Being creative is about connecting ideas, giving birth to ideas, seeing a need for something or inventing a need for something, and having the initiative to do it.
I think for most people the urge for ‘doing stuff’ is born from wanting to create something they would like to experience. It’s about noticing that what you would like to experience doesn’t actually exist. It’s about thinking “do you know what would be cool…” Now, to bring that initial thought to an end product, loads of things have to happen. You need to be driven enough to actually go through with it. So the idea needs to be good enough to see itself through from inception to realisation. You need to have the time to do it, or you need to be able to make the time, which is why lots of people who dive headfirst into projects are freelance, or unemployed, or upwardly mobile, or somehow have the means to spend time on a pro-bono (for now) project. You need to have experience in ‘doing stuff’, or know people who do. You need to not be motivated by profit. You need to be invested – emotionally or otherwise – in what you’re doing. You need to have one or two or more people who think the same as you do and will be willing to help you out. You need to have a network you can spread your idea to. Then you need to be the type of person who doesn’t just think about something or talk about it, you need to be the type of person who will go and do it.
That’s how you get warehouse parties, and co-ops, markets, start-ups and exhibitions, bands and sandwich bars, craft beers and independent fashion labels and festivals and comics, film scripts, new forms of education, apps and plays, charity races, furniture design, tattoo parlours and flower-sellers, restaurants, coffee bean-importers, club nights and roller derby teams, magazines and urban farms, skate parks and music videos and street art and coffee mornings and protests and political parties, retro phone covers, car designs and PR companies. They’re all things that come from one person’s or a group’s impetus to “do stuff”.
And being creative matters. I believe in ‘parallel societies’ as a big picture example. People become disengaged from the authorities in society – let’s say they might not relate to the politicians of the day, for example. And so they operate within society but on another track. Eventually, if their alternative ideas or approaches are better than the status quo, they will percolate towards the mainstream. That’s not about being apathetic towards society, but it’s about creating one’s own way to exist within it without threatening to emigrate every five minutes.
The thing is, it’s far easier to “do stuff” when the environment is welcoming to stuff being done. In Ireland, agencies have emerged to facilitate ideas – FMC and Business To Arts for example – and brands have also latched on to the idea that they should enable creative stuff as a way to embed themselves in creative processes – Red Bull Music Academy and Arthur Guinness Projects, for example. At a governmental level, we are led to believe that being a giant facilitator for creativity doesn’t necessarily bear fruit. We are told that during the Celtic Tiger when funding for creative endeavours was at a high, we didn’t exactly emerge with The Best Art And Everything Else Creative Ever, which must mean that creativity also emerges from a mild sense of desperation – that creativity goes on red alert when the conditions in society aren’t exactly tip top. Perhaps people's time is freed up. Perhaps people just want to do something to make things better.
So right now, some of the places where we haven’t seen a tremendous growth in facilitation or flexibility are the areas that actually have the most power to change things; governmental departments and local authorities. But this is changing, and it’s changing because independent projects are leading by example; creative projects (Upstart, Mabos, the Exchange), cultural institutions (Science Gallery, the Light House Cinema), talking shops (Banter, the Trailblazery), are showing what is possible when you can be fluid and flexible, something that larger organisations are hindered by simply because of their size and the structure of their models, not to mention the lack of spare change for experimenting in shaking things up.
You need money to faciliate things, obviously, but creativity does not come from cash. Finances can pay people to do things and keep them afloat to do more, and also offer scope for how far a creative endeavor can go, and how it can be implemented better. But creativity, as well as being born from ideas, is also best enacted with constraints. Being presented with endless options can be paralysing. Working with a few can be inspirational. And constraints, be they financial, practical or artistic, can create something that ends up flicking the original lack of options the bird, and turn out to be limitless. But you have to start somewhere.