Creativity is an elaborate game of connect the dots where you can’t actually see the dots, you have to infer them. Moreover, these dots are charged with emotional and autobiographical significance. From a psychoanalytic perspective we might say that you keep yourself from seeing them. I asked ten remarkably creative and accomplished people in a wide range of professional practices to write down a few thoughts about creativity. Where does it come from? Does it apply to any realm of endeavor? Can we teach it? Are our institutions nurturing it?
“You know each of our projects is like a slice of our life, myself and Jeanne-Claude. And the journey is so exciting—not only the realized things.”
The floor is my space for contemplation. Maybe it is simply the place where I cannot fall any further beneath the seeming weight of the task.
Regardless of the field, how often are new ideas dismissed under the premise that “we’ve always done it this way?” We may be up against the misconception that innovative or non-traditional approaches will be cumbersome, misaligned, and impersonal. My work at the JHCC set out to prove the exact opposite—by using technologies creatively, we set patients’ and their families’ needs as top priority while maintaining or improving upon health outcomes.
Books and discussions about creativity and the notion of the creative class tend to encourage “thinking outside the box,” a confused metaphor for original or unconventional thinking. This confusion exemplifies a common misunderstanding about what creativity might be.
In general, drawing is regarded as a medium of artistic spontaneity and directness. It is the art form that most clearly reflects the immediacy of psychic expression. The drawings of Louise Bourgeois possess these qualities to an unusual extent, but there is far more to them than that.
Creative individuals gravitate toward activity, toward places where change is happening, where ideas are in discussion. They look for spark, not necessarily for solitude. They want to make contributions to the world, not merely express their own ideas. This portrait of creativity leads to very different ideas about where it comes about, how it happens, whether it can be made to happen.
Francis Bacon, a brilliant scientist-philosopher who lived and died four centuries ago, is often considered the father of the scientific method, inasmuch as he pioneered the concept of using inductive rather than deductive reasoning along with hypothesis testing by falsification as the means of acquiring new knowledge.
The dream, often formulated in the script development stage, has a purity of purpose, but that is the last time in the long, multi-year process of delivering a movie to the public that such shaping of a personal vision can be unilaterally created. After that, it’s the hoards.
Though a topic of enormous importance, science has little to say about creativity. The evidence that we have about the topic is derived more from the world of art and from world literature than from direct scientific experimentation. Many might be tempted to dismiss such evidence as fanciful because of its source; let them reflect that such works are the products of the human brain and, where there is pancultural unanimity on some aspect or other of human behaviour, the evidence should be taken seriously.
This should be the heyday of higher education in America. A college degree has never been more essential to individual success and societal progress, nor has a degree been more universally accepted as an engine of economic mobility and national prosperity. But higher education is failing to respond creatively and quickly enough to the challenges of the 21st century.