I heard Twyla Tharp at the Bucknell Forum last night. This year, the forum’s theme is “Creativity: Beyond The Box” and it should appeal to everyone who cares about making a contribution to this world. I’m a computer scientist in the general areas of simulation and systems, both of which can use creative professionals, and in my teaching and in my scholarship, I have the tendency to look for what hasn’t been done before.
We can always rely on the successes of the past to figure out how we should go about a certain task. It’s not always positive, though, to keep on replicating the successful model. The world has a way of changing constantly around us and even the best solutions get stale after a short time. In teaching, for instance, what worked last year with a certain group of students, might not be effective with a new group of students. It’s important to be perceptive about the current circumstances and to be bold, creative, and agile at trying out new ideas. Sometimes, even the smallest tweak yields the greatest delta of improvement on what one does, so I find it essential to keep looking for ways to innovate.
Tharp spent about an hour talking about two of her books: The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life and The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together. Throughout her lecture, I found that the lessons that this accomplished choreographer was trying to convey had been deliberately chosen to have maximum impact on me, for they related very much to my current work. I enjoyed the discussion on how we experience “blocks” for getting lost in the myriad possible alternatives to do something optimally, for having fear that we’re not being innovative enough, for having fear that we will be judged by the experts who came before us. I also enjoyed the discussion on how we can push ourselves to produce something novel in a pinch.
Near the conclusion of her lecture, she dropped an idea that took me back to something I was asked about recently: “What is the point of blogging?” In Turning Back the Clock: Hot Wars and Media Populism, Umberto Eco argues that we might blog (or tweet, if we’re into the micro-thing) because of an overinflated sense of self-importance. It’s all an ego trip. The web has given us all (us on this side of the digital divide, that is) our private soapbox. Tharp, on the other hand, argues that everyone has something to say and that we should put it out there. That something, that tiny little thing, might end up being a needle in this humungous media haystack, but as long as we who blog or tweet have the means, why not “speak up”? From a more optimistic perspective, your blog might end up bringing great benefit to someone else.
I don’t write because I assume that people will read this blog (the data shows that most of my visitors come here for spamming, after all). I blog first and foremost for myself and second for others. You might understand this as a piece of evidence in support of Eco’s argument, but what I mean is that I enjoy having a record of my ideas so that I can revisit them later. It’s a checkpoint to enable future growth. In the unlikely event that I am being read, though, there it is: the best I can offer at some given moment is out there for public scrutiny and discussion. If the science/art of search engines ends up directing someone there, maybe they will take something positive from what I had to say or, even better, leave me a constructive remark/challenge/etc. How cool is it to be able to validate your ideas against those of other people?
Expect to find the most varied things here as I expose what I know, what baffles me, and what I’m ignorant about. As what applies to you: you do have something to say, I’m as sure of it as Twyla Tharp, so if you have the time and the means, blog or micro-blog away!