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Friday, August 24, 2007

new images for creativity

The other day, I had breakfast with a mentor who's a highly-accomplished academic and grantmaker. We talked about the process of germinating new creative work and bringing it to fruition. She said she always describes it as being akin to gestation and delivery (she's given birth twice). I said, it always feels to me like falling in love - attraction, flirtation, excitement, fear, the leap, the joy of connection, going deeper....

We agreed that both of those analogies are tired. They've been used, over and over. No matter how apt, we need new images, new ways to capture the creative experience.

So since then, I've been looking around. Harvesting pictures, ideas, memories. The quest continues, but here's what I've come up with so far:

It's Like This 1:

I watched a woman in the parking lot of Adam's Arcade - a Nairobi shopping centre. The parking lot is tree-lined, partly paved, but in a lot of places, the surface is dirt and gravel. She was sweeping the gravelly part, with a fagio, a local broom made of slender, flexible, pointed sticks, specially designed for use outdoors. With the pointed tips of the fagio, she was lifting blossoms, fallen from the trees, out of the gravel, and gathering them into a small pile, to one side. She did it with amazing skill and dexterity, separating fragile petals from dust and small stones. I longed for a video camera to capture her delicate repetitive motions.

It's Like This 2:

Two years ago, I shared a house in Oakland, California, with 5 roommates. One day, I went into the kitchen wearing a red chenille sweater, which had a tendency to shed fine fuzz onto any surface around it. I stood next to the gas stove, and switched on a burner. The static from the flame drew the fuzz from my sweater into its current. Before I knew it, rivulets of pale blue ghost fire, like the flame when you ignite brandy, were running up and down my sleeves and front. I yelled out. Two roommates rushed in from the living room. As they grabbed for dishtowels to smother the fire, the flames subsided - and vanished. We were all gasping at the suddenness, the bizarreness of it. For a minute - perhaps even less - I'd been on fire. Or my sweater had been on fire, with my body inside it. I was unhurt, not even singed, but I had tremors for the rest of the day. My roommate R, said several times, in the next couple of days:

My god, that was weird! How often do you see your roommate on fire?

I'd love to hear what it's like for you - readers of this blog. Post your experiences as a comment here. Or, if you're shy :-), send them to me backchannel, by clicking on Contact Shailja above.


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