Creative? Yes. Yes, You Are.

Creative? Yes. Yes, You Are.

Contemporary human experience has been shaped by the creative efforts of our ancestors. Our species' future will be defined by our own and future generations' creative activity. The artifacts of our culture, the tools we use, our music and our technology exist on account of the human brain's ability to conceive and build something that has never previously existed.

To understand creativity, we ask these questions and more: What motivates us to explore and build (psychology)? What are imagination and consciousness, and what enables the brain to build new connections (neuroscience)? What is the role of circumstance and culture in invention (sociology)? What is the role of rationality in creativity (philosophy)?

Researchers from various disciplines (and within the same!) disagree on the definition of creativity. One of the divisive topics in understanding creativity is whether work needs to be appreciated during the creator's lifetime to be considered creative in that time period.

Some researchers, using a systems model of creativity, would say external validation is required to determine whether a work (a painting, novel, mathematical theorem) is truly creative. Csikszentmihalyi argues that creativity that changes some aspect of culture "must be couched in terms that are understandable to others, must pass the muster with the experts in the field, and must be included in the cultural domain to which it belongs." 

Others argue that a person can be highly creative within a domain even if the domain does not recognize this creativity for years- decades or even centuries. This understanding of creativity accounts for those like Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, and Vincent van Gogh who received little to no critical acclaim during their lifetime. 

Some things that are agreed upon about creativity:

  1. Intelligence and creativity are distinct. Threshold Theory articulates that a certain level of intelligence is required for creativity. At or above an IQ of 120, there is no correlation between creativity and intelligence.

  2. Creativity is a reality for all of us, but it is especially linked to the following personality traits: openness to experience, adventuresomeness, rebelliousness, individualism, sensitivity, playfulness, persistence, curiosity, and simplicity. (Andreason 2005)

  3. Creativity requires ORIGINALITY: novelty is a critical for something to be considered creative, but novelty is context-specific

    "A historical approach to novelty implies that it is understood in terms of contrast (with a context) and transformation (of what was borrowed). Borrowing and recurring structures are considered as the elements of novelty production. The dialectics of the old and the new in creativity accounts for both continuity and discontinuity in the historical process." (Gorny 2007)

  4. Creativity requires UTILITY: in science this may be an application outside of research, in art, this could be the evocation of emotion or inspiration

  5. Creativity requires PRODUCTION: a product (without the commercial connotations of the word) must exist as the result of creativity: a finished work, a solved problem, an entity that can be built upon by future creators.

The next time you think to yourself, "I'm not creative", remember this: the very act of your thoughts and their amalgamation into the stringing together of words is a creative act. The complex system of your mind has strung together past experiences, meanings, and the influence of a stimuli into a statement: "I'm not creative" that has unique meaning (if only to you). 

The propensity to create is in all of us and our creations will determine our species' and our planet's future. In further posts I will be sharing insights on enhancing your personal creativity and how you may apply your creative powers in ways that can enhance life for our species.

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