I meet Steve the Poet

This morning I met Steve the Poet
He was eating his toastie breakfast outside the Deli.
Heard about the local poet.
Approached him. He looked very approachable.

His features are those
of someone who spends a lot of time outdoors.
Grey bearded. Looks up at the grey-bearded interrupter of his progress on the toastie.
Confirms he is indeed Steve the Didsbury Poet.

I tell him I write poems, too.
With little encouragement, he pulls out his poems
From his carrier bag.
They are kept, loose-leafed, in a red folder
which has seen better days.
Says he doesn’t publish them.
I say I don’t publish my poems either.

Steve does open-mic readings, doesn’t like to call what he does performances.
The poems are collectively a love-letter to his life companion.
I want to record our conversation, take out my phone.
Wrong, find I have forgotten my phone.

Somehow, our talk gets round to the Universe.
I tell him about the spaceship that sends photographs back to Earth
from the end of the Universe.

What do they look like, he asks.
Like stars we see when we look up, I say.
I’ll show you on my phone.

Wrong. I have forgotten my phone.
One day, Steve will come back again for his breakfast.
I will have my phone that day, and will show him what
the view from the end of the Universe looks like.

A study of Twitter for understanding the concept of Everyday creativity

In earlier posts, I suggested that everyday creativity amounts to a thought translated into actions. The millions of tweets generated every day, gives us an excellent laboratory-setting to study everyday creativity.
Let’s set aside bots generating tweets for the moment, as they can be considered as a special case.

Everyday creativity as thoughts translated into actions supports the proposal that creativity is widely distributed.
How are the thoughts produced leading to a tweet being published produced?

Let’s start from my own experience. Every day I sign up to Twitter. I usually have had a thought I want to share. Why do I want to share it? because the idea has that property of novelty to me which I want others to know about.

Do I wonder if anyone else has thought about it in roughly the same way? Not really, although I might wonder how many other people receiving much the same stimuli will have much the same reaction.
The impulse to share is easily gratified through Twitter. Press send. Off it goes.
It is then given the mystic treatment known as the Twitter algorithm which decides who will read the tweet. This is the ghost in the machine, to use an old expression.
The next steps involve other Twitter users evaluating my idea. They have several options. They can ignore it, or like it (touch the heart shaped button). They can also resend it, with or without commenting on it.
These actions are through which the tweet gains attention (popularity, if you like). The process, like a radioactive decay process can accelerate, and go critical. Or, to use another metaphor we know recently from epidemiology, go viral.
The vast majority of tweets remain sub-critical, but a few increase in numbers of interactions exponentially, a meltdown which sometimes crashes the program.
There is no obvious way of detecting the viral process from the first tweet. That suggests it is a random process. But the selection process isn’t necessarily random. It may capture a more general reaction of the tweeters encountering it.
Put these two basic thoughts together and you have an idea generation and development on based on random variation and selective choice.
Sounds familiar? It’s the process of evolutionary change.
Yes, as research students will point out, I’ve bobbed about between the specific and the general.

For example, what about the bots I mentioned earlier? Certainly important. The embarrassing flip-flop of Elon Musk in the withdrawal of his bid for Twitter was said to be that the company’s value could not be calculated without more information about the number of bots and the number and nature of the tweets they generated.

At best I’m offering an explanatory line of thought.

In my next post, I look at a specific example of an everyday tweet and how its study helps understand more about the nature of everyday creativity. I’d welcome any comments, particularly thoughts turned into actions. You can even tweet them, if that’s your preference.

A Podcast from Womberly Stadium. The winners’ ceremony and beyond

An account of the final moments of triumph for the England football team in the 2022 Euros championships, and the media reactions, assessed as examples of everyday creativity

Yes! The lionesses only went and done it! We done it!! And without crowd violence or pitch invasion. A pushy interviewer left gasping, as Chloe Kelly, who came on as super-sub, dropped the mike saying ‘I jus want to celebrate with my team mates and sing Sweet Caroline’ and she did.

Slightly clunky awards ceremony. Not the climb to the heights of Womberly Stadium to be greeted by Football and English Royalty, but a rather hurried gathering on the scuffed pitch for the victors. To be received by the chief of English football, the Duke of Cambridge. And to receive a Crystal glass trophy not unlike the artistic creations earned by winners of grand slams in tennis and majors in golf. Is it a horse, a dolphin with a ball in its jaws? No, It’s a glass football.
Cut to shots of sorrowing German players. Empathy muted by recollection that they have won the tournament eight times already. Post-mortem discussion in the BBC match studio takes a bitter turn, as pundits reel out the injustices holding back the women’s game, including the media’s collusive guilt.
Meanwhile on the pitch, the interviewer, having retrieved the mike, has another interview hijacked by uninhibited players dragging the interviewee back to what looks like a rave kicking off.

