The American Musical comedy-duo of Betty Comden and Adolf Green lasted for six decades and they were paired together longer than any other writing partnership in the history of Broadway. As the legend goes, they met every day, at the piano, for more than 50 years. Every day! They did this because they said they never knew when inspiration would strike, so they had to be ready for it.
The idea of being ready for inspiration has stayed with me ever since I heard this story many years ago. It has encouraged me to question, from time to time, whether I and the organizations I work with, are operating in a way that keeps us open to inspiration, open to creativity, and open to change. Most of us don’t have a lifestyle or a career that enables us to sit at the piano all day but we can make small changes in our daily schedules that offer us time for reflection (or dare I say daydream!). As children, daydreaming gets us in trouble at school. We’re told to focus, sit up straight and pay attention. So it’s no wonder that as adults, we are filled with terrible guilt if we gaze out the window appreciating the fall foliage or hoping to catch a glimpse of a monarch butterfly on its migratory journey. We struggle with finding the time to schedule Board and staff retreats. But inspiration and creativity can blossom when we stop tackling our never-ending to-do list and instead, tap into the world “behind our eyes.”
Creative New Jersey’s statewide series of Calls to Collaboration creates a landscape where we carve out precious time to re-connect with our colleagues and deliberate with individuals whom we’ve not had the opportunity to meet. These convenings afford us the chance to step away from the daily grind and participate in intentional, action-oriented conversations with people outside of our own networks and fields. This process supports our ability to tap into our creativity, and encourages all of us to ask different questions, as we boil down ideas and collaborate on innovative approaches to our communities’ most pressing challenges.
Sigmund Freud is quoted as saying, “When inspiration doesn’t come to me, I go halfway to meet it.” Feedback from participants of the Creative Monmouth: Call to Collaboration underscores that our work is indeed helping individuals “to meet inspiration halfway.” There are several new initiatives underway including a new Education Partnership formed to enhance the relationship between behavioral health, child protective services and education, in order to best serve children and families of Monmouth County. Additionally, Creative Monmouth has a new website under development, and the Monmouth County Arts Corridor Initiative, a joint venture between arts, commerce, transportation and tourism, (led by our friends at the Monmouth County Arts Council) is poised to take another big step as a result of their conversations during the convening.
Several other communities are also engaged in this work. Creative Morristown: Call to Collaboration takes place on October 19th & 20th. The leadership team (consisting of individuals from the Arts Council of the Morris Area, Sustainable Morristown, and the Mayor’s office) has been hard at work for several months, and enthusiasm in Morristown is growing as we move closer to the launch of the convening. If you live and/or work in Morristown and would like to receive an invitation to participate in this Call to Collaboration, please send us an email.
We are equally excited about our work in Rahway and Orange. Those leadership teams are in place and the Calls to Collaboration are scheduled for January and February, respectively. Again, if you are interested in joining in this effort in those towns, please reach out to us.
Those of us who are fortunate to live and/or work in New Jersey know that we operate within an idea rich culture. We have a long legacy of tapping into creativity and using that to spur innovation and sustainable practices. We know that the work of “creating something from nothing” is difficult, and at times, fraught with failure. We also know that it takes considerable courage to take risks, especially since we live in a culture which demands a home-run every time we’re at bat. However, if we allow our imaginations to run wild, tap into our creativity, deliberate with experts who are outside of our own fields, and have the courage to take risks, we will surely be ready for inspiration to strike.
In honor of the upcoming Dodge Poetry Festival, and in celebration of our imaginations and the world behind our eyes, I leave you with this marvelous poem by Emily Dickinson.
The Brain – is wider than the Sky
The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—
The Brain is deeper than the sea—
For—hold them—Blue to Blue—
The one the other will absorb—
The Brain is just the weight of God—
For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—
And they will differ—if they do—
As Syllable from Sound—
Elizabeth Murphy is the Project Director for Creative New Jersey and an independent nonprofit consultant. Creative New Jersey is dedicated to fostering creativity, innovation, and sustainability by empowering cross-sector partnerships in commerce, education, philanthropy, government, and culture in order to ensure dynamic communities and a thriving economy.
Creative New Jersey’s leaders and partners are regular contributors to the Dodge blog.