I've been reading a lot about creativity lately. It's an interesting topic as it's so hard to define. The book I'm reading right now is one that defines creativity as the ability to add something novel (or original) of value to the culture. It recognizes creativity only if it is recognized by the field that the innovations are made in.
I'm not sure how to feel about this. In my life, I've always been a 'personally' creative person, learning many skills and using them to make the things in my life. When I look around the house and shop almost everything has been touched in some way by either my or my husband's hand. We've literally made most of our lives together. If I were to look at my own creativity from this book's point of view, I would not be considered creative at all. Our creation of our life has certainly not had any impact on our culture, only on our personal lives.
The same, too could asked of my work life... as a designer, I try to innovate, to come up with new ideas that will make my work more valuable to my customers. In the field that I'm in there are many, many innovators - more so than ever. There is no way to know right now who's work will be remembered as influencing the course of the craft in years to come. Someone could, with the available resources in the field, buy an LA machine and do things for their customers that are all designed and thought of by other LA innovators. As the person that matches the patterns to the quilt are they still creative? Could one be said to be creative when they only use another's ideas?
The book is intriguing, though, as it has interviews with so many people from so many different fields. I'm not that far into it yet, but am enjoying the types of questions that it raises. It's called "Creativity - flow and the psychology of discovery and invention" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It's an older book, published in 1996. I'm being disciplined in reading it. Supposedly there is a chapter at the end that has information that is gleaned from all the studies about how to lead a creative life.
I do understand that the point of looking at creativity from this cultural impact point of view probably has as much or more to do with the ability to 'measure' creative impact for the study that this book describes than it does with the actual experience of creativity, BUT part of me rails against that. Once we reduce the creative impulse to just the measurement of its impact, we sterilize and neuter it. In my experience, creativity is messy and organic. It jumps and leaps, it does not follow linear growth patterns. It's true that for every idea that I have that gets fully developed in to a consumable, usable form there are easily 15 - 150 that don't get developed. Sometimes it takes 5 or 10 of those initial 'spark' ideas to form one coherent drawing or pattern. There is no way to jump to the end, to do only the final product without all the pre-product ideas and thinking. Should my creativity be measured only by the ideas that make it to print? Or should it be measured by the ability to generate ideas?
I'd be interested to hear other's points of view on this topic.