The Essence of Creativity
After talking with a friend who is a classical music composer I decided my interest was piqued enough to write this article. I was planning on calling it the anatomy of creativity but decided that “anatomy” was too concrete a word when dealing with human ability and emotions. First, I am going to ask a series of questions and then try to answer them. They are:1. What is the meaning of creativity? 2. What is, if any, the relationship between creativity and intelligence? 3. Is creativity inherited? 4. How is creativity affected by mental health? 5. What role does environment play in the development and the continuance of creativity. 6. What effect has the electronic age had on people’s ability to create? 7.What effect does left or right brain dominance have on creativity?
The Webster-Merriam definition is: “Ability to produce something new through imaginative skill, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form. The term generally refers to a richness of ideas and originality of thinking. Psychological studies of highly creative people have shown that many have a strong interest in apparent disorder, contradiction, and imbalance, which seem to be perceived as challenges. Such individuals may possess an exceptionally deep, broad, and flexible awareness of themselves. Studies also show that intelligence has little correlation with creativity; thus, a highly intelligent person may not be very creative. See also genius; gifted child.
So, this answers the question of intelligence and creativity and this surprises me. My previous supposition would have been that the speed the thoughts randomly occur the better the creativity again making suppositions.
As a previous architect, I can tell you that there is beauty in asymmetry. Architects go out of their way to create asymmetry because it feel better to them. This does not mean a disregard for balance and some repetition. The philosophy of Feng Shui the Chinese philosophy of human harmony with his surroundings almost always uses asymmetry in it’s design. For example, use three stones in lieu of two. Contradiction and imbalance….perhaps that is why some people are always searching for the truth because they see contradiction and imbalance in everything. For me, I am a very emotionally oriented person. who feels passionate about almost everything I do. When a child, I made things to play with, partly because I was poor and partly because it was fun. I have built many tree houses and forts in the woods. Al of my children enjoyed creative elevated playhouses. At a very young age, maybe 9 or so, my father presented me with a small very sharp hatchet and hammer, not toys but very good tools. No matter what medium they work in, creative people always love the tools of their trade. Show me a good painter and I will show you a man in love with paint and brushes…show me a good sculpture and I will show you a person who loves marble chisel and hammer. Show me a good photographer and I will show you a man who loves cameras, show me a good surgeon and I show you a man who loves a good sharp scalpel. My father, a carpenter, loved his tools and took good care of them. One of my fondest smells, even today is the smell of fresh sawn lumber that permeated his work clothes. I really have to give my father credit for setting the stage and encouraging my creativity. My father was a Church of Christ minister and I rejected his religion at 13 . I’m sure this hurt him deeply but he always loved me. He was in a nursing home with my mother when I published my book about the Ozarks in black/white photography and poetry and he was so proud he went up and down the corridors trying to sell it for me. He seemed to realize the deep spirituality of the book because he made some statement in reference me being glorified for it.
I will tell you this, there is no high like the high of sitting at the computer typing out a stream of rhythmic rhyming words that seem to materialize miraculously before my eyes. I may be sobbing as I turn out the words that illustrate best to me the grief of my ex wife leaving our 35 year marriage, but at the same time in ecstasy at the flow of words. My previous wife said I had a dark personality…but a woman told me one day she sensed my underlying joy. I am here to tell you, it is there. Part of this joy is my love for nature and all life. I also love people and their ineptness sometimes in being all they can be. I see my creativity as a tool that I can use to help me and others find the truth in us. So, my creativeness seems to be in direct relationship with my intensity of emotions.
About 11 years ago I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. There have been studies that Parkinson’s patients have become more creative. I haven’t seen enough to convince me there is a direct correlation between the disease and creativity although my creativity has increased. Part of this is that I committed myself after the diagnosis to bring more creative because it was something important in my life. have always been emotionally intense and it may be the drugs have enhanced that. For instance, I take a drug called Ropinirole. Some of it’s side effects are hyper sexuality, tendency to gamble and other risky behavior, etc.
I talked several times to a pianist/composer who admittedly is considered intense and labels her compositions as sometimes dark, but always intense. She gets so caught up in these pieces that she is exhausted in the end.
“The flow” a newly coined description of the stream of creative thought and intense joy and absorption was given life by the book: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi introduced to me by my therapist, is, as Wikipedia puts it: Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. Proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, this positive psychology concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields.
According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task although flow is also described (below) as a deep focus on nothing but the activity – not even oneself or one’s emotions.
Flow has many of the same characteristics as (the positive aspects of) hyperfocus. However, hyperfocus is not always described in such universally glowing terms. For examples, some cases of spending “too much” time playing video games, or of getting side-tracked and pleasurably absorbed by one aspect of an assignment or task to the detriment of the assignment in general. In some cases, hyperfocus can “grab” a person, perhaps causing him or her to appear unfocused or to start several projects, but complete few.
