Creativity is, I think, something that everyone strives for. Not everyone is an artist or a designer or a writer (and not every writer is doing creative work), but in general, I think people like to see themselves as creative, whether that’s by thinking outside the box within their profession, or with a fun hobby. So the question is, are you born creative, or is it a skill you can develop?
According to an article in “The Guardian,” research shows that there are “creativity genes” which impact the way our brains transfer information between different lobes. Basically, the more connective pathways your brain has, the more likely you are to be able to see connections and patterns, and therefore the more likely you are to be creative. (There’s also some stuff in there about the sizes of lobes and fibers and so forth.)
Of course, there’s a nurture component as well: you can hardly see connections and patterns if you’re poor and starving, for example. Trauma also has a negative impact on one’s ability to be creative.
But going back to our original topic, can you learn to be creative? I think that everyone has creative potential, just not in the same areas. We tend to think of creativity as being the purview of artists, writers, and increasingly, entrepreneurs and those in the tech industry. But there’s creativity everywhere: NASA just discovered a bunch of new planets. I mean, true, they didn’t build them, but the idea of looking for other planets and in that specific place, not to mention all the technology and breakthroughs that have built up over decades to lead us to this discovery – if that’s not creative, what is?
I think creativity is a lot like learning styles. Musicians and voice actors probably have auditory creativity, where they learn by hearing and, more importantly, visualize in sound. I know that kinda seems like an oxymoron, but bear with me here. I’m a visual learner, I need to read something to understand it. If you tell me something, especially directions, I will forget them almost immediately. I have to write stuff down, and by write stuff, I mean write with pen and paper like it’s the ’50s.
But not only am I a visual learner, I am also tend to think in words (vs. thinking in pictures – most people use a combo, leaning towards visual thinking. I use a combo too, but a lot of my thinking happens in words). Example: when I read Harry Potter, I don’t imagine Harry/Daniel in my head running around the Forbidden Forest. Instead, I see a thought bubble with the word “Harry” in it, and that is basically the stand-in for the character in the imaginary world in my mind.
I see Hogwarts, but in a limited space. So for example, if Harry and co. are in the common room, I only see the table or couch they’re sitting on, with no connection to the wider space. Similarly, the Room of Requirement is in an empty hallway – it has no spatial connection to the rest of the school.
It occurs to me now that this limit of spatial visualization is why I’m so bad at directions.
The point is, given this information, it’s not surprising that my first love was reading and that my main creative outlet is writing. I like to draw and paint, but without specific instruction I tend to end up with random blobs (I can draw flowers though! Mostly because I draw them as blobs with a yellow bit in the middle). Even when I visualize something in my head, transferring it onto paper requires a stronger grasp on distance and proportion than I currently have.
However, we must ask ourselves which came first: visual text-based mental wiring, or the love of reading? Could the early introduction to books have set up my brain to receive and process information in word form? Or did I fall in love with books because my brain likes to receive and process information in word form?
“The Guardian” article would suggest the latter. I know that reading and reading and reading like there’s no next Tuesday has hugely improved my writing. In theory, that should be true for everyone. Creativity, I think, is more about what you’re willing to embrace and how you’re willing to embrace it (as determined, in part, by genetics), rather than a some-people-have-it-some-people-don’t ability.