Uncertainty and creativity make good company

Certainty sounds like something rock solid and immovable – something upon which you can depend. In reality it’s ephemeral.

Yet human beings love the idea of certainty and when we’re thrust into situations of change and uncertainty, it feels like a test. Sometimes it even feels like punishment.

In fact, there’s been research to suggest that people can put their minds at ease from the uncertainty of not knowing why something has happened by accepting any story that explains the circumstances, even if that explanation is potentially wrong.

Uncertainty = discomfort.

When my role was made redundant in April 2013, it felt like the solid, dependable foundation of my existence had been yanked out from beneath me. My job. My daily certainty. My financial certainty.

Hence when I launched pinchmyself to share my journey through redundancy, the tagline became: ‘one woman’s journey from corporate Australia into uncertainty.’

On the face of it, venturing into life after redundancy is laden with uncertainty.

Yet the reality for me was the ability to find refuge on little islands of temporary certainty which made it easier to deal with the many long-term unknowns.

The certainty of a set amount of time in one location.

The establishment of a routine for a period of time.

The reliability of people around me who stepped in with love, friendship and support.

Initially, my full-time pursuit became travel, then volunteering overseas, then starting the book I’m writing about my late father, a World War II veteran.

Throughout it all, pinchmyself itself gave me a great sense of certainty and of purpose. As I’ve written before, this blog was an unpaid role that anchored me throughout my sabbatical.

In reading about creativity, I keep coming across a theme about how certainty kills creativity. Why? Because certainty breeds complacency. It stops us from looking and questioning, and seeking new solutions.

Innovation, learning and creativity it seems, come from venturing outside your comfort zone.

Uncertainty = creativity

That makes perfect sense to me. My period away from work was one of the most intensely creative periods of my life up to that point.

I now look upon that time as my creative break – where I explored writing, singing, photography and creative thinking at a depth that hadn’t previously seemed possible.

The good news is that once planted, my creative life has grown, although it takes a conscious decision to make space for it to flourish.

Perhaps the greatest feelings of uncertainty to hit me, after the original shock of redundancy wore off, came when I started looking for work in January 2014.

At that moment, you have to face up to the fact that you don’t have full control over your destination. No certainty about the outcomes of the process.

Fortunately for me, I picked up a contract role soon after starting to look for work. While it wasn’t a permanent role, it gave me back the everyday certainty of going to work and the routines that go along with that.

Within six months, I had taken a permanent role. That’s when I faced up to the most powerful insight of all about certainty and how transient it really is.

As I reflected on my family and friends and their close circles, there were ripples of many different uncertainties all round me.

In just a couple of years among people I know there have been several redundancies, a marriage breakdown, a cancer scare, a couple of cancer diagnoses, the death of loved ones, other injuries and illnesses, an organ transplant and financial troubles. A job offer interstate, a long-distance relationship, moving home, building a home, a new baby.

Some large uncertainties and some smaller. Some irrefutably negative and sad, some positive and joyful. Some things that start negative, but that shine a light on things that are beautiful and important.

Uncertainty is everywhere. It seems that life really is all about how you respond to these challenges and opportunities.

Uncertainty = life

I’ve since traded the stability of a permanent role for the flexibility of consulting, to give me the time I need to research and write Dad’s story.

Yes, life is more uncertain, but I know that for now, this is where I want to be.

M

This post about certainty was the unfinished business I mentioned in a previous post. While it’s unlikely to be my last musing on uncertainty, it feels like a completion of my reflections on redundancy, although it has crossed my mind to collate and share my learnings on that in a separate post in case that’s useful for others. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about the link between uncertainty and creativity. What has been your experience?

10 thoughts on “Uncertainty and creativity make good company

  1. Hi Mairi,

    I’m not sure you remember me from many years ago but i stumbled across your blog and thought I would say ‘hi’. It’s been years and probably some not so fond memories but i retained the good ones!

    I hope all is well with you – lovely blog, you’re an amazing writer.

    Sam

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    1. Hi Sam, it’s good to hear from you and thanks for the lovely feedback on my blog. I hope you’re well and that the opportunities and experiences you had back then have helped you to grow your career. All the best, M

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    1. It was an important post for me to get right because it represents the heart of the journey and the story I had set out to tell in 2013, so it’s lovely to hear that it resonated with you Jacquie, thanks again. M

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mairi, I enjoyed this post very much and will be pondering on uncertainty, innovation, creativity and stability on my walk tomorrow, the day after and no doubt many times afterwards!

    Now seems the right time to say thank you for your generosity in creating pinch myself and sharing your experiences. I’ve personally got so much from it. X

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    1. Thanks Nat, pinchmyself wouldn’t be what it is without the support, encouragement and insight from friends and followers like you. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on uncertainty, creativity and innovation when you’ve had time to walk on it! Cheers, M

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