What IS Creativity and How Does It Work?
Where Does Creativity Live?
I have a hunch that small, relatively secluded islands tend to attract creative people, those who like the vastness of ocean, the nearness of nature, and who can easily fill the absence of big-city buzz and stimulation with their own interests, ideas, and activities. Maybe that's because I live and work creatively on one such island. Saturna Island is the southern-most of the Canadian Gulf Islands (between Vancouver and Victoria, B.C.). It's a lovely and temperate archipelago that joins the San Juan Island (off WA) in the US. I've written and videoed about it a on my website and social media. It's the inspiration for this musing on creativity
Do We Want Creativity?
Mountains of papers and books have addressed the question of what creativity is and how to foster it. We seem to value creativity and to want more of it. Maybe so, but maybe not. Creativity in the classroom isn't always encouraged when it sidelines the lesson plan. Creativity in business has generally been valued only when it enhances sales. And in government, creativity can seem chaotic or downright revolutionary.
What IS Creativity?
The simple definition shown in the top image makes sense (to me). Still, creativity is still often hard to recognize. It's a process that may or may not yield a product. It's not always or often the "ah-ha" experience expected, and we sometimes even discount creative ideas as "trivial" in ourselves and others. Yet creativity happens in all imaginable ways ... and in ways, as yet, unimagined.
"Failure" and Creativity
Today, the generative aspects of creativity are being noted by major business ventures, like Apple and Google, who actively embrace and promote the creative process by encouraging "failure". Creative attempts that don't result in the desired outcome might be seen as failures, just as lightning doesn't strike every metal rod. We need to re-think ""failed" attempts that occur in the service of creative lines of thought and action. Even unsuccessful creative attempts may lead us in new and possibly fruitful directions. Creativity is an open-ended, multi-directional process. We can't be guaranteed a predicted or even a welcome result, but the process tends to open new possibilities. That's how a glue that wasn't sticky enough became a "post-it" phenomenon.
Creative Process and Product
Imagination, musing, meandering, messing, and digressing seem part of the creative process, which both solves problems and may spark new ones. The process is messy at times, like sculpting in mud. Or perhaps chaotic, like thinking outside the box. It needs some time and mind space, for sure, and a certain level of skill, information, and experience to spark creativity in any given area. But creativity also needs non-directed play, exploration, and permission to "fail" when we take creative risks. At best, the process can be experienced as fun across all areas: sciences, arts, gardening, the trades, whatever. And it's a vital asset for all we think and do.
Risk Being Creative
I don't think creativity will work for us on demand. But I think it can be cajoled. How? By cultivating an attitude of freedom of mind, openness to considering things, moments of reflectiveness, little breaks from usual patterns of doing and thinking. Even risking possible "failures" in the outcome or product of the creative process.
So, why don't we credit ourselves when doing things that may not seem immediately useful but that plow the field for creativity to sprout? Writing this post, for instance, seems like one such moment for me, and I wanted to share it. Reciprocally, perhaps reading this post has stimulated some of your own creative thinking? If so, you might like to check out my free online monthly column at Creative Life News, www.janetstrayer.com and leave me your comments. Onward to all on your creative paths!