Bias and Creative Roadblocks

Upon the journey to discover ones biases we find ourselves digging into our whys: experiences, environments, reactions, exposure, situations, people, relationships, challenges, failures, successes and so on. We can draw many parallels between this journey and that of creative roadblocks. When we experience a creative roadblock we often find ourselves spending time in reflection posing thought provoking questions to ourselves..."why am I unable to continue this project", for example. Many of us do not have effective tools to help us through these creative roadblocks, or do we just not see them? This is the question I'd like to explore.

Thinking about creative inspiration makes me think about a sponge. Now, rather than just your typical kitchen sink Homer Simpson-yellow sponge, imagine something creative...perhaps a sea sponge?! Whichever way you imagine your sponge, know that it is yours. With every moment we experience we are constantly collecting inspiration and essentially, everything around us has the potential to be a muse. We are always collecting and absorbing the water around us that is our inspiration. As we absorb and become less and less porous, some of the water begins to drip out, drop by drop. These droplets are our ideas and they often come at the strangest of moments: just before falling into a deep sleep, in the shower, cutting tomatoes, walking to the parking lot, thumbing through records. We are always releasing water and reabsorbing more moisture, it's what sponges do! Much like a creative mind. Upon my research I found an interesting quote from another blog about a book (it's officially on my to-read list!) and I'd like to share it with you. From the blog Don’t Skip This Crucial Stage of Creativity the author quotes the book Your Creative Brain that I believe is quite appropriate to share here: 

The way we collect our biases and can manage our bias is quite similar when we think about the sponge. We are born into an environment where there are cultural implications put upon us right from the start, especially gender based (but that's a blog for another day). We grow up in some kind of family or community where other people's experiences, assumptions, judgements and personal preferences are added to our own language and perspectives. As we mature and we gain our own experiences we begin to connect dots between what we've been told and what we are experiencing for ourselves, thus forming our own unique biases. These biases can often be unconscious and are seen in the way we place judgement upon others and situations, culture and values. We see our biases in the stereotypes we believe and in the way we make assumptions about other people. In a way, we are more or less living in a bubble of how we see the world, a single perspective. There is a wonderful Ted talk from Diversity advocate Vernā Myers that I'd like to share and recommend you give it a listen. In this talk, she effectively illustrates how learning about the unknown head on is a strong strategy for confronting biases and therefore, expanding your awareness.

In the exploration of one biases we question why we think and see things the way we do and why certain things make us react a certain way. "Why do I not like country music?" is a simple but valid example. For starters, I am a music lover and can often appreciate a classic twang but I had wondered why country music is not a genre that I frequently listen to. I mean this without any offence to country music lovers. I won't bore you with my dive into this why, but I will tell you about what I discovered. I had come to the conclusion that my bias with country music was unfounded! All of my friends and most of my family are not country music fans and I never really had an opportunity to explore the genre. When my love of records blossomed I came upon a wise man named Willie Nelson. At the time I was very passionate about folk music (and still am!) and I found a record called "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" by Willie Nelson. It is still one of my favourite records to this day. It's classic! A little bit of twang and a little bit of folk with all of the sweet Willie drizzled on top! Falling in love with this album lead me to exploring more classic folk and country from the 70's, which brought me to Emmylou Harris and The Fairport Convention. I highly recommend checking them out if you have not had the pleasure. My musical tastes greatly expanded with that exploration and it continues to grow. The best part is that I generally feel more open minded to listening to new music or genres I generally don't have an interest in. There is so much variety out there!

While each of our journeys look differently, I do know that a creative roadblock is challenging and can often feel like a huge dead end to which there is absolutely no way through, over, under, around, what have you. Although we cannot see the way through, it is there. Thus, we begin exploring our whys! Self doubt is more often than not the root cause of our lack of motivation. Now, I feel I am a very self aware person especially in times of roadblocks, but everyone needs a little bit of help once and awhile. For example, talks! I recently watched a talk called The Biggest Disease Affecting Humanity: “I’m Not Enough" by Marisa Peer. and it was striking. I highly recommend finding some time to watch it. Personally, self doubt is a powerful pressure that prevents me from driving my projects forward at the worst of times. Marisa offers up an interesting activity in her talk which I have found to be a very useful l tool for when I hit a roadblock of any kind. In those moments when I find myself making all kinds of excuses although I can hear my inner little me yelling: "yes! We want to do that!", I can now approach my self talk differently. I have new positive language to support myself, to be my own cheerleader. Exploring my whys with creative roadblocks has led me to finding new resources and new tools that can help broaden my perspectives and help me to be successful.

While they are two different and complex beasts, the ways in which we explore bias and creativity are comparable and interchangeable. The curiosity we practice while learning about ourselves can be applied to learning about other people, situations, culture, preferences and music! Curiosity can open doors to better understanding and new perspectives. As we grow our self awareness and our perspectives, we grow as people. As we grow as people, we absorb more water for our sponges and gain new perspectives. We can then use this new information to move from a place of understanding and empathy.

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