Creative Thinking, Creativity, Cultural Change, Culture, Human Nature, Invention, New Idea, Society, Thinking

Creativity

SUMMARY: Being creative may be something some of us are born to do.

(About a 2 minute read)

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties. ~Erich Fromm

It’s a curious thing about we humans that not all that many of us are greatly creative.  In fact, as a species, we’re rather conservative.

Until the last few centuries, the human world was mostly unchanging.  People tended to live as their grandparents lived with very few innovations in either their thinking or their doing.  It’s only been relatively recently that change has become the norm.

Over the past thirty years, scientists have studied creativity.  Among their discoveries is that the neural paths in the brain that give rise to it are largely separate from the neural paths that give rise to intelligence.  In other words, creativity does not depend on intelligence.

Another finding has been that some people have brains wired for creativity while others do not.  I think that has serious implications for the self-help section of the bookstore, as well as the countless magazine articles advising people on how to be more creative.

It’s probably a good thing more people are not creative — at least not super-creative.  Societies today are already swamped by the pace of change.  Imagine how destructive it would be if that were multiplied thousands of times!  You’d never have the stability needed to raise a family, start a business, stay employed, etc.

It seems to me that most of us, when we think about things, do not think very creatively about them.  We don’t think much outside the boxes, as they say.  Instead, it seems we focus on trying to make sense of the boxes.

For instance, if you were to ask a class of 30 or so students to write an essay on capitalism, you might at most get only a handful of students whose essays included a section on ways to improve it.  The rest would simply submit papers describing it.  That is, they would be focused on understanding the box.

Most of us profess to think creativity is a good thing, but in practice we are not only suspicious of new and creative ideas — unless they are quite practical or crafty — but we also tend to reject them out of hand, without fully considering them.  That reaction might be understandable in terms of how upsetting changes can be.

If creativity is indeed hardwired into the brain, then that would explain why creative people often feel compelled to create.  That is, they can feel like they have no real choice in the matter.  If so, then Fromm might be over-estimating the courage it takes to think outside the box, to “let go of certainties”.  People born to do something do not necessarily need a great deal of courage to do it under normal circumstances.

Questions? Comments?

12 thoughts on “Creativity”

  1. I went through a huge space of time where no creativity came out of me. I was just a guy doing his thing. Pretty average. A rock solid 5. I remember being creative as a kid but somewhere along the way I hit a brick wall.

    One summer I took a bad fall and busted up my legs. From that point on things have changed. Why? I don’t know. But I’ve always seen that bad fall as a silver lining.

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  2. I’ve read that emotions have a lot to do with creativity, the stronger they are the higher the capacity for expression and innovation. Positive emotions especially, but some do their best work when they are depressed or angry, or even high on substances (which can trigger lots of random emotions).

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  3. I have not read the article yet, so I may be asking too early, but a question from the summary; How does adaption to new ways constitute creativity? There seems to be a rather large difference between being creative/thinking creatively and accepting change.

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  4. I find it impossible to accept the idea that creativity has only come to the human race within the past few centuries. Whoever suggests such a thing has clearly never seen the Parthenon Marbles! Or Pompeiian frescoes. Or the Lion City of China. Or, of course, given any consideration to what was involved in the invention of language… and tools… and the domestication of plants and animals.

    Modern “creativity” tends to be just twists on the accomplishments of ancients, standing on the shoulder of giants. Very few creative products of the past few centuries represent anything genuinely new.

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    1. High Grateful Girl! Welcome to the blog.

      I think you have misunderstood my post. I was not attempting to suggest that creativity has “only come to the human race within the past few centuries”. Rather, I was basing what I said on the obvious truth that both the pace and volume of innovations has picked up in the past 500 years — but I failed to make that explicit.

      You and I disagree on the notion that “modern creativity tends to be just twists on the accomplishments of ancients”. I believe there’s a little truth to that — enough truth to mislead people — but not a lot of truth. I don’t see any comparison in the ancient world to today’s communication system or to computers, for instance. But you’re free to disagree with me, of course.

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