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Creō/Spiritus - What is Creativity?

February 27, 2018

What does it mean to be creative? I've been thinking a lot about this lately but even more so as I observe William and Madeline while they play and learn about themselves and the world around them.

 

 

The wikipedia definition of creativity is that it is "a phenomenon whereby something new and valuable is formed." Reading more about the subject, creativity used to be regarded as a conduit of the divine and it wasn't until the Age of Enlightenment that creativity was paralleled with discovery, and the imagination of individuals. But doesn't the word 'phenomenon' allude to rarity and contribute creativity to genius. Then there is the fundamental question of who or what determines value?

 

Another person trying to answer the same question as me, Jan Philips, says "Every one of us is a born creator. That’s the hallmark of being human: the ability to create...Creativity is the vivid expression of who we are in the world." This makes me think of the new scientific study that Neanderthals used cave art 65,000 years ago as a form of self-expression contrary to prior views that only our more "intelligent" ancestors had the means of communicating creatively.

 

I watch William as he marvels at making muddy footprints or painting handprints. The excitement for this small way of saying "I am here. This is me." If creativity is expression of identity then toddlers and young children are highly creative as they begin to make their stamp on the world.

 

Further research into the matter and we get to the American Psychological Association article by Karen Kersting, "What Exactly is Creativity". According to psychologist Dean Keith Simonton, PhD, of the University of California there is a distinction between "little c" creativity; everyday problem solving, and "Big C" creativity; rare innovations that change lives. But by making a distinction between these two aren't we placing value on one about the other and aren't "Big C" creations probably composed of multiple "little c" moments.

 

To add to my confusion about questions of creativity, one article says creativity comes from the Latin term creō "to create, make" while another attributes creativity to inspiration, from the Latin spiritus, meaning “breath, courage, the soul.” It is probably a bit of both.

 

In the realm of business Richard Foster, a lecturer in management at Yale SOM and emeritus director of McKinsey & Company differentiates creativity both from innovation and discovery. He says creativity is about making something new, rather than merely applying or discovering something new. “Creative solutions are insightful, they’re novel, they’re simple, they’re elegant, and they’re generative.”

 

For Foster, creativity is also about making connections between different fields of knowledge. Children innately do this as they learn and play and what I love about children is they don't have preconceived notions of how certain objects are and how they are supposed to be used.

 

I suppose my conclusion from this unanswered question about creativity is we can all learn a lot more about it by observing young mind's as they create, make, breathe, and develop.

 

 

 

 

 

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