Creativity: The benefits and the myths

How can creativity benefit you in your everyday life? Are some of us born with a creative spark or is it something we can develop? We spoke to Sally Tissington, course tutor for our short course in Creative Cross Training – Writing and Making, to ask her about the popular concept.

What is creativity?

In many ways ‘creativity’ is a misused word that is frequently bandied about, so rather than attempt to tackle this question in a short space, I offer this definition from Margaret Boden – The Creative Mind.

“The ability to come up with ideas or artefacts that are new, surprising and valuable. ’Ideas’ here include concepts, poems, musical compositions, scientific theories, cookery recipes, choreography, jokes – and so on. ‘Artefacts’ include paintings, sculptures, steam engines, vacuum cleaners, pottery, origami, penny whistles – and many other things you can name.”

What is one of the biggest myths surrounding creativity?

There are so many but the most pertinent to this course is the ‘suffering artist’ myth; the idea that you need to be unhappy to create good art work. On the contrary, there is much evidence to show that creativity makes people happier, helping them deal with whatever life throws at them. And perhaps just as useful for us to think about is the outdated view of creativity based on a few privileged individuals, the idea that creativity is not available for everyone. I am a big fan of the idea of ordinary creativity, some examples of which would be the way young people show their imagination through their clothes, and how they change language, constantly inventing and enriching it. This highlights some of the ways that any one of us can enhance our lives through creativity daily and we will look at many more examples on the course.

What are some of the benefits that people see after being creative?

Well, there are many studies that show that people feel better after just days of creative writing, that something about the process of telling stories heals us. Also, being creative arouses our curiosity about the world. We can begin to view the world differently, notice more things. We can start to follow patterns of interest that keep popping up for us and this in turn feeds into our creative work.

What are the benefits of embracing new activities?

We don’t know that we can’t do things until we try them. The Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that we assume that too much of the world is off limits to us for example: painting, art, writing, dance, when this may not be the case. If we were prepared to take a risk and give a new activity a try we might surprise ourselves.

Is it true that some people are creative, and others aren’t, or is creativity something that we can develop?

Everyone can develop their creativity, and turning up for a course like this would indicate that you were open to new experiences, one of the fundamental personality traits needed for creativity. However, becoming an expert in something takes a long time – as Chekov said, ‘talent is a long patience.’ As far as creative writing is concerned, I think that understanding of oneself and others is the key to making your writing stand out from the crowd and any practice in drawing, making, painting or writing can only help this.

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