CREATING COLUMN A fresh perspective can inspire creativity.
By viewing things di erently, we can bring a whole new creative outlook to our lives
Travel broadens the horizons, they say, but I don’t think I ever fully experienced that until my recent trip to Australia. We left Yorkshire in early May; pink blossom on the trees, bluebells hiding in the shadows. The sun was shining but we’d still been lighting the re at night, fending o that typical British evening chill.
We arrived in autumn sunlight. The Sydney trees were turning amber and gold, crispy leaves crunching underfoot. But it was warm. So warm, to our British sensibilities, that we shucked o our coats, wound down the cab windows and then threw open the balcony doors in our suite.
We ventured up to the rooftop pool the next day, letting the golden warmth soak into our bones, and when we felt hot we dipped in the pool to cool o . But there was something di erent about us. None of the other residents ever came to use the pool. Stranger still, all the native Aussies we saw were trussed up in pu a jackets, boots and hats. A shop assistant, admiring my sundress, explained for us: “When you’re used to the heat, 22°C feels freezing!”
Wandering back, we encountered some birds by the harbourside. Long-billed with black feet and startling vast alabaster wings, they were utterly exotic to us. Spotting our pastries, a couple made their way over, and I was enchanted to nd that they would gently take food from my hand. I shared a photo on Instagram – what were these strange, Jurassic-looking creatures? I was ooded with replies. Turns out they were ibis, known to Australians as the ‘bin chicken’ thanks to countless ruined childhood picnics, trips to the beach and upended trash cans. Many were vehement in their dislike of these birds, and aghast that I would let them get close, let alone feed them. But when your daily life is pigeons and mice, city water waders are surprisingly magical. Like an alien who’s never been to Earth before, seeing things with naive and virgin eyes gives an entirely di erent perspective on life. How many of our perceptions, then, are shaped by our environment? We often see things as incontrovertible facts: what’s hot and what’s cold, cheap or expensive. To me,
ve hours is a super-long drive, but to the Aussies I met, a weekend trip could easily require driving twice that.
These self-imposed rules are at work in our creative lives, too. We see our creative work as less important, as the thing to do after all the ‘real’ work is done. Perhaps we judge the success of our photography by how many likes it gets on social media, or measure our skill as a writer by blog comments. Many of us don’t even feel able to describe ourselves as ‘creative’, believing it belongs to other, more talented people, not ‘normal’ people like us.
These things are so subjective and relative, but when we’re surrounded by others who only reinforce the message, it can be hard to see any alternate reality. The
rst step to changing that, then, is doing what Australia did for me – nd the people who see things di erently to you.
With algorithms managing all of our social media, we’re increasingly being funnelled into a spiral of similarity. We’re shown the accounts of people who vote and shop like us; asked if we want to connect with those with the same habits and interests as us. To break that cycle, we have to go o -piste: what’s going down on Instagram with Japanese teenagers right now? What are women in Iran tweeting about? Who’s creating something di erent to what you normally see, and how can you see more of it?
@candicebrathwaite puts out a regular homemade TV show on her Instagram stories. @miss_magpie_spy draws fashion portraits of women of all sizes, ethnicities and abilities. @withjuliekirk crafts witty and heart-wrenching prose out of snippets of newspaper articles. As the feminist adage goes, “we cannot be what we cannot see”. Let’s take control of what we’re looking at, and start shaping our perceptions towards a more creative outlook.