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Creativity, Coltrane and Your Relationship to Work

Updated: Oct 1, 2022

As a Creativity and Growth Executive Coach, I listen, I read, and I explore diverse thoughts and perspectives. Why? Because creativity is a strategy, and strategy requires more than actions. It requires actions that go beyond the comfortable and connections that lead you to unexplored destinations. Think of creativity as a collection of actions that make life far more interesting. Like jazz or reading the phrase “today we are possible” or sipping tea that found its way to the cup via an exotic land.

For me, there is no better place to explore how creativity works than in poetry. During the pandemic I found myself undone in my executive role as I tried to keep a legion of performers healthy, video blind from 20+ hours of daily online meetings and mentally numb from crises both real and manufactured. Poetry coaxed me away from the edge. Poetry can be a disarming elixir; artfully distilled down to our most potent actions and emotions. A poem often creates an alternative reality where words and phrases take on a new form, function, and often feeling. That’s the definition of creativity. Take Tiana Clark’s poem, “My Therapist Wants to Know about My Relationship to Work” featured recently on the brilliant podcast Poetry Unbound with Pádraig Ó Tuama. Nouns and adjectives become verbs, verbs become nouns, constantly tapping to the rhythm of social media:

“I snooze — wake & go boom. All day, like this I short my breath. I scroll & scroll. I see what you wrote — I like. I heart. My thumb, so tired. My head bent down, but not in prayer, heavy from the looking.”

Changing from beat to emotion brought on by the never-ending barrage of emails, asks, requests, and expectations:

“I email: yes & yes & yes. Then I cry & need to say: no-no-no. Why does it take so long to reply?”

Creativity is found in the brave, the vulnerable, the ellipsis, and in this poem creativity is found in Coltrane. Because at the end of the day, creativity enters only after the nouns have turned into verbs and verbs into nouns. In this poem, today’s constant distraction of adjectives and adverbs have been removed and/or displaced. In their place exists a beautiful silence. It takes creative grammar, inverted structure, and an answer that finally ends with:

“. . . I float. I sing. I simple & humble. Eyes close. I low my voice, was it a psalm? Don’t know. But I stopped.”

That is Clark's powerful answer to the question, “What is your relationship to work?" For me I had to stop before I could begin again. I had to be creativity and growth for myself, not for a company, a product or an outcome. I'm finding the same is true for many of my clients and for the organizations they run. When that moment happens, the moment when they stop the doing, take a moment to listen, and then begin again; they hear jazz, poetry, and possibility. And that is when the fun begins.

Break the Tape Leadership helps leaders unleash creativity and potential in themselves and the organizations they lead to generate meaningful momentum. (And sometimes we write poetry. And other times we explore jazz.))

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