Creative People Say Yes (Sometimes)

First, why say “a Hungarian psychology professor” instead of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi? Surely not because the actual name takes longer to type.

(Possibly because we don’t know how to say the name in our heads, but if you hunt online, you find that he recommends saying it like this: “chicks sent me high.” Which makes it worth typing all by itself.)

And why not name the book the quotes came from? Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention is a fantastic book, and it’s on page 14 that the Peter Drucker quote comes from. Ashton quotes the part where Drucker says no, but doesn’t quote this part: “I am greatly honored and flattered by your kind letter of February 14th–for I have admired you and your work for many years, and I have learned much from it. But, my dear Professor Csikszentmihalyi, I am afraid I have to disappoint you….”

Without that introduction, Drucker comes off as vehement and sweeping and almost nasty:

“One of the secrets of productivity (in which I believe whereas I do not believe in creativity) is to have a VERY BIG waste paper basket to take care of ALL invitations such as yours —”

Whereas what shows up in the book from Drucker is actually a nuanced rejection.

Nuance was lacking in “Creative People Say No.”

Rather than a blanket statement, such as [any kind of people] always do [whatever], (blankets can be awfully smothery), what seems more accurate, in addition to wiser and more generally helpful for the planet and our own well-being, is Nadia Bolz Weber’s assertion:

“I stand behind the suggestion that there is value in discerning what is ours to do and what is not ours to do and that a growing self-awareness around why we say yes or no is a good thing.”

Even Peter Drucker said something like that, as he said no to Csikszentmihalyi: “productivity in my experience consists of NOT doing anything that helps the work of other people but to spend all one’s time on the work the Good Lord has fitted one to do, and to do well.”

The work the Good Lord has fitted one to do–well, gosh. What if, SOMETIMES, we are fitted to help other people?

So I will list, since Ashton didn’t, some of the people who said yes to helping Csikszentmihalyi:

  • Barry Commoner
  • Robertson Davies
  • Freeman Dyson
  • Nadine Gordimer
  • Kitty Carlisle
  • Anthony Hecht
  • MadelineL’Engle
  • Denise Levertov

And lots more. They apparently found it worthwhile to help Csikszentmihalyi help us all figure out how to be more creative.  They apparently agreed with him, that “if the next generation is to face the future with zest and self-confidence, we must educate them to be original as well as competent.” (That is from page 12 of the book. It’s a good book.  Published by HarperCollins.  Which is a good publisher. Why would you quote from a book and not mention it? I don’t get it. I’m not looking for formal documentation here–I get plenty of that in my day-job as a professor of first- and second-year students learning MLA style. But Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes good books!)

The creative people who said no–I’m not saying they should have said yes. I’m just saying I’m glad so many of them did say yes.

Saying yes is sometimes the right thing to do.

Saying no is sometimes the right thing to do.

Knowing that our To Do list is full up of things that are “ours to do,” and skimpier or empty of  things that are “not ours to do,” that’s really what we’re after, isn’t it?

4 responses to “Creative People Say Yes (Sometimes)

  1. You “come by it honestly” but I believe you’re figuring it out much sooner than I did – great!

  2. This kind of reminds me of Mrs. Reagan’s “Just say no” drug campaign back in the 1980s…LOL..I have gotten to the point where if I feel like doing something, fine, if not fine. Guess with age comes a certain amount of wisdom/ignorance/just don’t careitis…LOL…Keep up the wonderful work! I get exhausted just reading your “done” list. Can’t imagine what is still left to do…

  3. Pingback: Magpie Monday | Robert E. Stutts

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