The Flip Side of Creative Life

Lately, I’ve read a lot about ‘creativity’—the subject has presented me profound philosophical intrigue. Not only do I read daily quotations on creativity posted by the local art league (under the auspices of a talented silversmith), I read articles on several websites in which various aspects of creativity have been discussed.

There isn’t a successful artist, poet, musician or etcetera who isn’t creative. (To be a successful etcetera, you’d have to be creative.) There are plenty of people who are technically competent—I’m thinking of an organist I used to know who played well. She had the personality of an enraged Rottweiler and no sensitivity to nuances of expression, musical or otherwise. She could play the notes, and play them accurately, but that was the limit of her artistic expression. I would not call her a creative person, but one who was skilled in the methodical reproduction of other people’s work.

People who can implement the ideas of others, but are hard pressed to come up with ideas of their own, are not to be spurned as artists. They would not be said to be creative, but they are talented and necessary; there are creative people who can’t draw a straight line with a rule—they need as a companion the idea-less yet skilful implementer of dreams. There is a man on the East Coast who writes great musical compositions, but can’t play an instrument or read music. Fortunately, he knows someone who can and they’ve developed a system, and his band is popular in the area in which he lives.

The more we explore creativity, the greater the possibility is that our understanding of creativity and how we define it may become narrower. For example, I’m very creative in the kitchen. A peach omelette with a Brillo Pad reduction (for consistency) is a very creative collation, but it doesn’t seem to be a very effective or welcome one. I can’t get anyone to even try one of my omelettes—some rubbish about not taking sweet and savoury together.

That raises a question: for something to be creative, must it achieve a particular kind or quality of result? Can we accept that creativity may have a negative outcome? How do these considerations shape our definition of creativity?

Another question is: who can be said to be creative? The recent material I’ve read seems to refer only to artists, writers, musicians (and the etceteras, of course). What about the rest?

Everyone is creative, but not always with a brush or a pen. People come up with creative solutions to problems all the time, but tend not to think of problem-solving or inventiveness as forms of creativity. (Some are very creative in problem causing as well!) During the winter, there was a serious problem with the gutter installations at the apartments where I am staying. They were alternately clogging and leaking, making huge cataracts of ice that, if they fell, could have easily injured or killed someone. The weather and severe cold prevented the owner from replacing the gutters, but the problem had to be addressed immediately. The owner and his son devised a system of chutes and funnels to prevent ice from building up anywhere it might fall on someone. It was a creative engineering solution, not artistic. (Then again, one man’s mechanical contrivance is another man’s abstract art, so their metal opus may qualify as the next great award-winning sculpture!)

Creativity is needed in every aspect of life, and always is comprised of the same basic elements that have been discussed here and elsewhere—self-confidence, non-standard/non-linear thinking, a desire for something better, courage, and commitment to a result.

There is a constant balancing of art and science in most things. We are inclined to think of art as visual, audible, edible, readable, and beautiful. We think of science as cold, clinical, chemical, mechanical, and physical. There is science in art—ask any painter who has tried to mix two paints to create a specific colour, and found that some of the pigments won’t mix because they’re chemically antagonistic. Barbershop quartet music is unique in that four singers produce five notes—the fifth note is the result of a sympathetic resonance in the harmonic. A rainbow is the result of the refraction and reflection of light through airborne water droplets.

Negotiation is an art—people are not all the same, and reaching an agreement with two people or more requires talent and sensitivity as well as psychological awareness and negotiating acumen. Camouflage is certainly as much art as science. Anyone who has looked through a telescope at the stars cannot fail to see the beauty of the sky. The Pleiades and Orion are beautiful constellations (but they’re ‘just stars’). Achieving difficult or unlikely outcomes in a situation require just as much self-confidence, thinking, desire, courage and commitment as painting a portrait or writing a poem.

Everyone is an artist in some way.

Please have an omelette.

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  1. Hi Paul,
    I agree with you – everyone is an artist in someway. How boring would life be if those that called themselves ‘artists,’ were the only ones creating…
    Your writing is exceptionally thoughtful as it is thought-provoking. Thank you for sharing…

      1. You are most welcome, Paul.
        Normally, I’d be substitute teaching today, but alas, I’m free – so I’m blogging to my heart’s content, hopefully I’ll create some of my own art too before giving a few student art lessons. It’s such a beautiful day – I’m even going to take my dogs for a well-deserved walk…
        Happy Monday to you.

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