Thoughts on Creativity
January 4, 2016

The following thoughts are severely half-baked.

This afternoon, I heard a conversation on KERA’s Think program about creativity. I only caught about five minutes of the hour-long conversation, so I didn’t really get much from the program itself, but I started thinking a lot about creativity. I was a music major in college and wrote a few small compositions. I quickly discovered that I worked best when I was placed under severe constraints. At first, this seemed highly counterintuitive, and I wondered if I was abnormal for feeling that way. But after I graduated and began to read more about how other people create, I was quite surprised to find that many other creators felt the same way. But a question was raised: where do constraints come from? Obviously, if an artist is completing a commission for a client, then the constraints will generally have been supplied by the client, not by the artist. But there are plenty of artists who work only for themselves. Where do their constraints come from?

Well, I think that I may have deduced the answer to that question today. Creative people are often known (or so it seems to me) for their strong opinions in their field. They hate the use of a particular instrument, or love a particular color scheme, or loathe method acting, or only use 35mm film, or whatever. I suspect, then, that their opinions act as constraints on their work. They are unable to create work that violates one of their first principles or that offends their finely-tuned sensibilities, and so creativity is required in order to produce a work that satisfies their own requirements.

What do you think?