Thursday, May 17, 2007

What the heck is it?

What is creativity?

Wikipedia says:
"Creativity (or creativeness) is a mental process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts.

From a scientific point of view, the products of creative thought (sometimes referred to as divergent thought) are usually considered to have both originality and appropriateness. An alternative, more everyday conception of creativity is that it is simply the act of making something new."

Wiktionary says
"The quality or ability to create or invent something; originality. " says


  1. the state or quality of being creative.

  2. the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination: the need for creativity in modern industry; creativity in the performing arts.

  3. the process by which one utilizes creative ability: Extensive reading stimulated his creativity.

[Origin: 1870–75; creative + -ity] "

To be creative is to have the power or ablility to create. To create means to cause something to be that wouldn't be there before.

Like for instance a sigh or a fart or a fingernail.

Now most will argue that the something created must have value and originality to qualify whatever you're doing as creativity but isn't that kind of subjective value judgement the realm of the art historian not the artist.

The artist farts and the critic says it smells terrible, the art historian puts it in context and tells the world whether it was an important fart.

Lesson 217: Don't worry if it's not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing, sing a song. (check this out as well)

I'll come back to this theme of fear-restrained self-expression and its discontents in the future but for now I want to explore the more pragmatic aspects of creativity. (Or, honestly, I hope to end up in some expected, esoteric place after starting in a prosaic place, sort of like Wittengstein.)

The thing about creativity is that it gets elevated to some kind of magical power. In fact the goal of creativity is simple, to create something new and useful. Now given that we are creating all the time whether we know it or not, who is to judge whether something is new or useful?


Other people.

(Which brings us back to the fart analogy...I didn't get very far did I.)

Well maybe I can salvage something new and useful.

Whether something is new and/useful is a matter of judgement and thats a matter of context, both personal and cultural.

But that doesn't really past the smell test does it? Creativity is more a matter of attitude and activity than the outcome. Can we imagine a creative jam session that doesn't actually produce anything new or useful yet feels creatively productive.? Yes absolutely. Is it possible to imagine a jam that produces something new and useful that was not creative? Possibly.

So creation seems like its an activity, the quality of which can be judged subjectively and (relatively) objectively based on the feeling and on the outcome.

The point being, really, what are we waiting for?