By Troy Headrick
I’m going to share a secret with you. Several years ago, back when I was living overseas, I used to create artwork and show it internationally. I even sold quite a few pieces. Then, for reasons I won’t get into right now, I stopped making art. (By the way, my header image is a pencil drawing that dates back to one of my really productive periods.)
I’m currently in the process of resurrecting my art career.
Now that I’m creating images on paper again, I’m thinking a lot about creativity. Many questions come to mind as I do this pondering. Perhaps the most pressing query is this one: Where does creativity come from?
Before I share a really interesting theory that proposes an answer to this question, I’d like to take you back to my childhood.
My mother tells this interesting story that dates back to the time I first started speaking. One day, according to her, I said this really strange sounding “word.” It was my first utterance and she had no idea what it meant. I said it again, and again, she was baffled. So she started walking around our house, picking up all sorts of objects and showing them to me. She could tell by the consternation on my face that these things were in no way related to this strange sound I was making. Finally, she picked up a pencil and, as she tells it, I reached up and took it from her. She then quickly gave me a sheet of paper and I began to sit and draw.
Does this mean some people are simply born knowing (or sensing or feeling or whatever the right word is) that they want to create? What was happening inside of me at the time I was wanting to hold a pencil in my tiny hands and use it to draw? Of course, I cannot go back in time and crawl inside my head to find out what was happening there. That’s a shame.
I did a little reading about creativity and found a number of articles that discuss something called the “diversifying experience” (see this article and this one). Quite a few theorists believe that such experiences play an important role in helping some people develop their creativity.
Simply put, a diversifying experience—it can be traumatic or pleasurable—can be any sort of happening that triggers the individual to become more individuated. These experiences are transformative or jarring and thus cause a person to respond by seeing and thinking differently. After having such an experience, one leaves the herd, in a manner of speaking, and begins to wander alone, developing ways of living that differentiate one from the masses. In “Why Weird Experiences Boost Creativity,” Scott Kaufman writes that a person can become more creative by “re-shuffling” the brain. This reshuffling takes place when one abandons normal ways of doing things or rejects habitual behavior. Examples of such activities include eating “something new for lunch” or walking “backwards…to work.” Doing things in a novel way can put one in a “better position to be creative.”
What do you think about creativity? Can it be learned or nurtured? Are creative people born or made? I’m looking forwarding to hearing what you have to say.
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found at Thinker Boy: Blog & Art.