Recently, I’ve found myself engaged in several conversations around what it means to create and whether you need to have creativity to do so. It could be argued that creation is the process taken and if done creatively, then it becomes an outcome of much higher order of thinking.
One question that seems to resurface regularly is ‘Do you need to be creative to create something?’ Again, we need to return to the simple definitions of the two terms and highlight their differences. One is clearly a verb (to create) while the other is an adverb (creatively) but is this enough? Sure, you can create something with relative ease. It is a process. Something that can be tracked and talked through. A fine example of creating is the simple act of following a recipe. If followed correctly, the outcome has been predetermined and will be successful. However, if we look at the very heart of what it means to be creative, the use of imagination and original ideas, then I would argue that following a recipe is not. Should you choose to deviate from the recipe and experiment with different textures, flavours, and spices, then you should expect a more unplanned outcome.
Fastcompany.com suggests, “Creativity isn’t a talent you either have or you don’t, it’s a skill that you can build with these practices.” The article that follows, suggests several simple steps to improve your creativity. But hang on — by its very definition, creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas to create. Surely, if an idea is original it cannot be built upon in the first place!
Looking further back into history, the Ancient Greeks suggested that creativity was a divine gift from the gods; one that was given to some, but not all. Those who had it were chosen for a purpose and given an incredible reward to further the thinking of their peers.
Some 2500 years ago, Democritus (c. 460 BCE – c. 370 BCE) asked Hippocrates (c. 460 BCE – c. 370 BCE), “Why are extraordinary men in philosophy, politics, or the arts melancholics?” After a lengthy conversation, Hippocrates reasoned that they were not melancholics, but geniuses with such tremendous creativity and ability to think differently, that their emotional state was unable to cope. So, is creativity now a gift from the gods that only a handful possess? Much like our clothes have changed, we need to accept that our views can do the same. We now believe that creativity lies within us; it is not bestowed upon us by another.
So, are we any closer to unpacking the difference between the two concepts and their application? The challenge we have is that many intertwine the expressions, and I sincerely hope that my brief outline above shows just how different the two terms can be. In its simplest form, creative is something you are or can be. To create is something you can do, but not necessarily through your own creativity.
A colleague of mine recently facilitated a staff meeting around questioning and inquiry thinking. She was challenged towards the end of the meeting when talking about students being given the opportunity to create. A teacher in the room asked the simple question, ‘What about the students who just aren’t creative?’ Herein lies one of the common challenges we face. The teacher, although well within her right to challenge a concept she felt uncomfortable with, was suggesting through her question that one cannot create without creativity.
I wholeheartedly disagree with this thinking.
All students can create. If given the opportunity to do so, the tools or skillset and enablers to access learning, every student can produce something. Therefore, by its very definition, they can create.
Creativity is a wholly different concept. Original thoughts and inspiration are needed. Many use innovation as the verb best suited to creativity, over the simple act of creating something. Creativity relies on thinking differently, pursuing imagination and ideas, to develop a concept or ‘create’ something fresh.
Although I accept creativity can be involved in creation, I do not believe it is a ‘must have’ ingredient. In the case of the teacher asking her simple question, I felt the need to both challenge it and unpack it on two separate levels. The question, although relatively innocuous, was flawed because of its initial assumption. If rephrased to meet the criteria I’ve suggested, it could be one of two:
- What about the children who cannot create?
- What about the children who have no creativity?
The first, I believe, isn’t reliant on the child, but the scaffolding and planning supplied by the teacher. If you give a child a simple set of instructions, they will create. Some will create exactly what is asked for, while others will end up with something quite different, but all will have created something. Surely, it stands to reason that with the right level of support, every child has the ability to create.
The second question puzzles me. A well-known children’s author, Maggie Tokuda-Hall, wrote in her book, ‘Also an Octopus’, that a good story ‘…starts with a little bit of nothing...’ and beautifully followed up with, ‘and everyone has a little bit of nothing.’ My point is simply that to be creative in its purest form, we often start from nothing. When not starting from nothing and building on the ideas of others, much of the challenge around ‘starting with a little bit of nothing’ has already been tackled. So, to answer the question in a roundabout sort of way, I truly believe that every child has a little bit of nothing and that every child has a wonderful imagination. It’s just a question of finding the right catalyst to ignite the fire — and the right tool to enable the flow.
Without creativity, the world would be a very different place. Someone, somewhere, once decided man should walk on the moon. They were creative. Innovative. That someone, undoubtedly with the help of many others, created the technology and equipment to make it happen. Well, every child has their moon — we just must find a way to help them get there.
Innovation Lightbulb https://pixabay.com/en/photos/innovative/ CC0
“Photographic proof that NASA faked the moon landing” https://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/2695056366 CC2.0