Ten minutes earlier:
Five minutes of extra time left. Anyone’s game. Winner still in doubt. Then an England corner. The ball ricochets around and is scuffed into the German net. Five minutes of joy dissolving in anxious doubt. Then the final whistle. Collection roar of relief.
Late night main headlines are devoid of other news. Perhaps wisely, politicians did not intrude on the celebrations. A year ago, the mens team lost a disappointing final marred by crowd violence.
But today has been hailed as a milestone for women’s football, with the largest crowd, and record viewing figures. And the first major international trophy since that unique World Cup victory over sixty years ago.

Monday August 1st
The celebrations must have been up there with that of the famous World Cup win. Like most people alive today, I can’t remember them. Even those of us who were around then remember what they were doing. I was in a Hungarian bar in Upper East Side Manhattan which was showing the match on a small scale television to a small scale audience of mostly disinterested Hungarians and Germans.
Today the celebrations as much as the match dominate the news outlets.
Most papers have pull-out supplements to keep, and front and back pages exclusively on the football:

The Express: It’s Home!
The i: Champions!
The Times: Lionesses bring it home.
The Guardian: Game changers.
The Sun: Move over fellers: IT’S HOME!
The Mail: It wasn’t a dream. We DID beat Germany in a final
The Star England 2 Germany 1. ROARSOME

Emotion ratings
Simple joyfulness
Nostalgic pleasure
Nostalgic pleasure beating Germany
Lioness shirtless celebration (Special category for the picture in The Mail)

One small step towards removal of male prejudices in football and beyond. One step towards a media frenzy over a highly hyped match between a men’s team and a women’s team justified under the twin banners of emancipation and ginormous money making. But, probably not in Saudi Arabia.

Faint refrain: It’s coming home…it’s coming home it’s…

How to Dream up Great Ideas: A Workshop on Everyday Creativity

Tudor Rickards describes his widely-applied method for developing skills at creating ideas in everyday business or leisure situations.

The script which follows was developed originally for a podcast with thought exercises to illustrate the processes of idea generation and development to show how a process leading to everyday creativity took place recently.

I hope it is of use to help your personal creativity system. It can also be of value for creativity trainers wanting to use audio in their workshops or tutorials.

I’m addressing the listener as a specific individual listening to the audio, either alone or within a group. in either case, you might want to take notes as you listen. I’ll indicate the points at which note taking will be particularly valuable.

One way of thinking about creativity is to contrast ‘something special’ or ‘big C‘ point of view, to a ‘nothing special’ or ‘little c‘ point of view.

Rather than use the term ‘little c’ I prefer to talk about everyday creativity which is a universal human attribute, most often seen in personal discoveries which take place in everyday lived experiences. What may be ignored or considered ‘nothing special’ to others may be considered ‘something very special’ to the person who has thought of the idea.

I will demonstrate my general approach through a recent specific example. I’m going to present it so that you can join in actively, if you are interested.

My example took place in a discussion, not as part of a special meeting arranged to create new ideas or solve problems. The ideas came about following a social tennis game we usually play for an hour twice a week. One recent game was played with three participants, because Gail, had become stuck in a motorway snarl up and abandoned the journey.

As a result we played a version of ‘two versus one’, which is halfway between singles and doubles. This substitute for the intended game of doubles is better than no game at all, but not much better.

To explain what happened next, I’d like you play a thought game.

Imagine you had been one of the three players. You have just finished the rather unsatisfactory two versus one game. You have just seen a text from Gail explaining what her problem had been. You should also know Gail is fantastically reliable. This is the first time she missed an agreed game over quite a few years.
How do you feel about what has happened? Here’s a few possibilities which came from our conversation at the time.

That explains it. At least, Gail has not had an accident

The traffic is getting worse. She should have started out earlier.

The one v two version of tennis is not much fun

We need a substitute to be on call to make up a four for our games

It would better if we started with five players with one dropping out.

Maybe your thoughts chimed with these to some degree. We were expressing how we felt, and moving towards what I’d consider to be examples of everyday creativity. Can you see the way one idea led to another?

