Wilson Orhiunu: Creativity versus discipline

Wilson Orhiunu

Email: babawill2000@gmail.com Twitter: @Babawilly

Creativity is important but discipline is foremost. Discipline is a bit like working for the civil service. You do what you are told and go on to tell what you do by way of endless reports and presentations. On the other hand, the creative people do what unexplainable impulses urge them to do. They then go on to live out the rest of their days granting interviews about how they came up with ‘stuff’ mere mortals never dream of thinking about.

That is why the young fantasise about being ‘creative geniuses’ who have put the ‘nine to five’ on the shelf and grabbed their destinies with open hands.

The secret however is that the creative people are not as creative as societal myths will have you believe.  If a man writes and rewrites a three-minute song for five years, is he really being spontaneous and creative or is he just a lyrical servant doing a nine to five on his song?

Of course he takes a risk when inspiration first strikes. He starts to work without a promissory note of wages while the civil servant knows his salary is secure (this may vary from country to country). Working without a pension or wages is of no concern to the idealistic youngsters but is a major concern to parents. The circle keeps turning.

A man tries 400 times and gets it right once and he becomes a genius. The TV talk show host needs to convince the viewers that they are not wasting their precious time so he gives a mighty introduction to a trial and error song writer who floats on and tells of how he wrote a hit song in three minutes. Well, Messi scored a goal in 40 seconds for Barcelona but that does not meant he had not practiced all his life to perfect his free kicks.

There is talent, and creativity but the discipline to practice for many hours on end produces the fruit.  In the end, everyone is a servant of sorts to a monotonous grind that must be endured to reap the fruits of success.

The most creative person in my life is my two-and-a-half-year old son, Prof.  His combination of invention and daring both mesmerises and frustrates me.  Unperturbed by the risks of having his ‘ventures’ frowned upon, he conjures up new ways of doing things in his specialist area of interest which is play or play-play to Nigerians.

He has his toys and does the usual with them but like an alchemist he is about to make toys out of the items ‘mere mortals’ would overlook. A few weeks ago I left him with his Weetabix and returned to find his face and clothes covered in his breakfast. Then I noticed Weetabix on the walls. He had been flicking his food across the room with his spoon and had achieved great distances with his cereal missiles. My unzipped bag took in a few hits. The cleaning up process was punctuated with reprimands and complaints that fell on uninterested ears. He smiled at me like he was expecting the Turner prize. Well, the breakfast room is not Tate Gallery and I am a Nigerian parent. I warned him sternly.

In search of play and perhaps still after his Turner prize he slipped into the toilet and filled the loo with every single thing he could lay his hands on, bleach, assorted toilet cleaners, air fresheners and so on. His creativity failed to win anything but he was not put off.

The very next day he grabbed the edge of toilet paper and kept on pulling. The whole length of paper was on the floor and he looked satisfied with his ‘work’.

His best work to date was done one night when he waited for me to sleep and then went to where my phone and iPod were charging. I woke up when I heard music playing loudly.  The phone’s torchlight was on and I just could not figure out how he hacked through my password and got to the music. I did my reprimanding duties and grabbed the iPod trying to switch off the music. It took a while to know that the music was coming out of the mobile phone.

The next day I noticed some selfies he had taken in the dead of the night on my phone.  Forever experimenting with anything his hands can get hold of makes him a creative person.

It is my job however to squeeze out every single drop of creativity out of him lest he injures himself while working creatively in his play-play field of work. It is also my duty to reintroduce his creativity back to him with a good dose of daily personal discipline.