Creativity – What is it?

Hi everyone.

Kate Walder
Kate Walder. Image by Blueprint Studios

Creativity seems to be the flavour of the month at the moment. Sometimes all I’m thinking about is paying bills, sometimes I spend several weeks mulling over a failed romance and sometimes I’m only concerned with the delicious muffins at the café up the road and how many I can eat without getting obese. But lately, I’ve been thinking a great deal about creativity and it seems to be bouncing back at me from every direction.

Creativity – what is it? My brother tried to quantify it for me the other day. According to an article he’d been reading, everyone is inherently creative but we all fall into different categories. These range from the simple joyful expression of oneself, to skill based expression, to greater levels of innovation and right through to genius. He is a brilliant bass guitarist but he often tries to argue that he isn’t creative; he’s just worked hard, even though he taught himself to play piano when he was bored one day and has written more songs than I’ve had hot dinners (he would argue that I eat a lot of salad but he’s full of shit). He put forward the idea that his creative process is merely a demonstration of skill, where as mine is an expression of originality… although he wasn’t quite this articulate. We were at my cousin’s Batmitzvah, feeling slightly uncomfortable amidst the hundreds of extended family members shouting Mazeltov and were drinking champagne to cope. So I think what he actually said was “Listen here Samantha…” “My name’s Kate!” “Oh, well whoever you are…” “I’m your twin sister!” “Right! Well Genevieve, Samantha, the point is, you’re the crazy one, and I just remember things about music. Waiter! More of that delicious alcohol-tasting glassware please.”

Now let me just say that I never thought I was creative until I was forced into it. I thought that creative people were the ones who did weird abstract art on tin sheds and vomited into a bucket at the MCA. I didn’t realise I was creative until I came back from London with nothing to do and Tyran Parke made me write a one-woman show. The only reason I have cultivated my creative instincts and taken an interest in writing is that no-one wants to hire me. It’s ok, I’m not complaining. I’ve ended up a crazy abstract artist by default and it’s something I’m rather grateful for.

Exploring your own creativity is a wonderful thing. There is a beautiful quote by Martha Graham in which she says “keep the channel open.”

Creativity is often viewed this way, as “a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action…” It is an extraordinary experience when you are in the zone and the words or music just seem to pour out of you. There is a curious feeling that something has opened up and you are simply a vessel through which an energetic force is moving. It is not our place to judge it, but to get it out and into form. I think the greater ability you have to clear your mind and connect to the “source”, the more freely your creative impulses can move through you. This is why yoga or meditation can be very beneficial for artists – it gets us out of our heads. Yoga or whiskey. I write a damn good column after a couple glasses of single malt.

But if you’re not interested in aligning your chakras or getting smashed before you write your next play, there is one simple approach that works – discipline. Developing a regular practice can be the best way to get your creative juices spinning and discover the ideas that excite you. Ideally we want a combination of the two; remaining connected to our impulses and observing the world around us, but also committing to a specific time and place where writing/creating is done. I should admit that I am guilty of never doing this. I like sleeping too much to set my alarm for 5am and get up and write for hours. But I’m fairly sure that’s why some people finish plays and I write facebook updates.

To summarise: yes, I am saying that we are all inherently creative. I don’t particularly subscribe to the notion that there are various levels; how do you measure originality and innovation when they are such subjective concepts? But there is definitely genius and there is definitely crap. Salieri said of Mozart “What was evident was that Mozart was simply transcribing music completely finished in his head.” That’s genius. At the weekend’s Jewish festivities, a grown woman got up and sang a Justin Beiber song with “original” lyrics, rhyming “Batmitzvah” with “iphone apps.” I turned to my brother who was trying not to choke on his alcohol-tasting glassware. “Levels of Creativity” I whispered, “Crap.”

I guess we all have to start somewhere.

Kate Walder

Kate is a 2008 graduate of the BA Music Theatre course from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). During her time at the academy she played the role of Linda in Blood Brothers, The Young Wife in Hello Again, Marguerita in West Side Story and featured in the ensemble of Sweeney Todd and Oklahoma!, for which she was Dance Captain. After moving to London in 2009 Kate played the role of Clio in La Dispute at the Soho Theatre and subsequently at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Since returning to Sydney, Kate has written and performed her one-woman show Coffee with Kate: the Cabaret at the 2010 inaugural Sydney Fringe Festival, a show based on a series of weekly columns she wrote for She is currently co-writing a new show with a fellow WAAPA graduate which will premiere later in the year.

Kate Walder

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