What happened next was more unexpected. One of the group picked up on the general dissatisfaction with the outcome of Gail’s absence, saying:

It’s a pity one v two is not very enjoyable.

Can you see how the last comment could be a starting point for more everyday creativity?

There’s no correct answer. For me, it signals a trigger for new ideas. Why? Because it shows a dissatisfaction and also a starting point for thinking about what to do about it.
In more structured ideas meetings, a facilitator type of meeting leader would write it down maybe on a whiteboard. A favoured way is as an action statement or
‘How to …’

In this case, the ‘how to’ would be something like

How to make a game of tennis with three people more interesting

Back to the thought exercise. In the actual discussion, general chatting was going on between sips of coffee. Some about other matters of interest to those present around the small table. I was still thinking about ideas suggested by the ‘How to’ , and had fallen silent as several ideas came into my mind.

Did the ‘How to’ start turning your thoughts towards ideas for dealing with the posed challenge? If not, I’ll have to resort to the old teacher’s trick of saying ‘this approach often acts as a trigger for new ideas, and in the case we are studying it did for me, as I’m about to tell you.

But don’t start assessing my, or your, ideas too quickly.

Back again to the discussion at the tennis club. I had the start of an idea I wanted to share. ‘I’ve thought of an idea for making three-person tennis more interesting’. I was reminded of the gym where you’ve got people cycling away. That’s pretty boring. But someone had the bright idea of making it more interesting by competing with others at a distance.

Another thought experiment. Maybe you are adding to my idea with your own thoughts. In the more structured meetings you have found a Yes And. Again it’s the process of idea building or ‘Yes anding

I struggled to share several ideas which were jostling for recognition in my mind.
Here’s the idea’, I said, ‘it’s how to make tennis more interesting, like Gym cycling. I want an electronic system.’

We began to see further ideas:

We could use mobile phones for a solution’ I said hopefully.
The computer programme would keep score’ someone else said.

Are you seeing new possibilities in the ideas suggested? If so, you are experiencing the process of everyday creativity in action.

But creativity can’t be turned on and off at will. The ideas continued to nag away at me. So much so, that a few days later I had worked out several ideas in more detail. Strictly speaking each one was a fleshing out of the original idea of how to make three-person tennis more interesting and how to develop an electronic game linked to tennis.

I haven’t chosen this example to show how creative I am, or how clever my ideas are.
This is everyday creativity, remember. But for me it was a Big C idea, which appealed to me if no-one else.
Not special enough to share. But enough for me to discuss one of them later (the mobile phone intervention) in an interview for another podcaster.

In this post, I have tried to explain with examples how everyday creativity takes place: Yes and … why not try out the process the next time you are in a discussion at home or at work?

Sherlock Holmes and the case of the mystic racquet

‘Did you see that, Holmes?’ I exclaimed.
My friend had been dozing gently in the veranda to the tennis club, where he had solved the case of the vanishing tennis balls (a fox had been appropriating them).
I see a group lesson for school children continuing on the distant courts, well away from those allocated to members. I wanted to show that I too, as a highly trained physician, could observe and draw conclusions from my observations. ‘The mysterious way the racquets fell over without any intervention, as if by some inexplicable force’ I said.
‘Come, Watson, you a man of science subscribing to mystic forces’
For once, he had taken the bait.
‘Of course not, Holmes. There is a perfectly rational explanation.’
‘Indeed. And how have you reached the explanation?’
‘It was the coach. He has a most stentorian voice’
‘Enough to make the wire netting vibrate and disturb the racquets?’
‘Precisely, Holmes.’
‘Precisely, but not entirely correct.’
‘How so?’ I asked, now conscious I may have misread the situation
‘The coach had an accomplice, although one not aware of his role in this business. But you noticed, him, no doubt? The student who arrived late, looking like snail, creeping unwillingly to tennis training.’
‘He was sulking,’ I agreed. ‘Deliberately obstructive.’
Holmes changed track as he often does.
‘How many racquets were there up against the netting when the coach shouted, put your racquet down?’
‘Five. No, six. The snail added his, reluctantly.”
‘And thereafter he did everything to oppose instructions’
‘And when the coach saw him picking up his racquet, he called out for him to put it back. That was the most noisy shout of the day which I believe caused the entire netting to vibrate, and the racquets to fall down.’
‘How many fell down?’ Holmes asked.

