Defining Creativity


I feel like sharing today, and I need motivation to upkeep this blog while I get new ideas. So, from time to time, I’ll be putting up excerpts of some of my old works, mainly essays. A lot of the time, I get the themes of my fiction pieces from the non-fiction I write, so this might actually help me in the novel arena.

This is an excerpt from a paper I wrote on creativity for my senior seminar at school. It’s just a small piece of the paper, but I feel like it’s the kind of perspective on creativity that more people should have.

“The restrictive definition of creativity comes from eighteenth century beliefs, when creativity was believed to be “a quality mystically possessed by gifted individuals, who poured out their emotions onto canvas or with pen on paper” (Massey 18). With this definition, creativity, as mentioned earlier, becomes a trait associated solely with the arts. However, art-centric creativity is not always the case. As people have advanced, and new technologies have been developed, the line between creativity in the arts and intelligence in technical fields has begun to blur. In the sciences, it is no longer enough to simply be smart, but you must also have a degree of creativity. Scientific thinkers must be creative in the creation of ideas, and in conveying this information to the public. In this case, the definition of creativity above will not suffice. As a result of all the changes that came about through humanity’s development, creativity’s definition has broadened to be “the ability to generate new ideas and approaches” (Massey 17).

With this second definition, it is easier to see how someone like Charles Darwin, a scientist, could be considered creative. In a case study on creativity, Dr. Robert Weisberg, professor of psychology, uses Watson and Crick, the two scientists who discovered the double helix structure of DNA, as an example of creativity in the sciences (238). Expanding upon the definition of creativity as the ability to create new ideas, Weisberg adds that something is creative if it is both “new” and “intentional” (236). This eliminates the idea of “accidental art.” For example, a person can’t just accidently dump a bucket of paint onto a carpet and say it is a product of his or her creativity. Intention, therefore, fits perfectly in a scientific kind of creativity. Weisberg goes on to argue that Watson and Crick, while not artistically inclined, did create a new idea, on purpose, on the structure of DNA. He also makes a point of emphasizing that their idea was based on previously existing information (238-239). For the sake of comparison, Weisberg also discusses the case of Pablo Picasso’s creation of one of his most famous paintings, Guernica. The process Picasso followed to finish his painting shows a clear reliance on previous information and his own past. The painting is based on the bombing of the town of the same name, which occurred four days before he began working on it. There was no “thinking outside the box” in the creation of Guernica, according to the study, because the work is based not only on the bombing but also on a previous work of Picasso’s, Minotauromachy. Because of this, it is also valid to say that creativity is not something that comes out of nowhere, but is inspired by something, based upon some kind of foundation (240-241). In order to be creative, a product doesn’t have to be completely novel, but new to the person who created it. A creative product does not necessarily appear from thin air, or as a result of an epiphany, but grows out of pre-existing events, ideas, and notions.

Considering creativity in this way, it becomes easier to imagine that creative writing and technical writing have much in common, and should be taught in a way that reflects the similarities, instead of placing them in opposition. By teaching a class such as technical writing in a way that is similar to its creative counterpart, teachers can dispel this notion of the two fields being entirely different. With an emphasis on creativity in the classroom, teachers would be encouraging students to create new ideas and their own impressions of the subject at hand. Since creativity boils down to the creation of new things based on old works, past experiences, and pre-existing information, it becomes easier to see how all writing can be creative, even that of the technical variety.”

Always give credit where credit is due. Sources cited in this excerpt of my paper:

Massey, Anne. “Developing Creativity For The World Of Work: A Case Study.” Art, Design & Communication In Higher Education 4.1 (2005): 17-30. Education Research Complete. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.

Weisberg, Robert. “The Study Of Creativity: From Genius To Cognitive Science.” International Journal Of Cultural Policy 16.3 (2010): 235-253. Academic Search Premier. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.

Thanks for reading!



Tell me what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s