Is that how you got your name? Seriously?

This 1991 talk by John Cleese still hits the nail on the head for me in describing the conditions that foster creativity: what is needed, what can get in the way, what it is and isn’t. Cleese says something pivotal, namely that “Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating… an ability to play.” He goes on to explain, “Creativity is not an ability that you either have or do not have.” Cleese also cites historical psychological and biological research on creativity, and offers a stab at a research-based model for creativity-- and cites why it’s difficult to make a model. Have we made any progress since 1991? Leave that to the neuroscientists. What I’m interested in is the actual experience of being creative.

Not coincidentally, the talk summarizes much of what I aim to give clients in my workshops. A lot of people want to explore their creativity but have a hard time carving out the time and space to do it, and then if they do make the time and space, they often get blocked or distracted. My workshops are for anyone who wants that “oasis” of time and “sealed off” space to focus on creativity, to either work on their own project, or to throw themselves into the sea of possibility and test various techniques and strategies to see what works for them. I offer a facilitation of this whole process—the creation of the “open” mindset or “creative mood” of “flow”, and ways to play creatively once in that mindset. There are many names for this: receptivity, non- judgmental, playful, curious, liberated, learning mindset. I can offer ways to get around blocks, self-consciousness or distraction, and teach how to deliberately switch between the “open” and “closed” mindsets. There is also power and energy generated by the company of others who will play together, or along side each other.

Why do I do this? For the same reason many people end up pursuing a passion. Because I find it difficult, yet it’s deeply what I want for myself, I’ve learned a lot about it and want to share my findings. I also get hugely inspired seeing people upend their limiting beliefs. In this case, people who think they are not creative discover otherwise.

Also possibly not coincidentally, the words and concepts of “play” and “seriousness” (vs. solemnity) appear in Cleese’s talk. Though not mentioned in direct connection, the words certainly stick out to me now. Is it where I got the inspiration for the name “Serious Play”? I first heard this talk in March 2012 (I found the email I sent to friends to share it). I watched the video again just this past mid-September 2015, for the first time in at least a couple of years, after having already thought of the name “Serious Play.” I would love to trace my own synapses, but some things must remain a mystery.

Laura Carmichael