Colloquial terms for this or similar mental states include: to be in the moment, present, in the zone, on a roll, wired in, in the groove, on fire, in tune, centered, singularly focused, going ham, or going beast mode.
This accurately describes my state of mind when creating in Photoshop or writing but occurs in repetitive procedures. For example, I watched my podiatrist come in and like a robot dispatch with speed and accurateness an ingrown toenail. He said nothing during the surgery but with his intensity, speed and precision I am sure this, admittedly his 13th for the day was done with “flow.”
Is creativity inherited?? I believe, for me, the combined emotional passion and the ability to perceive multi-dimensionally were inherited traits. I will carry that a step further to a 4th dimension of spirituality. A poem written to my father posthumously.
Do creative people tend to be mentally unstable like Vincent Van Gogh or was he an exception?
The Myth of the Mentally Ill Creative August 6, 2009
Posted by keithsawyer in New research, Uncategorized.
Tags: bipolar, creative misconceptions, genius, judith schlesinger, Kay Redfield Jamison, mad genius, madness, mental illness, Nancy Andreassen
You may believe in some variant of this myth: Creative people are more likely to be mentally ill than non-creative people; artists and writers are more likely to be alcoholics, clinically depressed, or commit suicide. Anyone can think of at least one famous artist or writer who committed suicide (Hemingway, Plato) or did some other crazy thing (Van Gogh cutting off his ear).
I call this a “myth” because there’s no solid scientific evidence for it. And there’s a pretty large amount of scientific evidence that creativity is associated with positive moods, happiness, and healthy lives. There’s also a large amount of evidence that creativity is based in ordinary cognitive processes, not in a distinct brain region; that means that there could be no brain mechanism through which mental illness could affect creativity distinctly. In other words, creativity is intimately tied with normal brain functioning, so if creativity is impacted then so is everything else our brain does.
The myth originated in the Romantic era, as I describe in detail in my 2006 book Explaining Creativity. It has received an aura of scientific respectability in recent years, with a few rather small studies gaining a lot of media attention. (And some being expanded into book-length treatments.) I’ve just read a journal article by Judith Schlesinger* questioning the methodologies and the media interpretations of the most-cited publications reporting links between creativity and mental illness: those by Andreasen, Ludwig, and Jamison. The article is a little bit strident for an academic journal article; between the lines of academic prose I can sense a bit of frustration on Schlesinger’s part: “I can’t believe anyone takes this stuff seriously!” she seems to be thinking. I was surprised not to see any citations to the creativity experts who have gone on record claiming there is no link between creativity and madness: Weisberg, the creative cognition scholars, myself, a special issue of the Creativity Research Journal (2000-2001 volume 13 issue 1) although Simonton gets a mention for his work.
The good news is that there’s no evidence that mild levels of mood disorder interfere with creativity. (Although there haven’t been very good studies done of this possibility.) However, severe mental illnesses generally result in reduced creativity.
I hope you will comment on this post, but keep in mind that one example of a creative and mentally ill person does not constitute scientific proof of a causal link. That’s because a statistical connection also has to consider all of the mentally ill people who are not creative, and all of the creative people who are not mentally ill. The only way to evaluate the myth is with large datasets and rigorously gathered data and diagnosis of the participants in the study. And no such study has demonstrated a firm correlation; much less, a causal link.
Kudos to Schlesinger for publishing an article that I’m sure will get her some challenging and maybe even angry emails from various people who are deeply committed to this myth.
*Schlesinger, Judith. 2009. Creative misconceptions: A closer look at the evidence for the “mad genius” hypothesis. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, Vol. 3, No. 2, 62-72.
I sometimes feel like I have adult ADD. My mind never seems to dwell on anything very long and a lot of the time my imagination is running full speed. I sometimes describe my thought pattern as a pin ball comes out of the chute randomly careening in a chaotic pattern hitting s bunch of the contact points that buzz or ring sending it of again. When I write poetry I find I occasionaly use a word I didn’t know I had in my vocabulary. Almost always I use it in the correct context.
Does ones environment affect their creativity?
My name is Dr. Rajiv Desai.
I was brought up and educated in Mumbai, India. I got MD degree in Medicine from Mumbai University in the year 1987. I am Single.
I am working as a medical specialist in Daman, India. This website is created to educate people using my spare time. Information is different from education. Education is systematically organized information with predefined objectives. The aim of this website is education of masses and not merely providing information.
