Chronic Creativity

One of the most infamous symptoms associated with Chronic Creativity is claustrophobia — the fear of being confined. People with Chronic Creativity are always trying to "hop out of the box." This proverbial box is better known as "the way it's always been."

This claustrophobia is often misdiagnosed as being rebellion. Therefore, those with CC (Chronic Creativity) seem to get into a lot of trouble especially with those who are authority figures in their lives. Those with the condition are often seen as troublemakers. They are the ones who ruffle feathers whether they intend to or not. Their questioning of current ideas, systems, and patterns is a bit too much for the orderly and traditional types.

Associated with this claustrophobia is a heightened need to explore. Most people enjoy safety, comfort, and the familiar. Most people enjoy an environment that is predictable and void of change. Most people want "the way it's always been." However, those with CC want to explore new ways, new ideas, and new patterns of doing things. Their motive for exploration is not necessarily that they abhor the old. Sometimes they genuinely believe that there is a more efficient or better way. This need to explore is naturally in their psyche. They find it thrilling to trod on virgin soil. They are passionate about discovery and are the happiest when they are on a creative journey. They have a keen awareness and an insatiable curiosity.

In order to illustrate the CC motive and the importance of exploration, I would like to share this story.

"Discovery lost"

(A Parable on the fear of risk)

There once was a nine year old boy with red hair and freckles named Patrick Murphy who lived in the Irish countryside with his grandfather. Together, they dwelled in a farmhouse along an ancient road. Everyday since the age of five, Patrick was trained to walk to the store down the road to get food and supplies for his crippled grandfather. He actually didn't mind the walk. For him, it was the most exciting part of the day. He especially loved the smell of the fog in Ireland and how it licked his face and hair.

Everyday while walking, Patrick would hear a unique and faint sound when he came to a certain spot in the road. Often, he would pause and listen. He was intrigued and desperately wanted to know where the sound was coming from and what it was. One day, he decided to tell his grandfather about it.

"Grandpa, I keep hearing a certain sound when I get to the second dip in the road. What do you suppose it is?"

"Hell if I know, lad", he answered. "Why, I suppose you are hearing the howl of the devil himself. He's watchin' you, lad. And, like a wolf, he will jump out and eat ya if you do anything against God's law. You'll be cursed. They say that he ate Molly Pucket who lived fifty years ago. She was walking along the road, supposed to be going to the store. But instead, she met a lad and kissed him in the bushes. She was just a wee nine year old like yourself."

"Grandpa, it doesn't sound like the devil or wolves. It sounds nice," answered Patrick. "Can't I just go check it out?"

Pointing out the window with his cane, the grandpa angrily replied, "THAT road was put there long ago for a good reason. Stay on the road. END of discussion!" He slammed his cane on the floor, slapped Patrick in the face with his rough and dry hand, and walked away. Patrick was so shocked that he wet his pants right there on the floor by the doorway. It was the first time that his grandfather hit him.

The next morning as Patrick went on his daily walk to the store, he was very sad. He was torn. He loved and respected his grandpa. He didn't intend to make him so upset. He just wanted to know what the sound was and wanted to explore it. He felt a lot of shame over his curiosity. He wasn't necessarily mad at his grandpa. He was mad at himself for asking in the first place. He was also mad that his father left his sick mother. He was mad that his mother died. He remembered seeing his father kiss his mother when he was four. "The devil must have got them because they kissed", he surmised. He also decided that he didn't want to be cursed. "Perhaps", he thought, "if I never kiss a girl in my lifetime, I will be safe. Maybe the devil will like me and then I can discover the truth behind the sound and know about his secrets."

Years passed on and his grandfather eventually died. The grown grandson remained single and continued to live in the farmhouse and tended the sheep. He also continued to walk to the store everyday. However, he eventually got so used to the sound when he passed the second dip in the road that he didn't think about it anymore. He poured himself into his work as a shepherd and ritualistically performed his daily duties.

One sunny and hot afternoon, he heard a knock on his door. He walked over to the door with his cane and opened it. There on his front step was a small boy who was dripping with water. His hair was wringing wet, his shoes were soaked, and his clothes were dripping water onto the old man's foot. The little boy looked like he had blood all over his face. Horrified, Patrick said, "What can I do to help you son?"

Full of Irish enthusiasm the young boy answered, "Can I use your bathroom? My friends and I are playing in that huge waterfall over there and we're eating all of the wild raspberries! We are having soooooo much fun! But I really need to use the bathroom. Please?"

Stunned, Patrick tilted his head slightly and asked, "Wild raspberries and a waterfall?"

"Yeah, you should know!" answered the boy wiggling around with his hands by his groin. "It's just beyond the second dip in the road. You know! Over by the cliffs! And there are millions of raspberries. I'm surprised you've never eaten them. Can't you tell I've eaten about a hundred? We're having a blast! But please sir—"

Patrick let the boy in to use his bathroom and paused to think. He stared down at the puddle of water the boy brought in. He remembered the ground being wet with pee there before. Next he recalled being curious about the beautiful sound when he was a young lad. He remembered how he vowed to never kiss a girl so that he wouldn't be cursed. He remembered being so afraid that something bad would happen to him if he made one little mistake or followed his curiosities. He remembered keeping to himself in his teenage and adult years.

