"Creativity or talent, like electricity, is something I don’t understand but something I’m able to harness and use. (…) Like electricity, creativity makes no judgment. I can use it productively or destructively. The important thing is to use it. You can’t use up creativity. The more you use it, the more you have.” - Maya Angelou
What do you first think of when thinking about creativity? For me, my mind fills with swirling lines of colour making connections and interacting with each other, sometimes they are bright and bold, sometimes they are delicate and dreamy, and sometimes they materialise into ideas ready to come out into the world. Creativity, for me, seems to be this all-encompassing word filled with possibility. It’s about making something new, thinking in a multitude of perspectives and deciding whether any of these ideas can emerge from out of the brain and into something more permanent than a fleeting thought.
The topic of creativity is an inherently complex one, with no real consensus on how to exactly define it. Despite this, as a trait, creativity has gradually amassed a plethora of interdisciplinary research with the overall conclusion being that it is intricately linked with the ability to innovate, problem-solve and be expressed in the material world. Although most often associated with artistic expression, creativity can be found everywhere: from an artist’s studio and a poet’s words, to a CEO’s business and the buildings you pass on your daily commute.
Much like a reflex, creativity seems to come naturally to those that nurture it. In fact, following the results of one of his research studies, general systems scientist George Land concluded that it is non-creative behaviour that is learned. Land’s research used a test he had created for NASA to help select innovative engineers and scientists on 1,600 children aged 3-5. The results of this study showed that 98 percent of the children tested showed creative talent. In conducting the same test on a group of 280,000 adults, the results illustrated that only two percent showed the same level of creativity. Creativity, therefore, is innate and we all have creative capabilities to some extent. So where does creativity come from, and how does it work?
In thinking about the sources of creativity, and creativity as an innate aspect of humanity, perhaps the most obvious source would be the unconscious and subconscious mind. The Abstract Expressionists, for example, valued the free expression of the unconscious, the result of which led to the creation of ground-breaking abstract works of art charged with exploring and illustrating raw emotion. Before them, the Surrealists, influenced by the writings of Sigmund Freud, believed that creativity came from deep within a person’s subconscious, and was thus more powerful and authentic than any product of conscious thought. More recently, Jack White in conversation with Doug Aitken describes how an individual’s surrounding environment plays an important role in influencing creativity and inspirations.
As such, creativity seems to possess an air of inexplicable spirituality and connectivity in that it can appear randomly. It is about being receptive to your surroundings and allowing the self to be exposed to new experiences and learning. Creativity must be nurtured and allowed room for expression, and each individual has their own way of doing this. For some a great conduit for creativity is physical exertion such as running, for others it’s having a long shower in the morning. Personally, I am at my most creative when I’m working on my artwork, or when I am in a hypnagogic state of consciousness (that elusive stage of just about falling asleep, where anything could jolt me awake, but I’m not quite fully asleep yet and my mind runs rampant with hallucinations).
In quoting Maya Angelou, the most important thing about creativity is that each individual has an endless reserve which expands the more you use it. It is not a trait that has to always make sense and, as it is becoming increasingly evident to me whilst trying to write this article, creativity is very much an elusive trait that is truly difficult to define. However, I conclude that the overarching source of creativity is the self, and how creativity appears, or manifests is jolted by external factors that may lead to certain moments of inspiration. Harnessing creativity therefore must be about personal discipline and work, and this becomes evident in the fact that creativity, as illustrated, can be unlearned.
Words - Arietta Chandris
Copy edited by Elena Stanciu