As far as plagiarism and copy right issues are concerned, I want to emphatically assert that this is an educational website providing free knowledge to browsers on various subjects. All the posts are free to people and there are no advertisement on it. I am not making any money out of this website but in fact paying from my pocket for creation and maintenance of the website. Yes, I have to take some content from other websites, books, journals and media but these are factual contents and not creative contents; and I do not claim it to be my original work. Free education and research is neither plagiarism nor infringement of copyright.
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Had there been no creativity in human brains, we will be still living in Stone Age even today. The journey of humans from Stone Age to Nanotechnology is possible only because of a unique trait, namely creativity. To survive, people need to adapt to changing circumstances. To prosper, people need to solve problems, generate new insights, and create new products and services. Put differently, critical to both survival and prosperity is creativity—the creation of something new and unusual meant to improve one’s effective functioning. We all know that even bacteria do create novel enzymes to destroy antibiotics for its survival. Whether it is Darwin or whether it is Newton, whether it is Einstein or whether it is Edison, whether it is Shakespeare or whether it is Picasso, whether it is Mozart or whether it is Beethoven; it is the creativity in their brain that revolutionized the world. The constant need for humans to adapt themselves to changing social and physical environments requires inventiveness. The dissonance between external reality and ourselves becomes manifest in creativity, such that the most creative of us may also be the most “at odds with themselves and the world”. Humans are constituted so that they are never completely satisfied and always able to imagine something better. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but dissatisfaction is its father. We humans are a creative species. When we compare what we do & make with what other species do & make, it is self-evident that we are the most creative species. But what has the role of creativity been over the course of our evolution? Is it just a by-product, an emergent property, of more fundamental cognitive processes, such as those involving problem-solving ability, memory, language, attention, and so on? Or is creativity a distinct and identifiable cognitive process of its own, which varies from individual-to-individual?
There are more than 60 definitions of creativity with no single authoritative and consensus on its definition, or operational measure. A straightforward meaning of creativity view is generating something novel, original, and unexpected. Creativity is some of the many intellectual constructs that has been defined in as many different ways as the number of researchers investigating them. If someone runs out of fuel on the highway, the person must think of a way to get to his/her destination, and this requires creativity even if it is in its simplest form.
Creative or innovative thinking is the kind of thinking that leads to new insights, novel approaches, fresh perspectives, and whole new ways of understanding & conceiving of things. The products of creative thought include some obvious things like music, poetry, dance, dramatic literature, inventions, and technical innovations. But there are some not so obvious examples as well, such as ways of putting a question that expand the horizons of possible solutions, or ways of conceiving of relationships that challenge presuppositions and lead one to see the world in imaginative and different ways. Creativity is that aspect of intelligence characterized by originality of thought and problem solving. Creativity involves divergent thinking, that is, thoughts directed widely towards a number of varied solutions.
A simple definition is that creativity is the ability to imagine or invent something new. As we will see below, creativity is not the ability to create something out of nothing, but the ability to generate new ideas by combining, changing, or reapplying existing ideas. Some creative ideas are astonishing and brilliant, while others are just simple, good, practical ideas that no one seems to have thought of yet. Believe it or not, everyone has substantial creative ability. Just look at how creative children are. In adults, creativity has too often been suppressed through education, but it is still there and can be reawakened. Often all that’s needed to be creative is to make a commitment to creativity and to take the time for it.
Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new (a product, a solution, a work of art, a novel, a joke, etc.) that has some kind of value. What counts as “new” may be in reference to the individual creator, or to the society or domain within which the novelty occurs. Novelty requires originality and newness. There must be something fresh to the idea. What counts as “valuable” is similarly defined in a variety of ways. The novelty must be coupled with appropriateness for something to be considered creative. All who study creativity agree that for something to be creative, it is not enough for it to be novel: it must have value, or be appropriate to the cognitive demands of the situation. Creative refers to novel products of value, as in “the airplane was a creative invention.” “Creative” also refers to the person who produces the work, as in, Picasso was creative. Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others. Creativity and creative acts are studied across several disciplines – psychology, cognitive science, education, philosophy (particularly philosophy of science), technology, theology, sociology, linguistics, business studies, and economics. As a result, there are a multitude of definitions and approaches. The product of “creativity” has typically been defined in one of two ways: either as something historically new (and relatively rare), such as scientific discoveries or great works of art; or as producing something new in a personal sense – an apparent innovation for the creator, regardless of whether others have made similar innovations, or whether others value the particular act of creation. It is generally thought that “creativity” in Western culture was originally seen as a matter of divine inspiration. The traditional Western view of creativity can be contrasted with the traditional Eastern view. For Hindus, Confucianists, Taoists and Buddhists, creation was at most a kind of discovery and the idea of creation “from nothing” had no place in these philosophies and religions.