On Creativity Critical Thinking
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For this paper, I have chosen to focus on my old friend Madalyn, who seems to have been fantastically creative virtually since she emerged from the womb. (Her mother told me that she did odd things with her fingers and toes that most infants don’t do—forming interlacing patterns and shadow puppets on the wall.) Madelyn is one of the most creative and prolific people I know, in every dimension, although she has not yet become famous, and that is why I have chosen to focus on her—because she is not world-renowned, but appears to be just an ordinary citizen, albeit often wearing extraordinary clothes. A newly completed novel, however, may change her situation radically, because it is a really good novel, and may finally earn her the acclaim that she deserves.
Madelyn is now a month away from 65, and is looking back on her creative life, while continuing to add the little touches to everything that make life and beauty special to her and others. For example, cooking is for Madalyn like a palette to paint on. Hand her meat and vegetables and a splash of wine, and she will come up with a culinary concoction that no one has ever tasted before. Leave her alone in a room with a pack of colored pipe-cleaners, and she will create some kind of fantastical animal or structure, the likes of which no one has ever seen before. Give her a square of paper, and she will be doing origami in no time. Ask her where her creativity came from, and she will get quite serious for a moment and then say, “From birth and nature, with the encouragement of my parents and a very few really good teachers.” From what I have read, and what Madalyn has told me, it seems that creativity is largely transmitted through genetics and DNA. While it is possible that everyone is born creative, most people do not go on to explore that aspect of themselves very deeply. People like Madalyn cannot help themselves from exploring it. It is their nature, and their religion in many cases.
Research supports this analysis to a great degree. In the Guardian, David Cox states that the real question in creativity is whether natural or environmental (nurture) factors determine it. He argues that every individual can learn creativity to a certain extent but recent research has proved the degree of inborn creativity is greater than what we had known earlier (Cox, 2013).
Creativity is a complex topic, and there does not really seem to be a way to delve into its sources with precision, so there is continuing controversy and research. The New World Encyclopedia (2013) attributes creativity to thought processes, individual traits, social context, chance, and supreme deity. It has also been associated with exceptional intellectual abilities, psychiatric disorders, and humor. Whereas some individuals claim that the trait is innate, others say it can be nurtured. Creativity has also been viewed as beneficence of a muse.
The great painter Salvador Dali has had a lot to say about creativity (and everything else!). He has said, “There is only one difference between a madman and me. The madman thinks he is sane. I know I am mad.” “There are some days when I think I'm going to die from an overdose of satisfaction.” And, famously, ”I don't do drugs. I am drugs.” (Dali, 1970) I asked Madalyn to what degree she thought that “madness” was essential to creativity, and she paused for a moment and then said, “To a considerable degree, I think. Madness and obsession.” Her mother was severely bipolar and extremely creative during her manic times, writing and cooking and helping Madalyn with her art projects. Her art projects covered the house, spilling over from her bedroom into the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, and the recreation room. Her parents detested the mess, but mostly allowed it because of the quality of the art that Madalyn was producing.
Madalyn finally got to art school, in her senior year of college. There she was intent on studying metal smithing and jewelry making, welding, and sculpture, all of which she mastered easily and prolifically. Later on in her life, she became a very skillful hot glass artist, garnering some fame for her intricate work. She was awarded several blue ribbons in museum shows along the way, and fell passionately in love with hot glass art. She is not engaging in it now, because she does not have a studio to work in. Instead, she writes fanatically, all day, almost every day. There seems to be no limit to the range of creative skills that she can pull up when she needs and wants them. She finished her recent novel in three weeks, with one day during which she wrote for seventeen hours non-stop.
Antonio Gaudi, born in Spain in 1852, was one of the most creative architects in the history of the world. From the very beginning of his career as an architect, his whimsical building designs were radically different from anything that other contemporary architects were doing. It is said of him that he was not so much influenced by the history of architecture, but by forms in nature. Many of his unique structures seem to reach to the sky in almost a stretching way. Gaudí began by working in the same artistic vein that his Victorian predecessors did, but he soon peeled away, developing his own totally unique style, composing his buildings by juxtaposing geometric masses and then bringing the surfaces alive with stone, brick, and bright ceramic tile, and highly original flowing metalwork. Gaudi really broke the mold for architecture in his time. Not a lot it known about his analysis of his own work, but one only needs to stand in front of one of his unique buildings to recognize the genius in it. Could he have learned this level of creativity in architecture school? This is doubtful. One can only logically conclude that he was born with it and picked up more of it by a careful study of the natural world. According to the National Geographic (n.d.), the exemplary and outstanding architectural structures that are characteristic of Barcelona can be attributed to the inherent creativity of a man known as Gaudi. His creativity enabled him to identify the common features of architecture before his time and to make a complete overhaul of the features.
I watch Madelyn putting the finishing touches on her outfit for the day. She is very carefully choosing the right accessories to complete the artist’s look. “I know that I was born with this, there is no question. When I was two, I was placing daisies between my toes and in my hair. No one taught me to do that. It was just natural to me. Actually, almost all creative pursuits have come naturally and easily to me. I have been very lucky, though also, at times, very disturbed.”
Adams states that the real difficulty is in the description and nature of creativity. He explains that creativity has various forms which can be found in a vast number of contexts. He also states that individuals enrich creativity with wide levels of internal traits and environments. According to him, there are no rules and restrictions in creativity which is, perhaps, the only important rule in creativity. (Adams, 1996) .
So it would seem that all we can do is study and speculate. Creativity may come to different people in different ways and different times. Someone like Madelyn may be able to remember long episodes of creative activity when she was a tiny child, while others may show their creative colors much later in life, when they first put brush to canvas or fingers on keyboard to write their memoirs. The true sources of creativity seem to remain among life’s most intriguing and provocative mysteries.
Adams, K. (2005). (NCEE) Research Summary and Final Report. The Sources of Innovation and Creativity National Center on Education and the Economy. (p. 4). Retrieved from http://www.ncee.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Sources-of-Innovation-Creativity.pdf
Biography.com. Antonio Gaudi. Retrieved from http://www.biography.com/people/antoni-gaudí-40695.
Carruthers, P. (2002). Human creativity: its cognitive basis, its evolution, and its connections with childhood pretense. University of Maryland. Retrieved from http://faculty.philosophy.umd.edu/pcarruthers/Creative-thinking.htm
Cox, D. (2013). Are Some People Born Creative? The Guardian. 19 September. Retrieved from http://faculty.philosophy.umd.edu/pcarruthers/Creative-thinking.htm
Dali, S. Quotes. Retrieved from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/s/salvador_dali.html
Lehrer, J. (2012). The roots of creativity: Throwing the Muses. The Economist, 17 March.
New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Antoni_Gaudi
National Geographic Travel, Works of Antonio Gaudi. Retrieved from http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/world-heritage/antoni-gaudi/
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