Thursday, September 5, 2013

Creativity: Not as Hard to Achieve as I Thought

Creativity is complex and confusing. Determining whether an idea is considered creative or not is even more so; however, during my reading I learned that a person does not have to be a complete genius to achieve creative success.

In The Myths of Artistic Creativity, author Robert Weisberg argues that "creative leaps" rarely happen. Creativity is produced by ordinary individuals solving simple problems. Albert Einstein seems to agree in his letter to Jacques Hadamard: "According to what has been said, the play with the mentioned elements is aimed to be analogous to certain logical connections one is searching for." What I think Einstein is trying to say is that the creative thought process is supposed to be like solving a problem. A person must be creative to reach a solution.

Weisberg also states that creativity is stimulated by concrete external events. This automatically made me think of songwriting. Essentially every songwriter writes from personal experience. The best example I can give is Taylor Swift. Here's her problem: she needs to write music so she can continue making money as an artist. She must be creative in solving her problem and to do so she uses experiences from her own life to write lyrics. Swift is known for dating a guy, breaking up with him, and then writing a multi-platinum, grammy-winning, song about it. Then she'll go on a talk show and admit to using her relationships as writing material. Call her whatever you want, but I think that girl is a genius. Since 2006, she's been using her personal experiences to write relatable, catchy songs and she's never been more popular (or rich, which solves her original problem of making money). Becoming a musician was just a creative way for Swift to solve a simple problem (getting a job).
Taylor Swift

I just thought this was funny because Google autocompletes the search,
pairing Taylor Swift with many of the guys she's dated or was rumored to have dated. 

Last fall I had a problem that needed to be solved creatively. As captain of my school's volleyball team, I was responsible for creating a kick-ass pep rally dance for my team to perform in front of the whole school. It had to be entertaining, funny, and unforgettable. I began working on it almost immediately, collecting song suggestions from my teammates, watching dance videos on YouTube, and coming up with smooth transitions between the songs. It took a lot of hard work to make the perfect mix and even more work to practice the dance. We would meet after games or practices to rehearse dozens of times. And three days before the pep rally, I added another song to the mix (which made my team hate me a little bit), because I knew the song was about to BLOW UP. (The song was Gangnam Style by PSY). In the end, the dance went well: everyone on the bleachers stood up and cheered like crazy. It felt amazing to entertain such a large group of people. However, I could not have created the performance without an evolution of ideas. (To watch my epic dance routine, click here).

Some stills from our pep rally dance.

 Fyodor Dostoyersky, a Russian novelist, said, "a creative work comes suddenly, as a complete whole, finished and ready" (The Myths of Artistic Creativity). However during my reading, I found this to be completely false, and even Dostoyersky himself proved it to be false. It is nearly impossible to come up with a spectacular, finished idea. Artists draw sketches, poets write drafts, and I made probably ten different versions of my pep rally song before I had decided it was good. I kind of created my performance the same way Pablo Picasso created Guerinca; he drew the mural differently forty times before settling on one of the drawings.
One of Picasso's preliminary drawings of Geurnica.

Another preliminary drawing of Geurnica.

Picasso's final version. 
A 1984 exhibit at the New York Public Library "presented early handwritten drafts of a number of famous poems that had been revised" (The Myths of Artistic Creativity). Herbert Mitgang wrote an article in the New York Times commenting on these drafts: "These poems, encased like rare jewels under glass, make a subliminal statement: that even for the greats, revision was recognized as a necessary element of the creative process."

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak with the Apple I

Similarly, in the Chronology of Key Innovations, 1400-2000, author Steven Johnson writes about the birth of Apple: "Legendarily working out of a garage, entrepreneurs and college drop-outs Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs designed one of the first personal computers, or microcomputer--Apple I--in 1976, creating the first single-circuit board computer, though many important models, including the Altair, preceded it." The models preceding the Apple I were so important because Wozniak and Jobs would not have been unable to create the Apple I without them.

In conclusion, creativity is a weird thing that our brains do when a problem arises. People come up with creative ideas that typically evolve into different ones, until one of those ideas solves the original problem. When people are solving problems they may draw upon experiences from their own lives, and since every living person has some experiences to use during this process, every person can be creative.

Be creative! Maybe just don't make this face while doing so...

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