Creativity – Nature or Nurture?

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Are we born to be creative, or is creativity learned?  In 1996, an article ran in Psychology Today.  It was written by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and it’s titled “The Creative Personality”.  The lead reads:

Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals.”

That sounds about right.  So, is the creative mind the result of genetics, or is creativity something that needs to be nurtured?  Or, like most things… is it a combination?

Take music and art for example.  Anybody that’s interested in music can take music lessons.  People can learn precise drawing techniques.   They can gain the technical skill required, and they can practice.  It’s been my experience that sometimes as person can be quite skilled, but something’s missing.  The music doesn’t flow through them.  The emotion is missing from the art.  Are they short on natural talent?

What about the idea that mental health is tied into creativity?   You can turn to Scientific American for information on this topic.  Scott Barry Kaufman, in his 2013 article “The Real Link Between Creativity and Mental Illness”, sets the record straight, saying:

Mental illness is neither necessary nor sufficient for creativity.”

As someone who make their living as a writer, I’m going to stick with Mr. Kaufman.

Now… I would argue that creativity is at least partially the result of a genetic predisposition.  Under the guise of submitting evidence, I’m going to brag about my family.  My oldest son plays the drums, and makes beautiful custom furniture for a living.  His wife is a wedding and life event photographer.  My second son plays guitar, and does tint and vinyl graphics for vehicles.  He’s married to a talented pastry chef.  My third son is a bass player, and works as a videographer and photographer.  His wife is often his second shooter.  My daughter is an artist, a photographer, and a high school art teacher.  She’s married to an artist who is also a photographer.

My sister owns an art center that also teaches dance and theater.  Her husband plays bass.  Her oldest daughter has a party paper business, and her younger daughter is an actress in New York.

From this anecdotal evidence, you could conclude that heredity has something to do with creativity.  You could also guess that creatives attract other creatives.   My children have the benefit of having a maternal grandmother and grandfather that are talented musicians.  They also have a paternal great-grandfather that was a gifted musician.  Their maternal great-grandfather and great-grandmother were also musicians.  I guess it was hard for them to avoid a love of music.  Too bad it skipped me… although I sound great singing in the shower, it’s mostly technical skill, I think.

Whenever they talk about budget reduction in schools, they seem to pick on art and music first.  So many kids get the perfect opportunity for their talent and enjoyment of the arts at school.  What will happen if we lose that at some point?  Will we, as parents or grandparents, be equipped to nurture and encourage kids in the arts at home?

Is a creative personality enough, or is training, development, an encouragement necessary?  I think that we need both to find ourselves and lead the creative life.  Going back to the article in Psychology Today, Mihaly calls it “full-blast living“.

I love that!

-Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quotable Quotes

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I’m not sure why he came to mind tonight, but he is a person that I treasure in my memories.

I graduated from high school early, when I was sixteen years old.  The only way you could do this at the time was to take Summer School English.  Senior English was always British Literature. I had taken a lot of English courses, even English electives, throughout high school.  But, nothing in my education remains with me like the Summer of Mr. Meehan.

The students in this class couldn’t have been more different from one another.  People graduating early, people repeating the course after failing.  I befriended a girl that was pregnant after her Junior year. Going to high school while pregnant just wasn’t done back then.  So, we all had different reasons for winding up in Mr. Meehan’s class. Because it was Summer School, it was a concentrated course, every day for three hours.

He was a big fan of Marshall McLuhan, and was fond of reminding us that “The Medium is the Message”.  He loved photography.  He was devoted to his wife, and talked about her often.  But, one of the things I loved most about the class was that every day, everyone had to bring in a “Quotable Quote”.  So, here were teenagers from all types of backgrounds, finding meaning through words every single day.  I did not understand how powerful that was at the time.  We would start class by going around the room, sharing a quote.

Mr. Meehan retired in 1995 from teaching.  I looked him up online, and found his obituary from 2007.  It was on a Washington Post archive page, sandwiched between two ads for a Jeep Renegade.  Ironic… the medium is the message.  I’m not sure how he would have felt about that.  He did have a great sense of humor.   There were lots of students who poured out their hearts in the guest book on his obituary.  So, I know I’m not alone when I say he played a big part in my education and love for language, words, literature, and quotable quotes.

Here’s one for the road:

Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.  – Malala Yousafzai, activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.

Goodnight, Harry *

-Cat