Six, no wait, I ran the scene back in my memory. ‘There were five.’
‘Indeed, and even as the coach was shouting, the young troublemaker had smashed his racquet into the netting, thinking he would not be noticed.’
‘Causing all the racquets to jump and fall over!’
‘Remarkable, Holmes. How do you do it?’
‘Everyday creativity, my dear Watson, everyday creativity.

You can listen to the TudoRama podcast of the case of the mystic racquet, on Buzzsprout.

Methinks the author doth reveal too much …

No prizes for guessing the original line triggering my headline. Points for something from Shakespeare. More later, because the point I want to make is borrowed from Shakespeare, but more directly, it is the caution some correspondents show after I suggest I’d like to publish something from their message.

An example recently was from a politically active contact I will refer to in gender neutral terms as Sam, who wrote to me about the contest to replace Boris Johnson, with some blunt remarks about his likely replacements.
When I checked if Sam wanted to be quoted in my blogs or podcasts, he/she replied no, because that would lead Sam to censor communications, weakening their value,
Within days, another e-mailer agreed that I could publish, but only by avoiding anything which might reveal identity or any specific details of potential commercial value.
Earlier, another friend had confided in me that he has worked diligently at keeping his name completely out of the social media, so he didn’t want to be quoted.
A little more research, and I find three other friends for one reason or another have made deliberate decisions to keep away from social media generally, and Facebook and Twitter in particular.
So getting to the point (and not before time, I hear my journalistic conscience mutter), these are all individuals whose views I respect and would like to share.
I could invent a fictional persona for each of them. A nom de plume if you like, as I did above for my gender neuter friend Sam, not to be confused with a real life Sam.

What’s going on here?
I’m not sure I can see a general explanation. Shakespeare’s original observation is about a play within a play which sets a trap for the speaker of the line. Her words are often quoted as ‘methinks the lady doth protest too much’. In the play the comment has several levels of meaning. The one I have in mind is the interpretation that the speaker is trying to avoid the trap but in doing so reveals what she is trying to conceal.
Here’s my point. Publishing always reveals something of the author. The best an editor or reporter can do is to avoid deliberately setting up a trap.
It’s partly a matter of judgement, partly a matter of trust, whether an author or authority, decides to agree to make their thoughts public, and whether they are reported as being from the ‘source who wishes to remain anonymous’ or with the author identified.

Please let me know your thoughts, and whether you want to remain anonymous.

Note for students of Shakespeare

The story within a story is from Hamlet. The play within a play is about the murder of a his father, the crime of which Hamlet suspects his mother Gertrude. His mother tries to avoid the trap, by her remark ‘the lady doth protest too much, methinks’ (now usually referred to outside the play with the methinks starting the sentence. It is more generally used as a posh way of suspecting something suspicious in any argument, and not just for mariticide).

An example of everyday creativity: the road to Glastonbury

Everyday Creativity is a source of everyday pleasure for me. I enjoy discovering it. It mostly creeps up on me when I’m not expecting it.

For example, today when I woke up, my reasonably trustworthy alarm told me it was six am. Today has been advertised as the continuation of heatwave Helen. My waking thought was sod it, it’s too early to be up and about, I’ll try to go back to sleep. Why am I boring anyone still reading listening? Hang in there, I’m approaching the point.
A second line of thought occurred to me. I could do some shopping. Nah! It’s too early. Budgeons won’t be open. But what if I improve on my morning steps total by taking a longer walk when heatwave Helen is still warming up for a day’s peak sweltering of innocent civilians?

I did not leap out of my bed and run down Woodford Road in my jimjams crying ‘Eureka’ like some Poynton Pythagoras.
I did move reasonably swiftly to seize my trusty iPad.

So that’s what I’m doing now.

Writing those reflections. Yes, you are right. I am suggesting I’ve been everyday creating, hashtag everydaycreativity.
I test the outdoor heat levels. Pleasant. I will shortly set off on an extended trip to Budgeons.
Some lines of a poem come to mind. I tweak them to match my intentions.

So never mind the direct route of the Sat Nav’s terse demands
I shall go to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.

That’s another example of #everydaycreativity.

Do let me know what you think.

Everyday Creativity

Everyday Creativity began as a blog post in June 2022 to compliment my long-running blog Leaders we deserve. It will focus more on my developing ideas about the nature of creativity to be found in everyday life.

I hope it will be interactive, and result in a network of subscribers interested in creativity in the sciences, humanities, politics, but above all in everyday life.

It will be connected to the podcast TudoRama, and to relevant materials such as the recently published Boris, me and the BBC.

Tudor Rickards