Creativity fascinates me, though I don’t pretend to understand it. Just for starters, it’s such an all encompassing word. Essentially, it’s about using human ingenuity – your mind, if you will - to add value in some way. I don’t think that value has to be monetary. It merely has to change the status quo.
I was going to write: “Advance the human condition…” but you can be pretty damn evil and still be creative—or your creativity can have terrible consequences (regardless of your intentions). Those who developed nuclear weapons displayed remarkable creativity, but it is hard to deny that the consequences are a mixed blessing. In fact, if I may slip into thriller-writer mode, I hold the view that it is only a matter of time before one, or a number, of nuclear devices will be set off by people who do not wish us well. In fact, I have incorporated that probability in several of my books.
But, I don’t wish to cause you to lose any sleep (right now)—so let me return to the subject at hand.
The enemy of creativity is the status quo—and it is hard to imagine a more formidable foe. Just for starters, it is everywhere, and it is virtually immune to reason. Facts just bounce off it. All it knows is that it has a vested interest in opposing any and all change, and it is determined to do just that. It excels at the task. In a word, it is obdurate (though some might call it ignorant).
Creativity alone is rarely sufficient to defeat the status quo, but when teamed up with grit, the odds tilt in its favor.
MacArthur genius psychologist, Angela Duckworth, has studied all this, and divides the mechanics of achievement into motivation and volition. Motivation is self-explanatory, but volition requires some interpreting. Essentially, ‘volition’—in this context—refers to self-discipline (or character). Beyond that, her research shows that grit—defined as “the relentless work ethic of sustaining your commitments towards a long-term goal”—is the best predictor of success. In short, talent, or creativity, without grit, just doesn’t cut it.
Her insights don’t stop there. Duckworth, and her colleague Chris Peterson have developed THE GRIT SCALE test based upon twelve simple questions. Apparently, it works remarkably (frighteningly?)well.
Would taking the test help or hinder? I don’t really know. I’m aware I’m creative, but I have strong doubts about my own grit at times. That said, it is in the nature of most creative artists to be troubled by such thoughts—which are then exacerbated by the innate instability of the typical creative artist’s existence.
But for all my faults, I do seem to have fortitude—with the help of good friends—and I like to hope that combination will compensate.
As for the test, I am living a real life version of it right now. Difficult thought it is, I can’t imagine a better life than that of a writer. It’s a fine thing to do what you really love to do.