Creativity - Yes You Do Have it!

Diana Robinson, Ph.D

CREATIVE - Yes, you are!

CREATIVITY - Yes, you DO have it!

When I began studying creativity as the topic of my doctoral dissertation I was amazed at the enormous number of definitions of creativity through which I needed to wade in order to come up with the definition that I would use in my research. In the process, I became very aware that, though some people may bemoan their belief that they are " just not creative," in fact it is almost certain that they have creativity in some form. For some people, the block is their belief that there is no reservoir of creativity for them to tap into. For others, fear of failure, fear of stepping over the edge of what is appropriate or socially acceptable may be a stumbling block.

Because creativity is of such interest to so many areas of our lives, it has been studied intensively, and there are many competing ways of studying it, and of defining it. In general, it is accepted that there are several levels of creativity. True, relatively few of us at attain to the highest levels, but at the other levels we all have a good chance. One series of "levels" that was proposed many years age still works well. This describes creativity levels as emergent, innovative, inventive, productive, and expressive.

Emergent creativity involves bringing forth a principle or idea that is entirely new to humankind, and that has far-reaching effects on how we perceive reality. Einstein and Newton come immediately to mind, which explains why such a level may not be attainable for most of us.

Next comes
Innovative creativity. Here creative individuals builds on their knowledge of whatever field they are in, climbing on the shoulders of their predecessors, so to speak, to reach even higher levels of new understanding and ideas.

Inventive creativity finds new uses for existing concepts and parts, while productive creativity is the description given when someone develops objects or ideas that are new to him or her, but not necessarily to other people. Quite often, this may be a developmental stage for those who will, if they do not get discouraged, move on to inventive or innovative creativity.

Lastly is
expressive creativity , which expresses feelings and ideas but does not need any particular skill or originality. This is well illustrated by the pictures that parents often place on their refrigerators or family notice-boards after young children have excitedly brought their latest art effort home from school.

Most of us probably hope we have moved past the expressive level, and realize that the emergent level may be beyond us. However, the other three levels may well be open to us. Clearly the person who is innovatively creative needs to have mastered a field of knowledge in order to be able to add to it. The more the field is mastered, the less likely is an individual to come up with an idea that has already been discovered, which would move it down to the "productive" level.

At its baseline, creativity involves developing something new and original, that is yet appropriate for whatever it is needed for. In art, that may mean that there are few limits. In business, the need for appropriateness demands that the creative solution be a real solution, that will work, and will work within the bounds of available resources.

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. This means that whenever we find a way to do something without the tools, or parts, or other resources that are conventionally required for the task, we are probably being inventively creative. Interestingly, this may mean that we become more creative in hard times. In easy times, when stores and shops are open day and night and there is plenty of money to buy whatever is needed, there is little need for invention, for "making do" with parts that are not intended for the task at hand. When times are hard, or emergency strikes, we
must work with what is at hand, and when we do that, we are being creative. A vivid example is shown in the film Apollo 13, in which the crew members must save their lives, and the mission, using only what was at hand in ways for which the various items were never intended.

For some people, there is the idea that we are only creative if we can paint, or write, or sculpt. Yet creativity is far wider than that. You have almost certainly solved problems creatively for one reason or another, even if it was once making up an excuse for being home late or not having done your homework. I have written before of an individual who once told me how sad he was that he was not creative, when in fact I knew that he was capable of inventing the most fantastic schemes and stories to further his own purposes. Sometimes creativity just needs to be channeled into useful areas.

That is where some people fear creativity - they fear that it will be unduly disruptive, and sometimes it is. Creativity demands something new. This can be threatening to the old. Creativity steps over the lines of what has been done before, and therefore steps into the territory of the unknown. The unknown can be fearsome. Yet, if you do not become friends with the unknown, you will never discover new horizons.

I believe it was the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland who announced that she tried to believe "one impossible thing" every day before breakfast. Perhaps believing the impossible is a bit much. But if we are to learn to welcome our own creativity, and not to fear leaving our well known and well traveled thought patterns (otherwise described as "ruts"), it is not a bad idea to at least try to consider something - an opposing point of view, a synthesis of two opposites, or a completely new use for some everyday item - every day before breakfast.

By pushing the envelope of your imagination, you will nurture your creativity day by day until you never have to think, even for one moment, that you are not creative just because you do not paint, or write, or sculpt. You can be as creative as you allow your imagination to be... for in imagination there are no boundaries.


© Diana Robinson

Diana Robinson first published this article her ezine Work in Progress.

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