Group Think

When one of my students complains that they are being singled out for disciplinary reasons and others were doing it (whatever the transgression) too, I say, “Hey, I saw you. And the tallest flower gets cut down. Don’t stand out.” I know there’s something a little nefarious about this admonishment — after all, we want our children to be unique, to stand tall, but, hey, if they take the lead in mischief, I have to call them out and have them cut it out.

Creativity is such a shimmering, malleable thing. You can be creative when you take the lead — for mischief or for good. And you can be creative when you swim against the stream.

I’ve written about the collaborative nature of creativity. But there’s also the solitary work of it. For example, over my lifetime, I’ve worked on several novels. Many times, I stopped midstream on a big writing project because I lacked a tenacity of imagination. Or maybe it was purpose. Or I needed encouragement.

I think what I truly lack, at times, is the comfort of group think . This is why I love a writing workshop. There’s something about our shared purpose. We are all doing something separately, but doing it together.

I once interviewed a biker for breast cancer who said motorcyclists feel this on a long ride. They feel a great sense of purpose, being alone together. It must be biological — why we seek our tribes and want to be together.

When I toured the art studios last week, I met a photographer who captured beautiful pictures of starlings in flight, crisscrossing the sky at dusk. The birds were expanding, contracting, creating patterns. It was almost like they were breathing into formation and breathing out.

I’ve since learned  this is called murmuration. And it is so beautiful.


The creatures cover the night sky — alone together — like artists in studios, bikers on a long ride, or writers in a workshop.

For creative people, sometimes you fly together, sometimes alone. And the trick is feeling empathy for yourself whichever way you fly. And finding beauty in the journey and in the patterns in the sky.

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