Defining Creativity Part 1

Thursday, December 13, 2012
What is creativity? It is not something that we can easily define. As an Illustrator and Designer as well as a semi professional musician, the problem of defining creativity has always been one that I have struggled with. The spark of a creative idea is certainly not something that we can touch (although you can certainly touch some of the end results), and yet our global society depends and thrives upon it. As a human society, creativity is one of our most valuable resources.
Science, Art, Business, Economics and almost all other areas of human endeavour and development have creativity and creative thought at their very core. But, where do you find it? You certainly don't seem to be able to dig it out of the ground.
At its most fundamental level, creativity can be thought of as a process by which we bring something new into being. Nothing more, nothing less. From a very early age, if we are lucky, we are encouraged to create or to be creative.
As human beings are we not required to be creative in all facets of our existence on a daily basis? For example, does the often overused phrase "Think outside the box" not simply imply thinking about a problem in a different way, therefore thinking creatively? We all face situations in our daily lives which require us to adapt and change. To think creatively.

But do we ever really create with a purity of thought, or do we all simply expand on pre-determined ideas? (I actually believe that it is more complex than this, a subject that I will expand upon in later articles.)
Some will say that the ability to think creatively is something that we are born with. You either have it or you don't. Sure, not everyone has the capacity, drive and patience to become the next Picasso or John Lennon. That does not imply, however, that a myriad of differing creative abilities are not latent within us all. Do those that we think of as genius "thinkers" hold any less value than our great artists? Of course not. No one is going to deny that Plato was a genius creative thinker. And Steve Jobs. Clearly, his thought process manifested itself in our world in many creative ways (I still marvel at my iPod) even if he was not actually the creator of its aesthetics.
Personality type, disposition, upbringing and relationships play a major role in forming who we are and the role we feel we play in the world. From an early age we form an identity, an "I" that we build structure around. This has both positive and negative effects. I like to think of the self as the entirety of the Universe that has been squeezed in to a box and gaffer taped up. The phrases "I can't" and "I'm not" become part of our personalities from as early as we can remember. Phrases such as "I can't do that" and "I'm not that creative" are negative false identities that we create and that have an impact on us as we grow older. They grow in strength until we feel that they define who we are. If we are lucky we may have an "I can" attitude to the world, but the reality is that most of us are a mixture of the two.
Stripping everything away, I believe creativity is a mental and emotional process by which we discover new ideas and concepts. No one, however, creates in a vacuum. The creative process relies on associations of existing ideas and concepts. These associations are then combined by conscious insight as well as that most intangible of ideas, the unconscious thought process. Is it these unconscious thought processes that hold the key to true originality? And how do we tap into that?
This is something that we will look into in the next installment.
Until then, enjoy life people. And stay creative.


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