Air and Light and Time and Space

A big part of my thesis focuses on the creative process, not just in advertising, but in a general sense. I have recently been speaking to some artists, architects, designers, strategists, performers and writers about their ‘processes’ – or lack thereof.

For me, an idealised view of creativity as being a blank canvas on which to just wait, incubate, and then ‘illuminate’ and unleash your inner genius is ridiculous, undesirable, and certainly unproductive in the long run. A removal of constraints leads to more random innovation that would produce results eventually, but overall does not equate to ‘creative freedom’, and would almost certainly result in reduced value overall (This is considering a systems view of creativity, defined as something like innovation PLUS value; or convergent PLUS divergent thinking, equals creativity). The rationale for this is firstly that a total release from restraints is more likely to cause paralysis from overpossibility than spontaneous genius,(Bilton, 2003) and secondly that constraints must always exist: whether self-imposed or extrinsic: it can be down to self-criticism, personal goals, rhythm, genre, path-dependency, budget, or the fact that you only have 20 minutes to do something before you have to meet someone for a cup of tea.

From a management perspective, this requires methods of control and containment that are more sophisticated, as opposed to a quasi-laissez-faire (It’s economic liberalism, NOT social liberalism) ‘hands off’ approach, in order to invent new rules to old games, as opposed to simply breaking rules or removing them entirely (Remember Morpheus’ speech? If not watch the first 20 seconds of the clip below).

Anyway, this non-interventionist view of creativity certainly seems dangerous. The isolation of creative work can lead to procrastination and exoticism in creative roles that whilst in some ways are necessary (eg in defending the cultural capital of a creative individual/organization’s ability to think different, and therefore ‘be different’; in preserving some of the mysteriousness and intrigue around creative development), ultimately leads to the ‘black-boxing’ of the ‘creative bit’ in a process that arguably should be considered holistically, and as creative throughout.

Mirroring the separation of idea generation and idea evaluation in brainstorming, management and creativity should go hand in hand, otherwise designated ‘creatives’ (as opposed to ‘non-creatives’…or ‘suits’? surely most organizations want to avoid this…) are held at arm’s length from the commercial context that frames and values their creativity. Whilst this might seem necessary in order to ‘let them get on with their job’ or ‘they only know what they need to know’ etc (eg the creative brief), it imposes a crude supply chain logic on what is essentially a highly complex, multi-activity process and actually causes the whole organizational system to become more hierarchical, not less.

Creative Function Diagram

Creative work, or any other function, can not be considered in isolation; nor can it be treated as a ‘boys club’, ‘downstairs (is where the magic happens)’, or as a black box. The creative process, and its management, must be holistic, and creative processes should always take place within a clearly defined space. More on this to come, but for the mean time, check out Chris Bilton‘s work, or just have a little read of Charles Bukowski’s poem, to which this post owes it’s name.

air and light and time and space

“–you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,
something has always been in the
but now
I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
the light.
for the first time in my life I’m going to have
a place and the time to

no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown
you’re going to create blind
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire.

baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses

© Charles Bukowski, Black Sparrow Press