"How strange", he thought to himself. "Did my vow to not kiss a girl reveal this truth?" He paused a few moments and answered himself in a mumble, "No! That's childish foolishness!" Then, years of regrets began to flood him like a mighty river. He realized the emptiness and fear that had consumed his life.

Suddenly, the young boy rushed back into the room. "Thank you, sir!"

And as the young boy was exiting the doorway, Patrick Murphy hollered, "Have fun! I hope you find a nice girl to kiss down there!" The young boy giggled, "I already have!"

The tragedy in life is that far too many people fail to explore. They are content in their own-boxed world. They are too afraid to ask questions. They choose to ignore their instincts for exploration. As a result, they lose their sense of exploration over time. They die "inside of the box" and miss out on a lot of living. Exploration is a choice. Sometimes, the greatest things to explore are the closest to us. Exploration does not have to be overseas. We can explore the wonder in our own backyard. We can explore the nature and history of our city. We can explore people close to us. We can explore our environment and learn something new. We can explore in the library or at a museum.

Recently, I have made a conscious choice to explore the area that I am living in. After living in Grafton, WI for almost seven years I realized that I had never been inside the one and only Chinese restaurant in my city. When I first moved here, someone told me that the restaurant was not worth going into. Because of that one conversation, I forgot about the restaurant and never visited. The other day, I realized the foolishness of my actions and decided to pay a visit. I wanted some egg drop soup and didn't want to drive far to get it. When I walked into the restaurant, I was amazed at the cleanliness, friendliness, professionalism, prices, and quality of food. I discovered a wonderful restaurant three blocks from my house and it took me almost seven years to discover it! This is just one of many of my small adventures in recent days. My point is that we all can utilize our environment. There is a lot more to explore than we realize.

Try exploring the history of your city. Although I am not a history buff, I began to do this. Each nugget of information that I found led me on another quest for more. The more I searched, the more inspired I got about Paramount Records which recorded many of the "race records" of the 1920's and 30's. I discovered that legendary Delta blues artists came to my city to record their songs. Tremendous African American and music history happened literally BLOCKS from my home! Talk about a treasure in your own back yard! The Paramount story continues to intrigue and inspire me to this day! What legendary events took place near you?

Another interesting area that I discovered just this past summer was the Kohler Design Center in Kohler, WI. I drove by the city many times without ever realizing the richness of history, art, and design that dwelt there. From the outside of the Kohler Design Center, I gathered that it was just a bathroom showroom. When I got inside, I was in awe of how beautiful the model bathrooms and kitchens were. I found the various themes fascinating. Then, when I used the bathroom in the basement, I was surprised to see a museum full of antique bathroom items. I saw what the first toilets looked like. I saw what the bathrooms of my grandmother's era looked like. In addition, I discovered sculptures and works of art in this basement museum. I read writings on the wall and saw photos that educated me. I learned about the rich history of the city of Kohler, it's people, and the wonderful work philosophy of Mr. Kohler. Finally, I was able to view a short movie that gave more history. I discovered a gold mine of inspiration in a place that specializes in toilets and sinks!

The beauty of exploration is that it can be applied to any venue. Although it can be applied to our environment, it can also be applied to the arts, science, politics, government, math, education, religion, medicine, etc… The list is endless. Think about it. How many advances have been made as a result of someone being driven by curiosity and the passion to explore? Where would this world be if it were not for the explorers? Where would this world be if nobody ever jumped outside of the box? This world would be extremely primitive.

At times, I have failed to explore certain things in life for fear of being rejected, made fun of, or being labeled as rebellious. Once in awhile I become intrigued and want to follow up on an idea. But then there is also that conflict inside of me. "Just who do you think you are? You are insane. That's a ridiculous idea. It's not going to work." To be perfectly honest, I am fighting those thoughts even as I write this book! In the past, I have found it more convenient to compromise and to stop questioning just so that I could feel like I fit in. However, this road has usually left me feeling oppressed and melancholy. I have discovered that it is all right to be claustrophobic. After all, which is worse?

Claustrophobia: the fear of confinement -or-
Neophobia: the fear of innovation or anything new
Kainophobia: the fear of change
Agoraphobia: the fear of open space
Phronemophobia: the fear of thinking

It is possible for those who are not infected with Chronic Creativity to be injected with a series of shots. Here is the first shot. Go ahead and take it if you dare.

Shot #1: Explore

Start going down different paths. Ask questions. Follow your curiosity. Research your ideas. Explore your environment. Ignore those negative thoughts that tell you not to — whether they are coming from you or others. Remember, explorers like yourself have changed this world!

This excerpt is from Chronic Creativity: A Diagnostic Look at the Condition and How to Become Infected ©2001 Angela K. Mack. All rights reserved.

Angela K. MackAngie Mack Reilly is a musical director, performing artist, blues educator and writer who has a wealth of experience and connections in the arts and entertainment industry. More