Chronic Creativity

"Idea-itis" is a term that I wish would fit together without the hyphen! However, too many vowels require me to create this mishap word. At any rate, I chose the term, "idea-itis" to mean "the inflammation of an idea."

Chronic Creativity requires taking an idea, however small, and "inflaming" it. As a person diagnosed with CC, I find that I am often faced with an idea. Then I add onto the idea. Next, I keep adding more ideas to my original idea little by little. The final realization is that my end product is bigger than my original seed thought. The idea has become inflamed.

One little boy described creativity to me one day almost prophetically. "Mrs. Mack, I think I know what creativity is." (At first, I was shocked by the boys' statement. He knew nothing about my passion for creativity nor were we previously talking about it.) "What is creativity, Steven?" I asked anxiously. "It's like building with Legos." he answered confidently. "First, you build a little bit with a few pieces. Then you add more to it. After that, you add even more to it. That's what creativity is, Mrs. Mack." To be honest, I was shocked by the 6 year old's profound statement.

Unfortunately, creativity is a concept that many children relate to easily and many of us adults seem to forget. It all begins with a thought or a "what if." In order to find the initial seeds of an idea, one has to ask the "what if" questions. Sad but true, many adults lose this sense of curiosity and exploration as they get older.

A good example of this type of questioning would be, "What if this horn can be made in a similar fashion but with different raw materials?" In fact, my nine-year old son and I asked ourselves this question just today. We began with a "what if" idea. Next, we went to the local Home Depot store and began searching for raw materials to duplicate a horn. We came across various different raw materials designed for plumbing and heating such as different shapes of PVC pipe, copper, and aluminum. We began banging on and blowing through every raw material possible. I, personally, laughed as I saw men in their 50's and 60's looking at us strangely and then smiling. Right then and there I wanted to say, "We are not crazy. Blame it on the Chronic Creativity!" We discovered many different timbres on various raw materials and our ideas kept expanding. Not only did we discover a way to make a horn out of a piece of bendable plastic tubing and a funnel, but we began thinking about many other instruments that we could create as well. That idea then led me to thinking about stage designs and props that I could create out of plumbing and heating materials as well. So you see one little idea, or "what if", grew (and will probably continue to grow knowing us.)

An inflammation of an idea may appear to go against logic at the time. (For example, how many people have tried to create different timbres on a heating duct?) However, I highly encourage you to throw the logic out. Throw out everything that you have previously learned. Let your imagination run wild. Let your brain "storm" for ideas. Let the ideas grow and expand. Most chances are, your inflammation of ideas may not fly. But that's OK. (Most of my inflammations of ideas do not fly.) But then again, you may just come up with an idea that revolutionizes the world around you!

Many people are under the false notion that creativity is difficult. It really isn't, especially when it is a lifestyle. Creativity is quite mathematical in some ways if you think about it. It involves an X (original thought) + Y2 (the expansion of an idea) = Z (final result). Creativity is not magical. Creativity is not mysterious. Creativity is not for an elite few. I would say that creativity is ultimately for the courageous risk takers.

I am continually amazed when people admire my guitar skills and then say something like, "I would really like to play the guitar, too." So, I show them a few things. They try it. They can't do it. The strings hurt their fingers. They get cramps in their hand. They can't figure out the strumming for the first time. They quit in spirit. I explain to them that any skill worth having is probably going to have a beginning. That beginning is going to be a challenge. But after much determination and practice, you hurdle that challenge. So you go onto the next guitar skill. It's difficult at first, but you press through. You master it. This cycle of growing the talent or the idea is key. Imagine if Liberace quit after his first piano lesson. What if he whined, "I can't... I can't..." People who quit like this are not infected with Chronic Creativity.

If this is you, my challenge to you is to begin thinking about your "what if." Even right now. There must be something that you dream of. Even in your profession, perhaps you are not satisfied. You do not like how things are running. But yet, maybe you have not questioned because you have been trained that "that's the way it's always been and always will be." Step outside of that box and imagine… Ask yourself, "What if?" Keep asking that question. Perhaps that question will inspire you to do some exploration. Perhaps your mind will begin to wander. Let it wander. Let it see things being done in different ways. Take any seed of an idea that you get and let it expand. Expand the idea by putting yourself in a creative-conducive setting. Literally place yourself in a different setting. Meet with new people. Research. Ask questions. Open your mind. Follow your inkling of an idea. Temporarily forget what you have been taught. At any cost, GET AN IDEA!!!! Then, I promise you, if you let it, the idea will inflame (IF YOU DON'T QUIT!!!) Tell yourself, "I am not crazy. I am being infected with Chronic Creativity!" •

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