Last year marked the start of the Practice Profile series.  Each post in the series captured a glimpse of what we can learn of creativity.
I’m delighted to be starting 2013 with a feature of David Timony. Both a musician and an educator, his commitment to learning was immediately evident to me when we met several years ago. His blog is often insightful, and his Twitter stream often humorous. Among the things I have learned to expect from the Philadelphia native: candor.

About his personal creative practice, David remarks,

“I’m restless. Learning new things is pretty much a constant activity for me. It is not always purposive learning, sometimes it is just a matter of mental diet. I many ways I treat my mind the way a competition athlete may treat their body.”

Curiosity and the drive to learn are essential to creative output.
Without the benefit of diverse input, from which thoughts and ideas are gathered, the likelihood of seeing a familiar topic anew is slim. Fortunately, there are myriad ways to expand our experiences, so that novel input can be explored.

In the examples that follow, David describes ways he has sought novelty in his creative work:

“It’s all about the process and how that process influences the rest of my life. I’m my own coach and devils advocate–I don’t trust my tacit mind. If I love or hate something, I want to know why and how I could change that if only for a while. I started learning Romanian and Italian just to see what it would be like to be in that situation. I’m strongly considering a Scandinavian language because it is unlike anything I know. If I’m not actively learning new things I get out of shape and dull. I guess I can get really annoying really fast. 

This is a parallel to how I approach everything. A composition professor told me years ago, ‘you’re not going to write intervals or chords that have never been heard before.’  The next thing I did was go out and see how I could change that. I pulled the frets off of my main guitar. The luthier said, ‘you’ll hardly ever use that, it’s impossible.’  Well, that became my main guitar and still is.”

Like many others who thrive creatively, David understands the value of stepping outside the lines of certainty and beyond the comfort of the known. He explains,

“Being a learner requires some basic rules for living. There is no sanctity or superstition in my work. I’m willing to be uncomfortable. I’m willing to be wrong. However I may seem on the outside I’m terribly sensitive to others and hold no defense or pride to my method. I do, though, want to be sure and thorough. Some people have told me that they are not comfortable with my willingness to be uncomfortable. 

It’s been said that while Shoenberg was the primary architect of serialism, it was Berg and Webern who did it best. I’m alright being out front and setting stages for others. Sure, pioneers get slaughtered but hey, we all have our roles.” 

One of the greatest (and most damaging?) myths about creativity perpetuates the common misperception that discipline is somehow at odds with creativity. Significant creative outcomes require discipline.
David regards his training this way,

“I am familiar with the intensity of focus and practice required to learn. It has made me very honest about the work I am willing to invest to achieve in a domain. My calibration and tolerances are very finite. I love Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I’m willing to improve slowly knowing that I cannot dedicate the practice necessary to improve at a quicker pace. In other areas, there are differing amounts of those resources.” 

When asked about the ways in which his creative practice influences his work as an educator:

“I can’t think of one. It’s all just living for me. I really don’t see my life in compartments like that. Everything that I do has a reciprocal influence–it’s a performance, a rehearsal, a critique, and a classroom. Life is pretty surreal sometimes.”

As 2013 begins, I see many opportunities to integrate creative practice and professional practice.  I look forward to sharing some of that work here.  And, as always, I look forward to the learning!

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David D. Timony holds a PhD in Educational Psychology and is a teacher, speaker, and researcher with more than 20 years experience in the classroom. He is a regular presenter at local, national, and online conferences and seminars. David draws upon his life as an artist and musician to bring creativity to his educational work and has been recognized for his approach in creating and developing tailored programs for individuals, groups, and institutions. When not at his desk, he spends his time with his family and chairs the Board of Directors at Miro Dance Theatre.

David’s research focuses on the demonstration and development of teacher expertise, student perceptions of teacher expertise, and the effect that the interaction of these constructs has on the outcomes for teachers and students.

A regular invitee to national and international conferences, his research has been presented at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, Temple University’s Department of Psychological Studies in Education, NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and Phi Delta Kappa International’s Summit on Teacher Quality and Retention.

© 2013 Kira Campo

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