creative self.”

      Oh, that’s so insightful, Tina! And not something I had actually thought of myself, but it makes perfect sense. When there’s a safety net, it’s a lot easier to get on the trapeze, right? I’ve noticed the partnering too, and it was something that was touched on in Making Ideas Happen, if I’m remembering correctly (great book, by the way!). Thanks for the comment, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

      Reply

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  6. LOVE this post – I work as an artist, but as a freelancer and team leader, I am so thankful that I possess both creative AND organizational skills. I often work with other super creative people and once in a while, when working among someone else’s chaos someone will sneer at my organized charts with color coded schedules and to-so lists and make reference to themselves being an ‘artist’ as a defense, and pass a little judgement as if to say, I am not a real artist because how could I be when I am so organized… thanks for this post – let’s bust this myth!

    Reply

    • See, and when I hear or see things like that, my first thought is usually that they pass judgement & get defensive because they wish they could have the same thing – but don’t know how to make it work for them. People who don’t view themselves as creative tend to see creativity as this totally mysterious nebulous thing, which, in my experience, most creative peeps find kind of silly or funny – but then a lot of creative people think the *exact same* thing about figuring out ways to make sure they’re staying on top of their work/business/art.

      Glad you liked the post – thank you for commenting! and GOOD ON YOU for not boxing yourself in 😀

      Reply

  7. What a breath of fresh air. Substitute “Artist” for Pagan as well and you get the same thing.

    It has taken me a long time to get round to the idea I could be a Writer and a Pagan and a creative person and also be organised, effective and reliable. I know so many women who have bottled up their creativity and taken more traditional careers because they were afraid coming out as a creative person would somehow make them disorganised!

    Great work in helping to dispel this damaging lie.

    Reply

    • Ah yes, I didn’t make the connection but you do see the same thing a lot in the pagan community. I’m not super active in pagan communities in general (since I’m a hard polytheist, I don’t have a lot in common philosophically with many Wicca-flavored pagans) but I have seen the same attitude that comes with certain artists, the “I’m proud to be a flake” attitude. Which is, you may have guessed, not my thing at all.

      The stereotypes about creativity hurt people on both sides – the artists who refuse to get any semblance of organized because they think it will kill their creativity, and the organized people who are afraid to get creativity because they think it will throw off all of their systems. Everybody loses!

      Glad you liked the post – thank you for commenting! 🙂

      Reply

      • I got fed up many years ago with the attitude that you couldn’t be a proper Pagan if you had a successful career, a successful love life, and weren’t broke. My view was and is that Magickal practice is hard work, it requires discipline and if you can’t even make it to a ritual on time then why do you think you can do magick. I do take an admittedly hardline.

        If you are interested my blog is Pagan blog but I don’t follow a Wiccan path at all. I am more interested in a fulfilling spirituality and the real nuts and bolts of following a magickal practice that *works* which is why I try to blog about.

        Reply

  8. Hey Michelle! Followed you over here from your comment on bybloggers – and this is so wild, because I wrote about this same topic at my site a few weeks ago. I love the way Twyla Tharp writes about it in THE CREATIVITY HABIT — particularly the bit about her boxes. She gets one per project, and everything related to the project goes in it, including inspirational items, music, pics, whatever. She also writes about her morning ritual (working out) which gets her in the headspace to work. Bottom line: you need both sides of the brain to do good work, especially creative work. And that means when you put some structure to your day, it actually heightens your creativity.

    Reply

    • Hey Annie! Ahh, I love the Creativity Habit. I actually haven’t finished it yet, because I originally checked it out from the library and then ran out of time – but I picked up a used copy a few months ago, so I’ve been looking forward to sitting down and rereading it + finishing it. Twyla and I agree on many many things!

      Thanks for your comment + stopping by 😀 (And also, what a great website name!)

      Reply

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