Chronic Creativity

If you long to abolish Chronic Creativity from your life, I must be honest. It is possible. In order to rid yourself of the disease, spend more and more time on your computer each day.

Do your banking and bill paying online. Do most of your career online. Visit with family and friends online. Take continuing education courses online. Refill your prescriptions online. Watch your news and read the paper online. Look up phone numbers. Read a sermon. Make a grocery list. Count your calories. Consult an auto mechanic. The list is endless.

Surely, you could find enough things to do that you become so absorbed into two-dimensional living. The two dimensions — YOU and YOUR COMPUTER. It amazes me how many daily functions are continually being shifted online for the purpose of convenience. Within this past year, I have found myself sitting in front of my computer and living my life away with the simple strokes of my fingers.

For instance, I have had the experience of taking two 4-year college level courses online within the past few months. (Can you believe that one of them was theatre? YES, to answer your question, it can be done!) This year, I preferred to send a few Christmas cards online and did most of my Christmas shopping. I listen to my favorite music online. I keep in contact with various interest groups online.

I must admit, the newness of the online experience has been fun for me — because it is new. However, as fun and convenient as it is for me right now, how is living my life online affecting my creativity? Haven't humans been created to touch, to feel, to smell, and to taste the wonder of life?

The other day, my son and I went to a Chinese buffet restaurant. In there, we discussed the power of the Internet and computers. We talked about various jobs that could be taken over by computers in just a matter of time. We talked about the reality of being able to live an entire day in front of the computer. My son has been looking forward to living "the campus life" someday. However, I informed him that, by the time he reaches college age, many of the classes will be online and the "campus life" that he is dreaming of, may become a thing of the past.

All of this talk opened my eyes. I suddenly realized that Chronic Creativity was slowly diminishing in my life. And you know what? I LIKE having Chronic Creativity! I WANT to be infected with it!

Suddenly enlightened, I determined that we were going to live an "offline" day. I determined to quickly plunge us again into the waters of creativity. Our first stop was a park. We observed geese for 45 minutes. We also observed a frozen waterfall that contained a perfectly formed sculpture of a hand. It was as if the hand of God formed this beautiful work of art using the medium of freezing water just for us. We also laughed as we saw hundreds of geese take flight in a systematic fashion. Most of the geese groups headed west and then north. However, a few headed east. To them, we shouted and laughed, "Wrong way! Wrong way!"

We also visited an antique shop. Now, this antique shop is in my hometown that I've lived in for eight years. I asked, "Why haven't we ever been in this shop? What mystery awaits us?" On a whim, I parked the car near the shop and we went in. The store owner asked, "Can I help you?" I improvised, "Do you have any 78 records?" My son and I anxiously thumbed through old 78's. As I TOUCHED the antiques, I was immediately inspired. "I am touching the 1920's", I thought as I discovered my first Puritan Record from Port Washington, WI.

Another stop was the pet store. I was intrigued with the color schemes of the birds. Every bird was perfectly color coordinated. It blew me away. I was inspired and discovered that many of the color schemes of the birds would look nice in a home. Don't believe me? Try mixing olive green with coral.

The Chinese buffet that began our entire offline trip was equally as inspiring. We savored little bites of teriyaki chicken, egg foo jung, pork dumplings, cappuccino cake, chicken fried rice, sushi, and, our favorite, fortune cookies! Fortune cookies are totally creative. They are random little quotes that come out of a cookie and have the ability to encourage. My son got a slip of paper, "You shall become rich soon." I received, "Your lover shall never desire to leave you." Fortune cookies are great. Quite honestly, between the two of us, we opened about 16 of them and picked our favorites and threw away the rest.

While in the restaurant, we eaves-dropped on an elderly group of friends. I realized that human conversation, face to face and voice to voice, is a creative event. It is so multi-dimensional. You can read body language. You can observe interactions among different group members. You can hear the voices and see the expressions. Yes, a human group talking is an artistic event. There are so many levels of communication involved! (Online, it is just words mixed with often false identities).

We also overheard one of the restaurant employees speaking in sentences containing both American words and foreign words. Funny thing was, I understood her to say, "You cold?" and "no money, no money" in English. Immediately I wondered why these were American words that she knew well. I asked her where the egg foo jung was. She smiled and showed me. Then she spoke in her native tongue. I imagined her saying, "The gravy isn't here yet. The cook shall bring it out for you soon." It was actually quite fun trying to interpret her odd language. She inspired me. She inspired me that people don't always have to understand what you are saying. You can basically say anything you want as long as you have a smile on your face.

When I talk with somebody, I like to see what their hair looks like first. You know, you can tell a lot about a person by the way they wear their hair! I like to look at their clothes and see what makes them silently chuckle or viciously glare. I like to get a sense of who they are. Are they loud and demanding a lot of attention? Are they shy and just watch others speak? Do they bore others with too much detail?

Once I get a sense of who I am talking with, I like to take what is before me and craft a conversation. Every artist must know what materials are available to work with! For instance, let's say that somebody is extremely boring. I may poke and prod. I may ask questions in order to get to the creative gem inside of them. I may ask, "What did you used to play when you were a child?" "What did you want to do in life when you were in high school?" "What do enjoy doing in your spare time?" In this manner, offline conversation is so much better. As I ask the questions, I look deeply into their eyes and watch their bodily gestures which speak volumes. I also consider their tone of voice and enunciation. Yes, it is very fascinating to actually be present when communicating with others. May "offline conversation" never become a forgotten art!

Offline living can mean turning off the computer and going for a walk. It may mean stopping on your walk to intently smell a clover. Offline living can be going here and there (wherever your "here" and "there" is) with eyes wide open ready to receive bits of inspiration. I believe that most offline living is where true inspiration comes from.

Inspiration is vital to an artist. Often, I find my inspiration in nature or in people. If I don't ever get off the computer, how can I be in nature or around people? People with Chronic Creativity realize that inspiration is the very oxygen to an artist's soul. Most artists long to savor life, to enjoy sounds, sights, aromas, touch, tastes, and feelings.

Computer living robs of us the inspiration that we would normally find in the little things. Perfect example, today I went to pick up a prescription. You know how they tell you that you should wait about 15 minutes? Most people then stroll around the store and purchase things. Well, I didn't have any money. So I decided to do my rapid walking workout around the outer aisles of the entire store. I did about five big loops around and got strange looks after I quickly power-walked passed different departments over and over again smiling. I began to think of how much fun I was having and how working out in those 15 minutes of waiting for a prescription is a great idea! This was my daily inspiration.

After that, I saw a man in his sixties with gray hair reading "Glamour" magazine. Now that was certainly a contradiction! At first, I inwardly chuckled. Then I sat next to him and gently tried to strain my neck to see what page he was on. I think it was one of those "100 great things to do in bed" articles. He seemed to be really into it. So then I picked up a "Glamour" magazine. Boring! I quickly put it down. My inspiration? Maybe "Glamour" should think about putting ads in their magazine for men in their sixties! Now, had I ordered my prescription online and had it shipped from Canada, I wouldn't have ever received these two bits of inspiration! Do you see what I mean? Inspiration is everywhere. But you have to see it as it unfolds. You have to hear it.

In this increasing age of computers, we have a choice. We can either be totally sucked into the vacuum of online living and lose all of our creativity, humanness, and physique or we can savor life multi-dimensionally offline and be inspired! •

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