In Janet Martin’s August 4 FreelanceSwitch article on creative activities, we read about the importance of building new creative muscles.
The end of this article included a list of five suggestions for expanding one’s creativity:
- Try photography
- Make something by sewing it or employing another craft
- Learn stop-motion animation
- Take a writing class
- Take a drawing class
These are very good suggestions, but, to me, they don’t go far enough. All too often, we creatives are criticized for not understanding how non-artists work. So, it’s time to break out of our artistic bubbles and explore the rest of the world. And, not to worry, there are plenty of friendly tour guides out there.
Take, for example, the manufacturing plant I visited in late July. A relative co-founded the company, and I’ve heard him talk about it for years. But I’d never been there. Now, you may be thinking that I just visited the dullest, most uncreative place on the planet. I mean, come on. A manufacturing plant. How exciting can that be?
I’ll confess to a certain amount of pride in seeing that my relative’s ideas have come to life in a place with an employee bulletin board celebrating hiring anniversaries, boxes full of products awaiting shipment, and lively discussions about how best to grow the company. This place makes products that took a lot of scientific and engineering creativity to devise. And the machines that make them didn’t come from off the shelf at Acme Manufacturing Equipment. They had to be designed and custom-made to the specifications of this plant.
In short, I saw a lot of creativity in this place.
Okay, enough manufacturing. Now let’s look another field that isn’t renowned for creativity, plumbing. Last year, I wrote about my experiences as a post-Hurricane Katrina reconstruction volunteer in coastal Mississippi. Some, but not all of my fellow volunteers were employed in the construction trades. One of the professionals was a master plumber from Georgia. For the better part of a week, he and his volunteer crew worked on a real brain-twister: Re-floating a house boat.
Marc had never done that kind of work before, but he was up for the challenge. The job involved designing a flotation device that would surround the house boat without inhibiting its movement. What he came up with looked like one of those pool chairs with the thick armrests that float on the surface of the water. And it worked.
Oh, did I mention that the owner of the house boat didn’t get along with the owner of the place where he moored said boat? That the two had previously squared off with pistols in their back pockets? And that a brave bystander stepped between the angry men and talked them out of a duel? In addition to “Flotation System Designer” and “Plumber,” Marc’s volunteer job description had to include “Diplomat.”
In short, don’t limit your creative muscle-building to the arts. There’s a lot of creativity in places where you wouldn’t expect to find it.
Martha Retallick is a freelance designer and photographer in Tucson, Arizona.