Creative Living

In creative living you or I find that everything we do strengthens the feeling that we are alive, that we are ourselves.

One can look at a tree (not necessarily at a picture) and look creatively. If you have ever had a depression phase of the schizoid sort (and most have), you will know this in the negative. How often I have been told: 'There is a laburnum outside my window and the sun is out and I know intellectually that it must be a grand sight, for those who can see it. But for me this morning (Monday) there is no meaning in it. I cannot feel it. It makes me acutely aware of not being myself real.'

Although allied to creative living, the active creations of letter writers, poets, artists, sculptors, architects, musicians, are different. You will agree that if someone is engaged in artistic creation, we hope he or she can call on some special talent. But for creative living we need no special talent.

This is a universal need, and a universal experience, and even the bedridden, withdrawn schizophrenic may be living creatively in a secret mental activity, and therefore in a sense happy.

Creativity, then, is the retention throughout life of something that belongs properly to infant experience: the ability to create the world [...] the child that became you or me found itself equipped with some capacity to see everything in a fresh way, to be creative in every detail of living.

By creative living I mean not getting killed or annihilated all the time by compliance or by reacting to the world that impinges; I mean seeing everything afresh all the time.

Somewhere in the scheme of things there can be room for everyone to live creatively. This involves retaining something personal, perhaps secret, that is unmistakably yourself. If nothing else, try breathing, something no one can do for you.

I believe there is nothing that has to be done that cannot be done creatively, if the person is creative or has that capacity [...] I believe it is true, as I have already indicated, that however poor the individual's equipment, experience can be creative and can be felt to be exciting in the sense that there is always something new and unexpected in the air.

[...] experience of creative living is always more important for the individual than doing well.

[D.W. Winnicott]
Home Is Where We Start From: Essays By A Psychoanalyst ('Living Creatively'), p.40-4, 51-3


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I know that one way of cooking sausages is to look up the exact directions [...] and another way is to take some sausages and somehow to cook sausages for the first time ever. The result may be the same on any one occasion, but it is more pleasant to live with the creative cook, even if sometimes there is a disaster or the taste is funny and one suspects the worst.

The thing I am trying to say is that for the cook the two experiences are different: the slavish one who complies gets nothing from the experience except an increase in the feeling of dependence on authority, while the original one feels more real, and surprises herself (or himself) by what turns up in the mind in the course of the act of cooking.

When we are surprised at ourselves, we are being creative, and we find we can trust our own unexpected originality. We shall not mind if those who consume the sausages fail to notice the surprising thing that was in the cooking of them, or if they do not show gustatory appreciation.

[D.W. Winnicott]
Home Is Where We Start From: Essays By A Psychoanalyst ('Living Creatively'), p.51


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