How To Be Creative

A lot of our focus lately, thanks to Lynda Barry’s What It Is, is centered around creativity and the creative process. I personally find this topic to  be endlessly interesting and found Barry’s approach to not only be fascinating and perplexing but also immensely helpful. Barry’s book reminds me of another book I had to read for a creative writing course: Keri Smith’s How to be an Explorer of the World. The two books are similar in that they encourage you to reconnect with a childhood wonder of the world, with a questioning of all things you typically take for granted, and to do so with the diligence of someone on a mission. It’s interesting that in an academic setting we are expected to be analytical, precise, and versatile, but often we need a little help getting off the ground creatively.

Consider an academic institution such as Mary Washington’s general education requirements. In order to complete a liberal arts degree, you need at least one course that falls under the heading of Arts, Literature, and Performance Appreciation. Creativity is objectively considered valuable to a well-rounded degree. But why? I think beyond the ability to create something for yourself or others, beyond the ability to build a skill that can provide catharthis or an outlet, creativity encourages the ability to think in innovative and original ways- which is absolutely crucial to being successful both in academia and “the real world.”

I found that the webcomic project has encouraged my own creativity in a number of ways. For starters, coming up with the basic outline (plot, characters, setting) for a webcomic is itself an exercise in creating. But what really has intrigued me about this project is the collaborative aspect. The project requires you to come together as a team, all with different visions and ideas, and assemble those into something cohesive, functional, and entertaining. Thus far it has been enjoyable to draw from everyone’s different ideas and see how it begins to play out into one comic that is a product of our collective efforts. This is probably the first in-depth creative project that I have worked on with a team, and to be honest it is worlds more fun and interesting than the heading “group project” usually denotes.

Ultimately, I am equally surprised and delighted that the courses offered at Mary Washington allow an opportunity to not only improve academically, but creatively. It seems that all too often the two  notions of academics and the arts are completely divorced in thought, but in reality they can serve as excellent complements. The webcomic opportunity has been opening my eyes to creative collaboration in a group, and the ways a project can be propelled by a blend of visions and ideas. As the project moves forward I’m excited to see the work that the other teams produce and to hear about the challenges that the class comes across in this effort. It is very clear that the placing of Lynda Barry’s book within the course is deliberate, and I felt that her book was a small creative awakening  to kick-start this sizable undertaking.