Productivity, creativity, proxies and goals
Colin weighs in with a good insight over on Photostream:
For whilst it is true that often productivity is a precondition for creativity, and whilst it is undoubtedly the case that practice is essential for any craft, and further, whilst it is beyond question that you can’t make good photographs unless you are making some photographs, productivity is definitely a proxy objective not a real objective. It is a means to an end that sometimes appears to become an end in itself.
Yup. And, as Colin points out, perhaps ‘creativity’ is really a proxy for what we’re really after as well. Colin embraces Kjell’s words, “I want to push my creativity, not my productivity.” We’re productive because it gives us an environment to be creative. ‘Creative’, as Colin points out, is an unfortunately vague word, but I don’t think that’s the crux of the issue.
The crux of the issue is that we’re productive so that we can be creative. We’re creative because… well, presumably because it enables us to be something else, something we can’t be without being creative. We’re creative because we want to feel fulfilled, or because we want to figure things out, or perhaps just because, for whatever reason, that’s the way some humans are put together.
This is good stuff for musing over a cup of tea, especially on a day like today, when I’ve got something like 3x the average annual snowfall on the ground, and it’s raining and making a big huge sloppy slippery mess that makes driving anywhere impossible. Not much else to do today but musing.
But I’m a bit leery. The whole “we’re productive so that we can be creative, we’re creative so that we can be fulfilled, we’re fulfilled so that…” has that pointless “It’s turtles all the way down” quality to it. There needs to be an end to the infinite regress, and the only endpoint can be our bedrock motivations for making photographs. There was a time when I thought everyone was generally aiming at the same target in life, and I no longer believe that, not even a little bit. People are hugely diverse and have radically different needs, and thus have radically different motivations. I can, if I work hard at it, vaguely articulate my motivations for the things I do, and probably you can, too.
The difficulty I see is this: we can only usefully discuss that part of the process we have in common, and perhaps usefully note where things diverge. At some point, each of us is on a solo journey. We can productively discuss rowing, and navigation, tides and currents. Things become a lot harder when we try to discuss where we should row and why.
That’s not because it’s impossible. It seems to me it’s more because when we discuss direction and motivation, we have a lot less in common and thus both the shared interest and the shared vocabulary are not there.
But I would note that this is the natural time of year for pondering goals, motivations, and habits, and for making resolutions about how we’re to proceed in the coming year.
[The Butzi Writing Award for December 2008 goes to Colin, for using the word “whilst” three times in one sentence. Whee!]