Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Debate on Creativity

True potential is hard to manifest.'s 2007 article on creativity states that "Creativity isn't creation at all, it's reorganization."

The premise behind the author's statement is that inspired creation is derived from existing influences and sources, and is, therefore, not necessarily innate in those that are exceedingly inventive. 

Interestingly enough, another article, written in 2011 and published in Psychology Today, answers "No" to the question "Can creativity be taught?"

The authors state:
Creativity only manifests when a person with the right sets of skills and knowledge invents or finds an appropriate problem that cannot be solved using any existing approach, but which is amenable to solution by that person's unique set of experiences.
As generally happens with opinions that lead to arguments, both can seem right to some and wrong to others. In the end, nothing is ever black or white, but shades of gray can most assuredly be determined to be either lighter or darker. An opinion, however, is just an opinion, while an argument, has to be sustained by sound reasoning, which in turn, must be held as clearly evident. 

When considering which article to consider most valid, i.e., most conducing to argumentation and not resorting solely to opinion-based rhetoric, the following comparison comes to mind:'s article veers into the author argumenting that the creative process is absorbed through influence more than it is enigmatically manifested in a person by focusing on her own journey in becoming a top self-help website editor, where as Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein's article focuses on California's attempt to test state school student's creativity and explaining how the attempt is guaranteed to lead to failure.

Even though the Root-Bernsteins boast more credentials when it comes to the study of the concept of creativity,'s author's first hand account of her own creative-led journey warrants partial validity inasmuch as she justifies herself as a primary source.

And at first, it seems that the Root-Bernstein's are denying that Creativity can be taught. 

Then, upon further inspection of their credentials, their book on creativity's tag line, as seen online, states:

Creativity isn't born, it's cultivated—this innovative guide distills the work of extraordinary artists and thinkers to show you how.

Wait a second.

"Creativity isn't born, it's cultivated -".

After taking a good look at that verb, and momentarily realizing the power of semantics, I understood what the authors meant: creativity cannot be taught - it can be emulated, it can be manifested in the right conditions, and it can be ultimately cultivated, but no, it cannot be outright taught.

The challenge then becomes apparent: learning how to be truly creative is tantamount to studying how to be a chessmaster - without the right training, background, setting and specific traits, it becomes incredibly hard to manifest, and thus, cultivate the skill in question.

Can then, some people, not manifest their true creative potential (thereby never achieving cultivation), irregardless of the fact that they might be naturally creative?

A recent video I saw of Angelina Jolie receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 2013 Governors Awards in Hollywood California, encapsulates the aforementioned idea, in a slightly different context:

She says:
"I have never understood why some people are lucky enough to be born with the chance that I had, to have this path in life. And why across the world, there's a woman just like me, with the same abilities, and the same desires, same work ethic and love for her family, who would most likely make better films, better speeches...only she sits in a refugee camp. And she has no voice. She worries about what her children will eat, how to keep them safe, and if they'll ever be allowed to return home. 
I don't know why this is my life and that's hers. I don't understand that, but I will do as my mother asks [she asked her to contribute and be of value to others] and do the best I can with this life and to be of use. And to stand here today means I did as she asked, and if she were alive, she'd be very proud."

In the same way, there is no telling whether the seemingly mediocre person we brush by every day on our way to work could be the world's next great inventor, or how some poor pick-pocket in a third world country will never be able to show his true creative potential because he's more worried about survival.

What is certain though, and of the utmost importance, is to manifest the creativity reserve we have, whether we know about it or not.

Imagine - what a world we'd live in if people gave themselves a chance.

1 comment:

  1. I think the greatest minds are still out there, they just dont have the proper "cultivation" as you mention. I think one big catalyst for the creative mind in our times is the internet, imagine when all underdeveloped countries get a high percentage of internet penetration? I´m sure many good ideas will begin to sprout everywhere. Well, that will happen only if those countries manage to meet the basic needs of their people, I think that is the first step to getting more fresh ideas out there. Great Article. Thanks.