Creativity and cause - letting the cause pick you

Creativity and cause - letting the cause pick you

by Lindy Nelson
Post date: 07 June, 2017

I’ve been pondering lately why is it that we get so connected to an idea, a belief, a cause?

Why it is some people will persist, overcome setbacks and disappointments, and pour energy into a cause that really inspires them, while others share similar beliefs yet do not fully dedicate themselves to them?

There are two reasons for my interest; making sense of my own dedication to my cause, and exploring the somewhat strange concept that you don’t actually pick causes or creativity, rather they pick you and there is a very good reason for this – it would appear our combined efforts are often more successful than those carried out on our own.


Who picks who?

The answer to the above became clearer to me early in the week when a friend posted a video on Facebook about women photographers who have dedicated themselves to filming how horses live in the wild, entitled “Strong Women, Wild Horses”. It shows women who have dedicated themselves to capturing images of wild horses to show the world why we should leave the free roaming horses and their untamed territories alone for good.  

There is some narrative in the short video where one of the women is talking about why she does this, she says “this cause picked me and it’s not letting me go”.

 When I heard those words, it was like a thunderbolt, almost as if she was talking directly to me. Suddenly the reason I have dedicated the last 9 years of my life to supporting women in NZ’s agri sector became clearer.

 I had always assumed my ‘why’ or cause was largely as a result of my own experiences and challenges as a woman and as a farmer, when struggling in the early days to know where I fitted, where I could add value.

But that didn’t explain my passion – at times my sheer determination or willingness to keep on going beyond a job, beyond a calling.

I thought maybe my personality had a lot to do with it. Yet even understanding my personality in depth using psychometric testing only gave me a part of the puzzle.

So, if experiences and personality only paint half the picture what creates the rest?

Could it be the cause who picks you, and not the other way around? This idea resonated with me and seemed to connect to another idea which I discovered last year about creativity.


Creativity and co-collaborators

 During my sabbatical in 2016 I read a book called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It explores the process of creativity and that sometimes inspiration occurs to others at the same time it occurs to you. Kind of challenging when we like to think we have thought of something or created something all on our own!

She suggests creativity is like an energy that goes looking for a collaborator to bring it to life. This theory is validated with a series of stories, where people in different countries throughout the world – without ever knowing one another, start a similar book, or piece of art, or project, and all end up with a very similar result.

Well this week I had my very own co collaborator experience. I wrote a short piece for social media about Gypsy Day – the day NZ dairy farmers move their families, possessions and precious cattle to new farms, jobs and communities.

I thought about what I actually knew about Gypsy Day. This was mostly my own inspiration of dairy farmers and their ability to (often yearly) create new beginnings as they shift their lives to start afresh somewhere completely new.

 So I wrote about that and delivered it to Hannah – who does our social media, to post.Later that night I was on Farming Mums NZ Facebook page and found a post that Chanelle O’Sullivan had posted about Gypsy Day. Initially I thought “oh that’s cool Chanelle has shared my post”. I then looked again and thought “holy moly it’s entirely similar”, was written at the same time and about pretty much the same topic.

 How can it be that two women in different places are writing a similar thing, with similar words, at a similar time without ever knowing the other is doing it?

 Now Chanelle and I do know one another and have collaborated on a project together, but we don’t write together, we have different writing styles and the topics we write about are quite dissimilar. Yet on that day without too much thought we were inspired to write pretty much the same thing. Did creativity pick us to co-collaborate?


Things come in threes

So today a third thing occurred which again seemed to confirm this new thought. I was coaching a participant on our Escalator programme and talking about her leadership vision. You could have knocked me down with a feather when she said “last week my vision just fell into place”.

Last week at the same time the Agri-Women’s Development Trust board settled on their new vision and yes you guessed it – the visions were virtually the same.

Could it be that creativity and causes seek potential co-collaborators? And when those co-collaborators combine their collective wisdom, energy, passion and belief, the cause becomes so much more powerful.


Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead understood this concept when she said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”