What is creativity, anyway?

There’s a particular feeling we associate with the word “creative,” a kind of ingeniousness, a sense of novelty, maybe even of extremism – to go where no man (or woman) has gone before. When I think of creativity I think of Van Gogh, cutting of his own ear and wallowing in this pit of suffering to make something that people would one day look at and say, “Wow!”

My husband and I are so excited to be underwriting the Jack and Elizabeth High School for Teen Drama, the Arts, and Feelings!

Compare that to the countless job descriptions online looking for someone creative, a storytelling, go-getting, problem-solving, self-starting dynamo…to sell insurance. I mean, the very word “insurance” makes me want to jump out the window and hide on an island in the Caribbean, eating mangoes for every meal and sleeping on the beach until I die of exposure, because I have no health insurance.

Clearly, however, one does have to have some semblance of creativity to sell insurance, because at the core of sales is advertising, which is widely seen as a creative field. But it’s obviously not the cut-your-ear-off type of creativity – it’s more mundane, if you can apply such an adjective to a word like creativity, more practical.

Practical. It’s almost like a bad word, so bland and boring. But it’s also pretty important too – it’s kind of like when you watch Project Runway and they do the avant-garde challenge. It’s great stuff, but what’s the point of it all if it’s not practical? What are you going to do with a dress you can’t walk in?

This is the kind of thing that says "Don't talk to me, but do offer my expensive hors d'oeuvres," at cocktail parties. bleedthewineunholy.tumblr.com
This is the kind of dress that says “Don’t talk to me, but do offer my expensive hors d’oeuvres,” at cocktail parties.
Via bleedthewineunholy.tumblr.com

This post, and in a way this whole site, was inspired by the book “Spark: How Creativity Works” by Julie Burstein and Kurt Andersen, the key word here being “works.” Isn’t that the whole point of creativity after all? To make something that works? As a writer, I like to think of myself as a creative person, although that’s obviously a subjective term. But I also think of myself as a practical person, boring as that may be, and I want what I create as a writer to reach people and to make sense.

Let’s also admit that the sample of people who are creative in a big picture, Van Gogh-kinda way is likely to be fairly small. The practical, problem-solving, lets-change-a-couple-things-here-to-make-something-new creativity is not only more common, but more relatable and certainly easier to understand. The best of both worlds, obviously, would be to bring the former kind into the realm of the latter, to make something that is wildly inventive and shockingly different but that is also accessible and useful. That’s what I want to do, at least, and I think it’s absolutely possible.

Without anyone having to cut off any major body parts.

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Quibble with the world:

5 thoughts on “What is creativity, anyway?”

  1. Yay! And that’s what I love about writing – it’s both creative and has the ability to help others in a substantive way. And I’m sure you will be successful at this with this site. Looking forward to all that this site has to offer.

  2. Creativity is just a way of saying “novel”…
    What they are looking for in adverts when they specify “creative” is a wide knowledge and an ability to (and I hate this phrase…)”Think outside the box”, to come up with novel solutions…
    Therefore “creativity” is highly correlated with “intelligence”.
    Perhaps, it is just a code word, so they don’t just say “intelligent”.
    A good article but the author should re-read it. I spotted three faux-pas, and I hate that…

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