Stealing like an Artist: How to be Creative
Stealing like an Artist: How to be Creative – Tillism طلسم
Making space for creativity
Let’s go for a stroll to the hills of Malaga. Not the hills with the botanical gardens where I went in search of the Baobab tree. These hills are further south, a fifteen to twenty minutes walk from where I live. This is where I go to make space for new creative thoughts, and sometimes to reconfigure old ones.
When I was little, I used to play with a sliding puzzle in a plastic frame. There were fifteen square pieces and an empty space. The pieces had to be moved around until the picture was completely aligned. Without that one empty space, moving the squares would have been impossible.
This is the empty space I am going in search of today, and I invite you to walk with me.
In the beginning…
We are moving away from the noise and smell of the city, so let’s stop and take a deep breath. Now release it slowly. Let the muscles in your neck and shoulders relax.
The sun is out and so are the bees. Their rhythmic hum over yellow and purple wild flowers is nature’s music. Ahead of us ducks waddle in groups on their way to the lake. Birds and butterflies flit around doing their thing. We won’t intrude on their activities. We’re doing our own thing —walking.
Have you ever felt inundated with other people’s thoughts? Ideas that you’ve never fully engaged with, nor verified independently, but believe without question —opinions you agree with because, “it’s always been this way“. These ideas usually stream out of the mouths of “talking heads” on television and social media.
But we don’t have to concern ourselves with them here. Out in the open, we are, for the moment, free from “thought bullies”.
Let’s sit down for a bit on this flat rock beside the path. I want to make a quick sketch of the snails, clinging to tall grass. We’re not in a hurry to get to anywhere, so let me know whenever you want to stop.
The first piece of the creative puzzle
Don’t move. There’s a bright green lizard crawling out from the grass. Just watch quietly. It’s looking directly at me, probably thinks my dark brown leggings are a tree trunk or a wooden post. It isn’t afraid at all. Maybe it’s used to humans walking along this path.
Santa Teresa of Ávila thinks our human weaknesses are like reptiles. She says we need to be vigilant and not let them crawl inside and make themselves at home. I don’t know if I want to take her advice. This lizard has style.
Collecting the rest of the pieces
The sound of flowing of water invites me to keep going. I put my sketchbook away and get up.
Zeynep Hatun, an Ottoman poet, is speaking to me through the clarity of the water. And now that these words have found their place, it is only natural for other pieces to slide into theirs.
کدی سچی گل بھی لکدی اے
اک نقطے وچ گل مکدی اے
Can the Truth ever remain concealed?
When All is contained within a dot?
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
The flowers around me confirm these thoughts. And then, as if on cue, a Birds of Paradise plant appears. Once again, I stop and take out my sketchbook. A blaze of bright orange-red petals flap in the breeze and an even hotter blue flame rises from their center.
“Birds of Paradise”, “Angel’s Trumpets”, “Devil’s Trumpets”, our obsession with duality is projected onto plants as if they can even choose right from wrong.
The “Devil’s Trumpet” has a scientific name, “Datura“. For centuries medical practitioners have used it for its healing properties. It is, however, extremely toxic and can be abused as a hallucinogenic and a deadly poison. So, I ask you, where in the man-made world of dualities, would you place the Datura?
Time for Elevenses
Just around the next bend is a little pueblo with a tiny cafeteria. It’s one of those places with colorful ceramic tiles that go half way up the walls, very rustic. A nice hot café con leche will help align these random pieces of thoughts.
I hope you like coffee. I use it to brew my creative thoughts as I sketch out various combinations for my composition.
The puzzle is now complete
I have formed a cohesive thought in my sketchbook from the images and words I gathered in my morning walk. With the help of the space I have discovered in these peaceful hills of Malaga, I solved the sliding puzzle of my childhood. I am ready to go home.
Create Cultural Memories through Literature and Art
Throughout history people have taught others what they learned from those who came before them. Some of us acknowledge our sources of inspiration, others don’t, but no one has ever created something out of nothing. Educators inspire others to develop their own ideas from those that already exist. Anniqua and I are fortunate to have spent a lifetime doing just that. And we will probably continue to do so till the very end – if there is an end…