This is the fourth post in a short series on what FM Alexander can teach us about steps to creativity. The first post was called Make Mistakes! The second post was called Make Decisions! Last week’s post was called Make Allowances!
I’ve been having an argument with some of my teenage students at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama lately. I have been trying to teach them about the usefulness of planning, how it has a central place in Alexander’s work, and how it can help them achieve their creative goals. They don’t like the idea of planning. They think it will stifle their creativity. “But it will destroy our spontaneity!” they insist.
So… What’s the relationship between planning and creativity? Does being methodical bring results? Or does it ruin your spontaneity?
FM and the mirror
Being methodical and going about things in a stepwise manner is at the very root of the work we call the Alexander Technique. When FM Alexander decided to find out the cause of his vocal problems and first stood in front of his mirror, he went about things in a stepwise manner. He decided to watch himself first in ordinary speaking. He knew that he was suffering when he tried to recite, so he looked at his way of going about ordinary speaking first, so he had something to compare to. He saw nothing unusual. Then he watched himself while reciting, and saw that he did things with the relationship of his head with his body that didn’t seem helpful.
But did he stop there? No! He watched himself in ordinary speaking again. And he saw the same changes with his head-body relationship, but smaller.
Now, this is a classic example of a methodical thinker. FM wasn’t satisfied when he found the difference between ordinary speaking mk.1 and reciting. He tried ordinary speaking again – just to be certain.
And FM’s creation of his work is full of this sort of methodical thinking. He would do some observations, gathering as much information as he could. Then he would have a good think. And then he would try an experiment, and give himself time to really work on it. Then he would go back to the mirror, to check what was going on.
Being methodical didn’t destroy Alexander’s creativity. It gave it a framework. Because he was so methodical in his observations, he ws able to make reasoned, targeted experiments. Because he had a framework, his creativity had a direction and a purpose. It wsn’t trial and error. There was room for spontaneity precisely because he ‘knew the territory’ so well.
Do you have a framework built around your creative experimentation? If not, then try Alexander’s:
- Observe. Cover all the bases.
- Have a good think.
- Observe again
Try using this framework. You may find, like my young actors who gave it a go to try to prove me wrong, that it really does help you to be not just more organised, but more effectively spontaneous too.
Let me know what you think in the comments!
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