MAKING MY PEACE … with managing the chaos of creativity


Making My Peace … with managing the chaos of creativity


The creative process never runs smooth. Ideas run wild, then they dry out. Motivation moves like a runaway train, then comes to a screeching halt. Routines work until the rhythm is disrupted. Certain potential successes turn out to be slow-moving sloths. Oh, the chaos of creativity – and the whole creative process!

This week, my chugging creative train was inspired to move again, to travel to the next destination, to pass through the mountain peaks and meandering valleys with conviction. My inspiration was the book, Creativity: The Perfect Crime, the 2015 memoir of French high wire artist Philippe Petit. Born in 1949, Philippe Petit is also a busker, juggler, magician, artist, and writer.

Philippe Petit calls himself a professional daydreamer, rebel, mischief-maker, rogue engineer, master of deception, and frustrated movie director who maps out a framework in his mind before he begins a creative activity.

He is best known for unauthorised high wire trapeze performances on iconic landmarks – the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 1971, the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia in 1973, and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York in 1974.

His high wire performances and his artistic endeavours have honed his views on the process of creativity. And like all creatives, he has had highs and lows, bouts of confidence and doubts, feelings of exhilaration and fatigue. His writing details his personal and professional approaches to creativity, with clear routines that work for him. His approaches might not exactly relate with everyone, but he has useful insights that resonate with me, and that will springboard some changes in my approaches to creativity.

He writes of the trepidation of starting a new project, a new dream. He compares himself to a chick leaping from the nest as it learns to fly. He writes of the point of no return, and the courage to keep going. He discusses whether there is ever the right time to give up on a dream.

Philippe Petit mentions everything that goes right and wrong during the creative process, and what it means to him in handling the results. He writes about harnessing the chaos of creativity – he embraces it – and when rules and organisation come into play – not in the midst of creative passion – and how he processes his intelligence – like a secret agent. He uses words and phrases, common and contradictory, and conventional and unconventional, such as:

spatial alchemy, autodidact, pride, perfection, arrogance, self-control, split-second decisions, humility, faith, urgency, survival, freedom, visual visit, organisation, juggling, everyday practice, rehearsal, harmony of proportions, dialogue with objects, negative space, tools and props, using the senses, calendars, time conspiracy, accomplices, journaling, theatre of action, focus and discipline, betrayal, lethargy, balance, habits, relentless invention, play, distraction, derailment, reduction in gear ratio, pause, paranoia, improvisation, moderation with excess, over-enthusiasm, details, uncertainty, alertness, misdirection, intuition, perseverance, chance, and change.

What is Philippe Petit’s everyday routine? Who would have thought that he is an avid journaling proponent? He keeps an incredibly detailed and specific journal of his goals, tasks, progress and milestones, tasks accomplished, periods of activity and periods of plateau, observations, weather, food, feelings, poems, and exercises.

No matter how personal or private, naïve or silly his journal entries seem, his aim is always serious. Why? To develop focus and discipline, of course! Creativity is his job, and he takes his job very seriously.

He provides much practical advice and useful guides to managing the chaos of creativity.

Making my peace with managing the chaos of creativity, I learned the following:

  • Take the first step
  • Creativity is the journey, not the end result
  • Rebel against your own routine ruts
  • Abrupt U-turns are okay
  • Let go of the useless and contra-creative
  • Be interested in distractions, disturbances, and boring objects
  • Follow your intuition
  • Recapture the awe of new experiences
  • Focus on creating rather than competing
  • Work the details but keep life simple
  • Read, observe, listen, feel, dream, experience, do stuff, then thinking and creativity will happen


Martina Nicolls: Rainy Day HealingMAKING MY PEACE







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