What is Creativity?

March 20, 2017

Three questions about creativity for those ‘in and outside the tent’

My long-term creativity collaborator Susan Moger came up with three questions worth considering on behalf of those inside the tent (educationalists, practitioners, researchers, and so on) and those who might be attracted into the tent (educationalists, practitioners, researchers, and so on).

Here are Susan’s questions

What is creativity anyway?

Why should I care about it?

Why should I spend my time on it?

The tent metaphor is from a crude expression by President Lyndon Johnson.   [I don’t want to mis-attribute the quote]. Incidentally, LBJ also was reported as saying

“If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read: ‘President Can’t Swim.’”

What is creativity?

Returning to the three questions, I have been consistent in my view that each individual has to take a view on the first question, but may be informed by the conclusions reached by many who had studied creativity extensively. The consensus is that there is no clear consensus!

That is not quite as bad as it sounds, and is consistent with the view that truth is always viewed through the lens of personal beliefs. Plato said it with another metaphor about seeking reality by having to interpret shadows on the wall of the cave.

I explained in a lengthy video a few years ago, how you may still hold on to some constant core of belief, even if the precise way you define those beliefs may change with time and experience. If you had the luxury of an hour to space with a good supply of refreshments, you may find it interesting. I recall mostly it was painful, as I sustained an attack of cramp due to being perched on chair too high for me to reach the floor.

Why should I care about it?

Because if you care about anything, you become more alert to possibilities. Creativity, even before we agree about formal definitions, is ‘something about’ how we discover new and useful things – about ourselves and our world. The useful things include life-skills, what we do, and how we might do them better.

There is a case which can be made for creativity being spontaneous. Some ‘Creatives’ [ugh!] worry they may lose their creativity if they (or others) examine it too carefully. I prefer to believe that study helps move from implicit to explicit knowledge. This helps us discover more about how we are creative and how we sometimes fail to create through barriers which are often self-imposed

Why should I spend my time on it?

Partly my answer to question two applies. A further argument is contained in the ironic comment made by Gary Player the golfer, to the effect that the harder he practiced, the luckier he got.

Maybe there is something in the old saying that practice makes perfect. I prefer the point that the wrong sort of practice makes permanent. It takes a special kind of practice (creative practice, maybe?) that leads towards improvement.

Image

From a creativity session in Brazil, ca 2010

Brazil Miami Sept 2010 070.jpg

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