Defining creativity

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Image courtesy of Norman Lear Center

Throughout my life, I’ve been constantly told how creative I am. It’s one of the first words on my CV, although there was a time when I would do anything to separate myself from all things imaginative, not wanting to be defined by being “good at art”. Now I’m a Creative Writing student, naturally the word “creativity” haunts me, but these days it is more like Casper than a monk in a churchyard.

Defining creativity is very difficult. I’m guilty of associating it primarily with some felt and a glue stick, but it’s much more than that. If you’re creative you see the world not for what is there, but for what it could be and what it might be. You don’t look at a brick wall, but at the cracks in the mortar. I used to think creativity was a perspective you were born with rather than something you could develop, but the biggest thing that stops people from being creative is exactly that. It’s not that you can’t be creative; some merely don’t see the point.

And okay, yes: what is the point? People talk of the left-brain and right-brain and there’s a lot of truth in it. However, there is a strong argument for subjects that use the ‘left’ brain being inherently creative. You don’t have to crayon up a butterfly; you could find an alternative method to seek the answer for an equation, and science is creative in ways I can’t begin to fathom.

Furthermore, creativity is often portrayed as being non-essential, though if you look at creativity in the context of science and mathematics, it is not only useful but fundamental to how our world continues to change, grow, and discover. It’s easy to slate a Fine Arts student for doing a ‘useless’ subject, but then if you met an equally creative Physicist- just in an entirely different way- in all likelihood they would be praised for their ingenuity. Creativity isn’t about a pretty picture; creativity is in the font in your textbook, on the Spine through our campus, and in the many methods by which you choose to procrastinate because the last thing you want to do is solve a Physics equation.

Most people have heard of the phrase “an earth without ‘art’ is just ‘eh’” and I believe this. Whilst travelling in Kerala, I came across graffiti that told me “Art enters with light into the world of darkness” and it’s true. You need creativity to understand. Yes, looking at the facts is a necessity, but it’s like looking through binoculars. So alright, there’s a cool bird in that tree over there which is real and beautiful in its own way. Remove the binoculars, however, and you’ll see how the crimson sky from the setting sun makes its feathers more red, and how there are a hundred other birds that are just as beautiful soaring higher than the one that is merely sat in the tree.

There is value in being able to sculpt a poem. However, just because you aren’t poetry incarnate doesn’t mean you can’t define yourself as creative by some measure. Try and find beauty in everything: a pretty lame, generic phrase to live by indeed, but it works. You can ask what the point of creativity is a hundred times over but it would be futile. It is much more easy to look at things creatively than turn something beautiful into mere fact. You don’t question why something is beautiful; you accept it, because it just is.