THOUGHTS ON CREATIVITY
“CREATIVE GENIUS ISN’T THE PRODUCT OF CONFORMING TO COMMON STANDARDS OF EXCELLENCE, BUT OF FINDING ONE’S ELEMENT.”
The above comment stems from Maria Popova’s piece on Pablo Neruda. Popova (see above photos) is the considerable talent behind www.brainpickings.com – the best website on creativity that I know of. The woman is so consistently prolific and on message, you have to wonder does she ever sleep. She is certainly in love with her subject matter and combines a deep understanding of the written word with an impressive visual sense. She illustrates her editorials with the most intriguing graphics.
You will gather I’m a fan. Damn right.
Her remark hits at a major obstacle to creativity—the status quo made up of the conventional wisdom that surrounds the previous creative breakthrough. It is quite remarkable how speedily breakthrough ideas—once they have broken through—possibly after years of struggle (a fundamental qualification) are seized upon, exploited, and canonized as the only way to do things.
All kinds of people—who know little or nothing about the breakthrough in question—then emerge as experts, exploit it to the fullest extent, and, in the process, block, insofar as they are able, any further creative advance.
This is one flaw intrinsic to education as currently practiced. It tends to teach an ever-out-of-date standard as the acceptable norm—because that is what the educator knows—and be less than open to anything which threatens the expert’s professional standing.
You can witness this phenomenon in just about every field, and it is principle reason why achieving a creative breakthrough is so extraordinarily difficult—and, all too often, takes so long. If you want two areas where ‘creative drag’ (to coin a term) is particularly prevalent, look no further than the military and medical fields.
The reality is that the best does not drive out the good. All too often, the good crushes the best because it serves vested interests to advantage.
Is there an upside?
Of course there is. There is an upside to almost everything (though when you are dangling by your fingertips on the edge of a cliff, it can be hard to think of one). But, the core truth is that the creative struggle seems to hone the outcome and make one’s eventual breakthrough (if it comes) all the sweeter.
But supposing you never breakthrough?
Then you will be like most of us—but all the better for your effort. Failure is a building block of success.
Not much consolation? Now you are beginning to understand.
VOR words 402.