I’ve been signing a lot of books lately and it’s a warm, wonderful ritual that people find rewarding. You would think that in an age of ebooks, the actual physical act of an author signing a book that a stranger has purchased would disappear. But no–just the opposite. Signing that book, with a personal message and your unique signature, creates an intimate bond between writer and reader. People smile, laugh a little self-consciously, open the curtain of privacy with their requests and tell you stories in the brief moments of the signing. It’s immensely satisfying and meaningful.
Ritual and ceremony are critical to creativity. We recognize them in book signings as punctuating and celebrating creativity but they are important in the process of creating itself. Play is a ritual process that has rules that help lead us to surprising, new outcomes. It is a game that we can create ourselves, writing and rewriting the rules, framing and reframing the playing. These are all key creative competencies.
The research lab where a few people meet every day at the same time and “play” at science and engineering is a place of ritual. The morning meeting that we go to, where ideas are proposed and discussed and chosen, is a ritual activity.
The inkjet printer that we use so often came out of an HP lab where two researchers met daily and went through the ritual process of discovery. The most important thing Steve Jobs did as CEO was to visit nearly every day with his chief designer Jonathan Ives in Ives’ studio where they slowly walked around products and prototypes, touching, handling them, seeing how they worked, talking about them. That daily conversation was ritual. As was Jobs long walks by himself.
Rituals and ceremonies play two critical roles in creativity. They are a process that can get us to originality and new value. And they are windows into what is deeply meaningful to people. That so many people still buy physical books and want the ceremony of connecting with the author shows something significant about our culture. We demand the immediacy and ease of digital delivery but still desire the warmth and tactility of the “book.”
As an author, it’s just wonderful to be part of all of this. As an author of a book on creativity, its wonderful to participate in what you are writing about.