The Storm of Creativity: A book review by Bob Morris

The Storm of Creativity
Kyna Leski
The MIT Press (November 2018)

“Wanting to know something that you do not know is the creative process.” Kyna Leski

To what does the title of this book refer? Kyna Leski suggests that a storm is an appropriate metaphor for the creative process. How so? Both seem to begin from what appears to be nothing; arise out of a disturbance to displace and destabilize the status quo; increase power and impact while varying in nature and extent; both are contagious; in perpetual motion; and have reiteratIve cycles. Neither can they be controlled, nor can a specific course for either be predicted.

She goes on to observe, “The consequences of a storm and creativity are real, and specific. They are found in the exchange that happens between the world, creator, and those with whom the creation interacts. This may be the viewer or a work of art, the recipient of an idea, patient receiving the novel treatment, dweller in the built house, user of an artifact, and so on. Creation is, in this respect, truly ‘in the (mind’s) eyes of the beholder,’ and the principal consequence of the creative process is transformation.”

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to suggest the scope of Leski’s coverage:

o Storm (Pages 1-4, 7-8, 38-39, 151-152, and 165-165)
o Open mind (12-13 and 15-20)
o Uncertainty (16-17 and 163-164)
o Mistakes (17-18)
o Invention (26-28, 32-034, and 95-97)

o Framing a problem (40-43)
o Limits on problems (43-46)
o Gathering (49-52 and 56-63)
o Gathering of intelligence (56-58)
o Perceptions and Preconceptions (57-58, 25-26, 83-88, 94-95, 97-98, and 126-128)

o Form (57-60, 66-67, and 77-78)
o Abstract (63-64, 97-98, and 117-118)
o Language (71-75, and 164-165)
o Scale (74-75)
o Catenary curve (76-80)

o Conceptions (80-81, 87-88, and 95-95)
o Sensibility (83-91)
o Connecting/Connections (122-140)
o Charles Darwin (123-126)
o Synchronicity (135-139)

As Kyna Leski suggests near the conclusion of her brilliant book, “creativity is a reiterative process. But it does not reiterate within a closed loop until some end is achieved. It is ongoing, continuing…At any point in creative practice, you may go ‘back’ and unlearn, or go ‘back’ and gather…the ‘output’ of creativity, the reaching of a goal or ideal, and thus the the making of some product or consequence, is not an end point. This holds true whether the creativity takes place in an artistic or scientific realm, whether in engineering or design, whether a medical diagnosis or the writing of a poem. Creativity continues; an artifact formed through creative practice is not an end point but rather a point along a never-ending way.”

She cites my favorite passage in T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets” in Chapter 2 (“Little Gidding”) and once again as this book concludes:

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all of our exploring
Will be to arrive at where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

Each storm of creativity offers the opportunity to see at least some portion of reality — what is or what could be — that we had not recognized before. As Alvin Toffler urges us to do, we must learn, unlearn, and relearn from each storm throughout a process of discovery that never ends until we do. This is probably what Pablo Picasso had in mind when observing that he spent all of his adult life struggling to see the world as he once did as a child. His quest ended only when he died…at age 91.

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