Friday, January 6, 2012

Thoughts on Creativity

"What we airily label creativity typically blends so many features: risk-taking, perseverance, problem-solving, openness to experience, the need to share one's inner universe, empathy, detailed mastery of a craft, resourcefulness, disciplined spontaneity, a mind of large general knowledge and strength that can momentarily be drawn to a particular, ample joy when surprised, intense focus, the useful application of obsession, the innocent wonder of a child available to a learned adult, passion, a tenuous (or at least flexible) grasp on reality, mysticism (though not necessarily theology), a reaction against the status quo (and preference for unique creations), and usually the support of at least one person-- among many other ingredients.

In the throes of creativity, a lively brain tussles with a mass of memories and rich stores of knowledge, attacking them both sub rosa and with the mind wide open.  Some it incubates offstage until a fully fledged insight wings into view.  The rest it consciously rigs, rotates, kneads, and otherwise plays with until a novel solution emerges.  Only by fumbling with countless bits of knowledge, and then ignoring most of it, does a creative mind craft something original.  For that, far more than the language areas are involved.  Hand-me-down ideas won't do.  So conventions must be flouted, risks taken, possibilities freely spigoted, ideas elaborated, problems redefined, daydreaming encouraged, curiosity followed down zigzagging alleyways.  And sort of unconsidered trifle may be fair game.  It's child's play.  Literally.  Not a gift given to an elect few, but a widespread, natural, human way of knowing the world."
~Diane Ackerman, One Hundred Names for Love, p. 245 

Ackerman's next sentence (which I didn't want to include in the quote above, but which I think is true and needs to be said) reads: "With the best intentions, our schools and society bash most of it out of us.  Fortunately, it's so strong in some of us that it endures."

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