Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, says in her TED presentation that creativity is not limited to a certain intellectual level, or a characteristic in a person, or a god-given creative mind. Rather, creativity is a “genius” that floats on the wind, visiting normal people, giving inspiration to make something really creative. According to her, it’s an outward force. The maddening that is sometimes associated with creative thinkers is simply the product of putting the emphasis on a singular person as the source of creativity rather than as a sort of conduit for creativity.
While not a complete answer, I think that Gilbert is on to something, and she’s not alone. History is filled with muses, and inspiration from an external source. But, she’s not totally right, Jonah Lehrer, (2012) a sort of literary scientist, in Imagine says this about the mystery, “The sheer secrecy of creativity—the difficulty in understanding how it happens, even when it happens to us—means that we often associate breakthroughs with an external force.” (Introduction, 16) Lehrer goes on to say that he doesn’t agree with this premise but counters it with limited scientific research on the subject which says that creativity is the process of thought. In a similar vein, Dean Keith Simonton (2000) says that “evidence increasingly shows that to a certain extent, creativity demands a comparable level of systematic training.”
I think that creativity is some combination of both the genius and the process. Some people are gifted naturally with the ability and drive to inhale all of life and it’s details. They absorb the world around them, whether that comes from nurture or nature, I don’t know.
One of my favorite books is East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Born in the beautiful Salinas valley in California, Steinbeck “formed a deep appreciation of his environment.” (Shillinglaw) He also spent a lot of time working with migrant workers, developing a sensitivity and empathy towards the poor, the displaced, the people who were lower on the social scale of life. His experience, coupled with his early desire to write, made him the writer that he was, and informed the topics that he was going to write about.
Creativity is for anyone, I believe. Anyone can write a meaningful piece of literature, but the problem is that no one can do it without a lot of hard work, without training, even it’s self-training, and a deep observation of life. The main point is that there is no impenetrable boundary which prevents even the most doubtful person from being a writer. Creativity comes from work, and every once in a while, that muse that floats by, flows through you and onto paper.
“Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius | Video on TED.com.” TED: Ideas worth spreading. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Sept. 2013. <http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/elizabeth
Lehrer, Jonah. Imagine: how creativity works. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. Print.
Shillinglaw, S. (n.d.). The Steinbeck Institute -About John Steinbeck. The Steinbeck Institute. Retrieved September 6, 2013, from http://www.steinbeckinstitute.org/american.ht
Simonton, D. K. (2000). Creativity: Cognitive, personal, developmental, and social aspects. American psychologist, 55(1), 151.