On Creativity

CreativityWhat IS creativity, anyway?

I’ve been thinking about this question recently, probably because I’m in one of those why-is-it-so-bleeping-hard-to-create-phases. Though my trusty quotes collection has more words on creativity than any other topic, it’s a puzzler. 

According to Albert Einstein, “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” which sounds as if  you have to know the right people in order to catch it.

When collaborators have told me I’m creative (much appreciated, by the way) they seem to use a lot of “i” words: imagination, ingenuity, inventiveness, inspiration, innovation… To me, it sounds hifalutin and mysterious.

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: kri·eɪ’tɪɪ·t̬i: noun / 
Ability to produce something new through imaginative skill, whether a new solution
to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form.

Yikes. Apparently it also has to be new!

The quotes below ring true to me when the creativity flows… and (sigh) when it stops:

1. “The creative impulse can be killed, but it cannot be taught. What a teacher can do… in working with children, is to give the flame enough oxygen so that it can burn. As far as I’m concerned, this providing of oxygen is one of the noblest of all vocations.” 

Madeleine L'EngleMadeleine L’Engle (1918-2007)

 

2. “If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.”

Marc ChagallMarc Chagall (1887-1985) 

 

3. “Learn the craft of knowing how to open your heart and to turn on your creativity. There’s a light inside of you.

Judith JamisonJudith Jamison (Born 1943)

 

4. “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.”

Headshot Of Spanish Artist Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso (1881-1973)

 

5. “To create one must be willing to be stone stupid, to sit upon a throne on top of a jackass and spill rubies from one’s mouth. Then the river will flow, then we can stand in the stream of it raining down.”

Clarissa Pinkola EstesClarissa Pinkola Estés (Born 1945)

 

6. “This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If just you keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious.” 

John CleeseJohn Cleese (Born 1939)

 

7. “Your work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair.”

Annie DillardAnnie Dillard (Born 1945)

 

8. “ ‘Keeping busy’ is the remedy for all the ills in America. It’s also the means by which the creative impulse is destroyed.”

Joyce Carol OatesJoyce Carol Oates (Born 1938)

 

9. “Decision by democratic majority vote is a fine form of government, but it’s a stinking way to create.”

Lillian HellmanLillian Hellman (1905-1984)

 

And last, one of my very favorite quotes in the world…

10. “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

Maya Angelou Maya Angelou (Born 1928)

 

PHOTO CREDITS:
Angelou: Dr. Maya Angelou
Chagall: Russian Paintings Gallery
Cleese:  Albert L. Ortega
Dillard: Phyllis Rose
L’Engle: George M. Gutierrez
Pinkola Estés: Getty Images
Hellman: Bernard Gotfryd
Jamison: Andrew Eccles
Oates: Agencia EFE/Rex Features
Picasso: Tony Vaccaro/Getty Images
 
 

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5 Responses to “On Creativity”

  1. Sam says:

    There’s one more “I” word that comes to mind when I think about creativity (and it is often the first to be experienced in a creative slump): INTIMIDATING!

  2. Ann Sachs says:

    Ah, yes – the word is all too familiar, Sam. I’ve experienced it, as if my ideas are “too big for my britches” as we used to say in New Hampshire. (And now, BEGONE!)

  3. Ellyn says:

    For me, creativity is the willingness (as an adult) to make a complete ass out of yourself — when you do, it seems that people will either think, (1) you’re an ass, or (2) you’re a genius.

    Loved the quotes – especially the one about the light from within.

  4. Ann Sachs says:

    Ah, Ellyn – your comment reminds me of words from the late film critic Pauline Kael: “The first prerogative of an artist in any medium is to make a fool of himself.” Indeed.

  5. Creativity – mmpf. I can’t reach for it. I can’t seek it. I stumble around trying to do the thing that seems to be of the moment, that seems to make some sense, and suddenly, it jumps out of the shadows and lights up the path when I least expect it. Other days, I just blindly place one block on top of another in the dark, feeling the callouses on my hands and the evenness of my breath – orderly, but no surprises…. like doing the housework wondering if a lover will ever call again. What I’m doing is useful, but…

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