Why we should read, write, and create together--as if our humanity depended on it.

You value creativity.  How do I know? Call it a hunch.  This intuition I have after chatting with you at the book club...Or behind the scenes when we talk about the kind of writing you want to do.  Or when we talk about what you're searching for when you read. 

There's something I've been meaning to bring up with you for a while. Something humble and quiet that I'm offering up today.  This question that's been on my mind of late.  Yours too maybe.

What if THE problem of our time is a crisis of creativity?  

Think about it. When faced with today’s challenges, how many times do we see the same fearful reactions, watch our societies reach for thoughtless solutions or frame problems without even pausing to understand them fully?

If you watch the news once in a while, I bet you can think of some examples.  If you’ve stopped watching--well, it may be because of what I’ve just mentioned.

All of this makes me wonder--is watching and reacting enough? 

Maybe it’s time to ask ourselves that small question that is the beginning of any creative endeavor:

"What if...?"

Maybe it’s time to become the kind of people who take time to sit with a problem, who are willing to think past the first solutions that come to mind.  Who know how to reach out to others and create something new.

Maybe the times simply demand our creativity--and its twin sister: meaning. 

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Creativity and your quest for meaning.

Here I am, going out on a limb and saying you’re on a quest for meaning.  Is that presumptuous? 

Maybe I’m assuming things about you.  I’ve got no data to back this up. I haven’t conducted a survey or looked at the research.  So my methods, once again, are simple: hunch, intuition...and my predawn musings with my coffee.  And yet... 

I know so many people who are searching for meaning.  If you hang around here, there’s a good chance you’re one of them.  

Truth be told, lately, I’ve had this little voice in the back of my mind. Whispering something faint and simple.

What if meaning is not something you seek and find but something you create?  

What if it’s something we create together?

 

The creative act of reading.

What are these adventures of the written word that we undertake? A chance to create something new--an opportunity to collaborate with the author, to tell a story together and to weave meaning from words.  

I’m currently reading Proust and the Squid--a book on the history, evolution, and importance of reading, where author Maryanne Wolfe asks us to “ponder the profoundly creative quality at the heart of reading words.”  

Here is a passage that moved me--where Wolfe compares writing by Proust and painting by Monet--works where the artists hint at what they’re trying to capture without giving us all the details, calling on us to participate in the creative process.  

By using indirect approaches, Proust and Monet force their readers and viewers to contribute actively to the constructions themselves, and in the process to experience them more directly. Reading is a neuronally and intellectually circuitous act, enriched ... by the unpredictable indirections of a reader’s inferences and thoughts.
— Maryanne Wolfe

 

Reading communities--creating meaning together.

Of course, the creativity of reading doesn’t stop at the collaboration between the reader, the writer, and the story.  

Reading is something you may do alone, but anyone who has participated in a book club or a book chat understands this:  

When you discuss a story with others, you partake in the creation of something new.  

You find yourself with something that exists because you engaged in the creative act of spending time with others who are also making meaning out of those words.    

If reading is a creative act. It’s a collaboration.  It’s you, finding meaning and telling the story yourself...

Writing is just the logical next step.

 

Writing--another chance to create...together. 


Have you ever seen this TED Talk by Author Andrew Solomon?   

It's the kind of thing I love to revisit. 

Watch it (or re-watch it) on a day when you’re not sure how to react to the world around you.

On a day when you need to step back and start the creative process of taking the cards you were dealt and, rather than accepting them, turning them into a new form of art.  

As a student of adversity, I’ve been struck over the years by how some people with major challenges seem to draw strength from them. And I’ve heard the popular wisdom that that has to do with finding meaning. And for a long time, I thought the meaning was out there, some great truth waiting to be found. But over time, I’ve come to feel that the truth is irrelevant. We call it “finding meaning,” but we might better call it “forging meaning.”
— Andrew Solomon

If you're lucky enough to participate in a community where writing, stories and ideas are exchanged--where writers and readers overlap and meet, then congratulations--you've found a wonderful chance to create meaning with others.  

If you prefer to write on your own and let your reader construct her own meaning, I understand too.  

And if you're a little afraid to start. Well, join the club.

 Want a chance to read short bursts of fiction and write a story of your own? A story inspired by your life? Want an invitation to a small community of readers and writers--the chance to create meaning together?  Sign up for the Short Story Series.  

Want a chance to read short bursts of fiction and write a story of your own? A story inspired by your life? Want an invitation to a small community of readers and writers--the chance to create meaning together?  Sign up for the Short Story Series.  

 

Who are you to tell a story? Who are you to create meaning? 

Are you thinking that creating meaning is somehow only for prize-winning authors, the Andrew Solomons among us? The people who write best-sellers and turn the world on its head?

Can I ask you to rethink that idea?  Or at least to hold it out and examine it.

And ask yourself ‘What if?’

Because, at heart, I don’t think we create to become successful--or because we think we’re brilliant. 

We create because it’s how we find meaning, because we can't help it, because we’re human. 

And if you’re already engaging in the creative act of reading. The creative act of writing is just the flip side of the coin.  

And here’s my conviction: the world would be a better place if we took creating seriously. If more people read, if more people told their stories. If we seized the opportunities we have to create meaning--together

Once again this isn’t something I can support with research or authority. It’s something I hold in my heart and am sharing with you.  

Thanks for being part of this community of thinkers, creators and co-conspirators. 
 

Ready to join the conversation?  

Leave your comments here, or join us at the Vagabond English Book Club on Facebook.  Not a part of our community? Get your invitation

 

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash