Friday, May 25, 2012

Creativity -- Part I

I have been diligently working on my novel over this month. My progress has been extraordinarily much better than what it had been during college. I was able to complete my second pass in about two weeks. However, it was with trials and times of slow progress, much of the foundation work was unstable at the climax and required much rewriting. Regardless, I was able to get the novel touched up and now I'm doing a third pass with subplots, continuity, and clarification in mind, which is surprisingly complicated in its own right. This got me thinking. On a day where I had to work all day (I really don't look forward to them because they are depressing and stifling to my muse) I was reminded of something Stephen Kind had said, something that I've heard him say several times and perhaps you have to: "You can't teach creative writing."

I've recycled this quote several times. My creative writing class was helpful to me. I learned much from it and was glad to have taken it. This should've been more than enough for anyone to stop the thinking about the subject but I didn't, because I realized the real improvements in my writing came from writing more, reading, revising, and looking over other writer's material.

So I thought further. I got to thinking about creativity in general.

I use to draw; mostly consisting of Dragonball Z characters, dinosaurs, and variations of Godzilla monsters, basically copying what had been made. This was during my middle school and high school days. In my latter days of High School I got into making comics. The main attraction was painting them in water color. I wasn't very good either, the paintings were messy and I seriously overused the paint. But I loved it. I even did pottery. That was fun too, and I even got pretty good at it. But however good I may have felt about what I was doing, there were others in my grade creating stuff that was simply breathtaking. Vast, lush landscapes with life-like animals wondering them. Drawings of people that looked as if someone had taken a photograph.

I then realized that the art teacher never held a regular teaching sessions. I'm talking about when we sat down and he went through the basics of each craft. Instead, what he did was have students gather around him and watched as he performed a certain craft, then we tried to create from there, whether it be painting, pottery, drawing, carving, whatever.

I even participated in music (band). I have a fondness for percussion, and still do, I would love to learn how to play drums. I know I have a natural talent for it. I constantly hear beats in my head and listen for them in music. All I would have to do is practice. But there were those in band that simply couldn't grasp the concept of their instrument, the scales, how to use it, etc. Then there were those who could learn the scales, but never anything more. And then there those who had the gift.

All of this thinking made me come to a question: Can creativity be taught?

"Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. Innovation is the production or implementation of an idea. If you have ideas, but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative." — Linda Naiman

You can teach someone how to draw a straight line, the basic shapes of certain objects, but not the details of drawing the human face. You can teach someone the basic notes on a guitar, but not how to play an amazing solo. You can teach someone how to write a proper academic paper, but not the concepts of writing a novel. You can teach someone how to paint at a basic level, but not breathtaking images of landscapes that appear like photos.

I do believe classes can give people the tools they need to develop their art. But how many classes/seminars does someone have to take before they start receiving duplicates of the tools they already have? Was Beethoven taught how to write Moonlight Sonata? Was JRR Tolkien taught how to write Lord of the Rings? Was Leonardo da Vinci taught how to paint the Mona Lisa?

So what you have to ask yourself is this. How important is education to art and creativity? And what are we tapping into when we use creativity?

The next two blog posts will cover with these questions. I will be introducing two different bloggers (and friends) so they can answer these questions. Creativity is an interesting beast. It lives in us all, even in those who think they have none. While creativity is something that is debated about, one thing can't be denied, our creativity grows the more we use it.

Keep Writing.



  1. I think you can teach the arts, expose kids/people to them, but you can't teach passion, which leads to creativity. A person can't know what they're passionate about without being exposed to it. But it only takes a little bit of exposure - when passion ignites, it doesn't matter what was taught. Because like you said with your writing - a person will do whatever it takes to make it work, to get better.

    Jonah Lehrer wrote an interesting book about the subject called 'Imagine'. It's a good read.

  2. I've never really thought about teaching creativity. I imagine creativity as being something that is "developed" rather than taught. When you take a class on, say, creative writing, what you are learning is not creativity, but the tools which you can use creatively. Creativity, then, comes both from a "natural" creativity and, I would say, persistence; eventually, extreme familiarity with something will allow you to and even force you to explore new avenues within that something.

    It's a complicated question. :P

  3. I agree. It's a complicated question and so are the answers. You have to find the special something inside you--I think--to create something out of nothing. It just is.