Apparently the ancient Greeks had no word for ‘to create’ or ‘creator’ rather they used a term meaning to make, that applied mainly to poetry. However the various Muses could provide inspiration.
In Judaeo-Christian traditions, creation was the sphere of God and humans could not do it, though they could be inspired.
The origin of the word ‘inspire’ relates to the breathing in of spirit from the divine.
A gradual shift occurred during the Renaissance and into the 1800’s, by which time creativity and imagination became more important.
William Duff (1732 – 1815), a Scottish Presbyterian minister wrote ‘An Essay on Original Genius,’ to “explain the nature of genius and to point out its essential ingredients.”
Gertrude Stein: “It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.”
Graham Wallas, in 1926 wrote ‘The Art of Thought,’ describing four stages of the creative process: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification.
I could go on with the process of charting various writings and theories. I’m also interested, however, in the characteristics of a creative person. I was going to call this bog, Cracking the Creativity Code, but discovered that there are various books and at least one documentary called that.
Some of the characteristics of creative people often cited include independence and autonomy, a wide range of interests, thinking and associating ideas in unusual ways, verbal fluency and an ability to express ideas, productivity, interested in philosophical issues, curiosity, adventurous, and so on.
Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
A recent issue of Scientific American had articles on topics such as ‘The Origins of Creativity’ (when our ancestors started thinking outside the box – or maybe the cave), ‘Predicting Artistic Brilliance’ (self-motivation in childhood), ‘The Unleashed Mind’ (are creative people weirder than the rest of us), and ‘Switching on Creativity’ (freeing the mind for creative problem solving).
My own experiences lead me to believe that creativity begins at birth. By providing babies and toddlers with a variety of experiences – people, places, activities – parents can lay the groundwork for a creative child. By not insisting on one right way to do anything or to think of anything, we can encourage creative thought in our children. By reading to them, letting them listen to music, giving them opportunities to play music, to play with paints and crayons, to run and jump and use their bodies, to make things up, we can nurture continued exploration. I also think that upsetting or difficult events that take a child out of his or her normal situation may contribute to creativity – a major move for instance, death of a loved one, a difficult family situation. Sometimes a child who feels displaced will find solace in creative artistic expression, or will find creative solutions to a difficult situation.
Anatole France: “To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything.”
But now that I’m getting older, I’m very much aware that creativity is needed at all ages. Is it possible to increase creativity? If you don’t consider yourself a creative person can you become more so? Perhaps it is all a chimera, an illusion. I think that creativity can be spurred by the will, by activity, by dreams, by trying new things. And that can happen at any age, nor does it necessarily diminish with age.
Creativity and innovation is not limited to visual artists, writer, musicians, dancers, actors, etc. but is also found in science and many other areas. Each of us has to be creative in some way to live, to make choices, to find joy. Some people may seem to be more creative than others, but all of us have the capacity.
Pablo Picasso: “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense,” and “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”