You know how people come up to you at an art show and say "oh you're so lucky, you're so creative"? ( Luck? !!!). As in: you were lucky you were born with good eyesight, where I have strabismus...
Then they tell you that they're not creative, sometimes sadly but sometimes almost proudly! How could one expect them to be creative when they weren't born with it?
And the truth is, they're right...they're not creative. Why not? because they're not creating anything - they're not trying to come up with new ideas, original images, make art, or landscapes or even great puddings. But...do they have the potential to be creative? Probably they do....though the amount of potential one has can, of course, vary.
These days cognitive psychologists have discovered that measuring "creativity" only by output i.e. what one has created is not necessarily a very good way to research this slippery concept. A much better clearer way is to think about one's potential for being able to create, how to define and use that. The scientists should be measuring potential and not performance.
I went to a very interesting talk last week given by Dr Mark Runco
one of the world's leading researchers in this field...sought after by a lot of big companies (yes the advertising agencies Of course and all those companies wanting to sell you things, but also agencies like the CIA - the dark side of creativity!).
He said there were a number of key findings about creativity. For example, some of the recent findings suggest that the potential for creativity is not located in one particular area - all this right brain/left brain stuff is incredibly over simplistic. When they put jazz musicians and a key board through an MRI machine they found that when they were asked to creatively improvise upon a simple melody, the whole brain lit up, and particularly the prefrontal cortex. When you are being creative you are not using one particular part of the brain but rather networks across the whole brain. Which makes a whole lot more sense.
Intuition does work...but only if you have the "knowledge beneath the surface". People simply don't know all that they know!! So a famous artist can tell you that they're working totally intuitively as if that requires no former knowledge but rather just the desire and courage to work with the particular medium at random because that's how it feels to them. They could be completely unaware that they are basing their decisions upon a lot of knowledge and experience. There have been lots of experiments demonstrating this.
One of the most interesting things he said was that problem finding was more important than problem solving. If you know what the problem is, you can solve it....but without that knowledge you just flounder around. This is why it's important to be able to look critically at what you're doing and see just where things are going wrong. Whether you're selling shoes, or creating an art quilt.
had grad students in art, go into
a studio where he had loaded up a big table with potential still life objects. They were instructed to paint a still life, told to take their time, and he
would video them.
He used a stop watch to measure how long it took them to start painting.
Some took 2 minutes then started painting, other spent ages
playing with the objects. The time before they started working was correlated
with the quality of their art work, the better artists took longer before they started painting!!!!
…he called this process
The difficult part was finding the problem - what you do
before you solve the problem is more important that the actual solving. There are important processes at work…
He felt that the quality of the definition of the problem determined the quality of the solution.
Another area that the scientists have studied is that of significant age changes in creativity. Little children seem to have loads of potential and come up with lots of ideas...let's try this, let's try that...until around 4th grade and then either brain maturation, or schooling or both begin to make them want to follow "the rules". This is apparent world wide. Inevitable? Necessary? we don't know.
Furthermore, although creativity is life-long, look at Georgia O-Keefe, Picasso, Monet, Matisse etc.
It's been observed that
for adults aged around 50-60s flexibility or variation changes…
and flexibility is one of the key dimensions of
creativity…how many ideas we produce, how original and how varied they are.
In late adulthood there is much more
preference for routine and habit, doing things the way we always have, and there is a drop in
the production of diverse ideas, a loss of flexibility.
But the loss of flexibility is not inevitable. One can be motivated to make the effort to change one's attitude.
Runco has observed an “old age
style” which is simply that the
individual changes the way they do things throughout their life…e.g. Picasso’s
periods, you can see it in many creative artists…and it's a way to make the creativity last…change
the way you do things…
Even though they were successful doing what
they were doing they changed , and started to do something else…
Creative people follow what’s inside and
relegate the extrinsic rewards to a
lower level. You might be externally rewarded for making the same successful thing that everyone knows and loves, but the creative person eschews that path. They can and do change the way they do things…
You can grow more connections between your
neurons…even though you usually see less neurons with age…the brain is most efficient around
age 29…. this whole area is being much more researched now and they are more optimistic, that the nervous system can continue to develop and change.
The problem of rigidity as you grow older can be addressed by consciously deciding to do things differently,
variation and diversity are good. So there's some hope for us!
Well there was a whole lot more, but I don't want to hold you up from going out there and changing things!!! After a nice cuppa tea of course.....
If you have been, thanks for reading..... Elizabeth