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The Column icon The Column: Issue 55

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The Column is a monthly feature that explores the world of creativity and aesthetics.

Time and Creativity
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable

"Time is what we want most, but what we use worst." William Penn

Time defines our experiences and yet we understand so little of what time is. Does the pressure of getting things done in a limited time stimulate or stifle creativity? When we have little time to ponder, to take in what is happening, has happened, will happen, the desire to be creative heightens, and yet when we have time on our hands, the ability to create often runs dry. Is clock time the best time for the artist within? or is the absence of a sense of time the only time when inspiration bites?

Time Flies

There are at least five million species living on the earth. Of these, and as far as we know, fewer than a handful conceive of the past, present, and future. These three ideas together with the benefit of memory allow us to make decisions and take actions that provide us with a distinct advantage in our efforts to survive. We plan for what may occur as a consequence of our imagined future.

Our individual experience of time is different from moment to moment, from person to person. Depending on what is happening to us and how we feel about it, time may fly or pass as if watching paint dry. In conflict with this personal experience of time is our need to cooperate as societal animals.

Community, trade and work requires we coordinate with one another in shared time. We have agreed international standards of time to communicate, and yet clock time has little in common with our own experience of time which we continuously monitor with our wrist watches that call for our attention as we move out of sync and into our personal timeframe.

The length of day, the phase of the moon, the season. All have a significant affect on our experience of time, but as ever more channels of communication develop and the demands of the material world dominates, so the tyranny of strictly measured linear time masks a broader, richer experience of what time in truth is.

My Time

Despite the ideas of past present and future, our experience of time is "plastic". Time is like chasing a bar of soap in the bath. As soon as we grab a hold, it slips from our grasp. We know it's there, we search blindly, feeling around until we have it once again, and as we use the soap, so it changes, shrinks, goes soft, and slips away once more.

Our understanding of good timing is inherent and intuitive. We know instinctively whether someone has great comic timing or plays a musical instrument well. We do not need learning or training to appreciate this, appreciating good timing is a part of human nature.

We respond to music because of our bond with time and our need for feeling. Music exists both within linear time and personal time. It is that delicious mix of the rational and experiential that is at its heart.

One of the greatest pleasures in life is playing music. If you do not play an instrument, start learning today. If you persist and practice you will find something magical: the duality of disciplined linear time and the loss of a sense of time. There is no time for looking at a watch when one plays an instrument, there is only music. That is my time, the best of times, a time that has no beginning middle or end. A time of only now. A true time.

The Need For Time

My creative instinct operates well when I have released myself from clock time. When now is interrupted with the many demands for what must be done, our time is limited.

Some find the pressure of a countdown to completion stimulating, however I have found I need free time before I am open to explore creative possibilities. My mind cannot be full with external pressures and considerations, rather, I must be open to explore new directions freely. This is not to say one cannot be creative under pressure. Commercial designers, artists, and writers need to deliver their work on time and on budget, however art, the most creative of pursuits, requires freedom.

The greatest challenge for the artist is being honest to themselves. It is all too easy to delude oneself that doing nothing is required for ones art. There is a world of difference between freedom and inertia. In seeking to provide a context where our creative potential is best explored we must have time on our side rather than allow the time of others to define our limits.


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Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author. Mike is also the Creative Director of 2BrightSparks, a software company.

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