Tuesday, September 7, 2010
The Creative Genius Connundrum
According to Mark Changizi over at Scientific Blogging:
'“Genius” is a fiction. It is a throw-back to antiquity, where scientists of the day had the bad habit of “explaining” some phenomenon by labeling it as having some special essence. The idea of “the genius” is imbued with a special, almost magical quality.'
So if there is no such thing as genius, what is there?
Changizi thinks what makes some people better at coming up with ideas is 'their manner of hunting ideas'.
His theory is that 'Being a successful idea-hunter requires understanding the field (whether science, art or technology), but acquiring the skill of idea-hunting itself requires taking active measures to “break out” from the ape brains evolution gave us, by being aloof.'
I'm not quite sure what me means by 'being aloof'. I agree you have to know something inside out to be able to play with it and bend it in new ways. As writers we play with language, we also play with narrative to create tension and we play with the people we invent, to make them so interesting that complete strangers feel compelled to read whole books about them. (Otherwise, why would they finish our books, once they start them?)
I've just read Changizi's article on the Value of being Aloof. From what I can gather, he thinks belonging to a community stifles your creativity because as soon as you join a community you adapt to fit in, which limits your options.
I don't know what sort of communities he has belonged to, but I've found the writing community very supportive. I belong to several different writing communities and sub groups within those, and each one stimulates me in different ways.
Now I've found another article by Changizi which supports what I just said.
'in order for an individual to act like a community of idea-seekers, one must just carry out multiple directions of idea-generation in parallel. '
I think what he's trying to say is that we must stimulate our creativity by going to many different sources, seek out new input and always be open to ideas.
This comes back to my theory that there are two types of people in the world.
There are those people who don't like change. They reject difference, whether it is race or culture, because it it frightens them.
And then there are those people who seek out the different because they find it stimulating. I suspect it is born into us and not something we can consciously control. So the creative person actively seeks out stimulation because that is the way their mind is wired and they are looking for inspiration.
I love the Jack London quote: 'You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.'
For more Jack London quotes see here.
What do you think? Does the writing community stimulate your creativity or hamper it? Do you actively seek out the new and possibly confronting? Do you chase inspiration with a club?