Creative Blocks or Multipotentiality?

If you’re new here you may not know this, but my writing has been somewhat sporadic lately.

It’s not that I have nothing to say. Quite the contrary, loads of ideas are vying for space in the old right brain. Daily, it seems, a new inspiration knocks at my door. But the urgency to get any of it on to paper (or the screen, as it were) has taken a holiday.

So this got me looking back at what I’ve written during the past year. Marveling a little, in fact, and wondering who was that woman who kept churning out the words each week? There was even a moment, a flash, when I thought maybe my best work was behind me.

Oddly, though, this thought didn’t bother me. My reaction was kind of like, oh well. And that’s when it occurred to me that my current lack of writing desire has little to do with a creative block, but is more likely about the normal ebb and flow of my multipotentiality.

WHAT THE HECK IS MULTIPOTENTIALITY?

You may not have heard of it before, but that’s okay, because I know a lot about it. I spent almost a year studying it (and other aspects of creativity) when I wrote my master’s thesis in 1999 (seems like eons ago). So let me briefly return to that time and geek out on you for just a minute.

Way back in 1972, a guy named R.H. Frederickson defined a multipotentialed person as someone who, “when provided with appropriate environments, can select and develop a number of competencies to a high level.”

Later, researchers discovered that many multipotentialed people are creative as well, and their multipotentiality shows up as complex cognitive abilities, curiosity, a drive for perfection, and high degrees of originality and flexibility.

We probably all can agree that’s a fairly accurate description of many creative people. And most of it is really good, except for the stuff about perfection. But here’s the dilemma: there’s only so much time in a day, or a life. And that curiosity and originality wants to spread itself around, trying lots of different things.

But as Mr. Frederickson noted years later, writing in the Journal of Counseling and Development, that’s not the traditional route for honing a creative skill:

It can be argued…that to be a truly gifted dancer or musician [or writer, or any creative endeavor]…one must make a complete commitment of energy and talent in one particular area and give 100%, if not more, to that objective. This singleness of purpose…will most likely mean limited development of other potentially valuable skills.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

What it means for me is that I can give myself a break. I’m not in the grips of a creative block, and I’m pretty sure there’s still a lot of writing for me to do.

Yet it’s comforting to know that with a little digging I’ll discover that my creative multipotentiality has been showing up in other areas of my life, where I’m expressing valuable skills. So let’s see, what have I been up to lately? Doing a lot of cooking, actually. Bingo! Definitely a creative endeavor for me.

What it may mean for you is that you can give yourself a break, too, if you’re not meeting your creative expectations. And if you’re seriously struggling to get back on the writing or painting or singing horse (or whatever your particular creative horse is), then you might want to experiment with another creative outlet for a while, and see what happens.

Let your multipotentiality roam. Set it free for a bit. You can always round it up again when you need to focus.

How about you? What’s cooking with your multipotentiality these days?

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WHY NOT START NOW?

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6 thoughts on “Creative Blocks or Multipotentiality?

  1. Wow, Patty! Thank you for this post… I haven’t heard about multipotentiality before, but it would really explain me. I’ve gone through life taking up and putting down again so many creative interests that I’ve always called myself a Jill-of-all-trades and a master of none. Yet, I am constantly coming up against things I am interested in and want to pursue, for a while. Then I get disappointed in myself because I give it up in pursuit of something else. I’ve gone through my cooking stage, panting, gardening and seem to be in a writing stage. It’s been going for quite a while now, only limited by the time I have available for it.

    I certainly identify with the drive for perfection, because one of the reasons I tend to give something up is when I realise that I will never be as good as the real masters in the field. It’s hard for me to keep an interest in something I know I will never perfect….

  2. Patty –
    This is delightful and something to which I can relate even though I didn’t have word for it in the past (I do now). I see this in my daughter but mostly in me… It is one creative venture and then… oh, let me try this one as it looks interesting… and I do that for a while and although I could keep doing it, something else has caught my interest. I went from a digital photography phase to a working with those pictures to create layouts to a phase in which I did little… and now it is poetry and perhaps, dare I say, writing a novel? I have given myself a hard time about not writing fiction as I once did and now about not creating the clinical papers that, although dry and factual, are creativity in their own right… and yet, after reading this… perhaps I can back off a little and recognize that creativity is playing itself out as it does in many directions… and I am enjoying it.

    Have a warm and loving Thanksgiving.

  3. I just love the word!! Multipotentiality. Yes, that’s me. I focus on one thing and then want to create another. I’ve come to the same conclusion as you: it’s not a block, it’s adding to the alluring pot of my ever simmering imagination. Right now I’m into singing. Nothing formal. Just letting my voice roam free.
    So nice to read your words, Patty. Keep cooking!
    Happy Thanksgiving to you too.
    Maryse

  4. Hi Patty — yes, I can definitely relate to this — for me, sometimes the fear that I will dabble in too many different pursuits can come over me, and paradoxically the result of this fear is paralysis. Letting myself “dabble,” and to organically find a direction, rather than trying to singlemindedly force myself down a certain path, seems to be better for my productivity and my pleasure in what I do.

  5. I can relate, Patty.
    Thanks for sharing about multipotentiality; I hadn’t heard about it before. This makes a lot of sense. Something else that occurred to me was that we change as writers, our perspectives change and our writing wants to flow with that change.

    For me personally, I go through spurts where writing feels off. Your post has me considering that this is because I’ve changed as a person and my writing wants to change too, but my ego is still holding on to the writing as it recognizes it. Maybe I’m off here… but it feels to me that you LOVE writing and are a wee discontented by this? Just an experiment: try writing with a different voice and see what happens.

    However, I do agree with you that giving yourself permission to take a break and try other creative pursuits too. And cooking is something I’ve been missing in my life. 🙂

    • Hey Dorothy, M, Maryse, Chris, and Davina – Thanks so much for weighing in about multipotentiality. I really appreciate your comments, and even though I’m not able to answer each one individually, please know that I read and savored your words of wisdom.

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