Creativity: Concept and Method–How to Study?

We often discuss the process of creativity, or the creative impulse that motivates individuals or groups to see new ideas.

We ask loaded questions such as:

Where does creativity come from? How does it work? Why are some individuals more creative than others? Under what social-cultural-economic conditions creativity thrives?

We wonder if creativity can be produced, cultivated, and developed?

Under what conditions the creative impulse or enterprise produces effective results?

Concepts such as originality, invention, and imagination are words that didn’t appear until late nineteenth century.

The concept of creativity is so general, so overstuffed and loaded that, for some, it hardly stands for anything particular. Which may explain that, if studied, it is only occasionally and accidentally.

We don’t know how to grasp the essence of creativity, its images, facets and dimensions.

For some scholars, such as Homans, creativity, as a concept and process, is associated with such experiences as de-idealization, loss, isolation, and mourning.

People and societies go through periods of attachment to idealized objects, individuals, and common culture (the moral order). These phases are followed by periods of depreciation of these objects, during which individuals suffer isolation and mourning.  But the periods of mourning–when properly experienced–can produce creative spurts, which may result in new thinking about cultural meaning. Thus, for these researchers, the idealization of objects and ideas stands in opposition to the very creative process.

Scholars have aimed at denying the myth of inspiration, the mythical notion of a muse as a necessary condition for being creative.

Empirically, the concept of creativity has been applied to science and technology, with such questions as how great discoveries are born?

They try to locate decisive phases in the process of creativity, focusing not just on decisive moments, which are weighed for dramatic emphasis, but on the long periods of time of uncertainty that precede the moments of epiphany, obstacles along the way, ambiguities and confusions.

They stress the tolerance of creative people for ambiguity, for unstructured time, for periods of drifting due to all kinds of unpredictable and unanticipated circumstances.

How to describe all the processes and phases involved from the conception of a research project to its completion?

The role of drive and purpose may dictate the range of the project.

The restlessness and determination in developing new skills, or cultivating existing ones, the resolve to overcome obstacles, both seen and unseen.

The concept of luck is often used in discussions of creativity.  But is luck totally random? Can we encourage or induce the factor of luck?

Scholars have suggested that luck means the absence of assignable luck, the inability to explain its sources?

Luck could be uncertain, random, fluky, chancy, stray, unforeseeable, indeterminate, accidental, haphazard, fickled, freaky, and iffy.

The late philosopher Isaiah Berlin had said: “Ideas never beget ideas as butterflies beget butterflies.”

Creativity has often been associated with the syndromes of psychosis and neurosis.

L.S. Kubie elaborated: “Creativity consists in the capacity to find new and unexpected connections.”

It’s the preconscious, rather than the conscious or unconscious, that’s our creative faculty, as both conscious and unconscious have rigid associative systems.”

The filmmaker John Schlesinger, Oscar winner for the 1969 Midnight Cowboy, had poignantly observed that, “It’s difficult to be freely creative in something that calls itself an industry”

Select Bibliography:

Koestler, Arthur. The Act of Creation.

Shekerjian, Denise. Uncommon Genius: How Great Ideas Are Born.   NY: Viking, 1990.

Taylor, Calvin W. and Frank Barron (eds). Scientific Creativity: Its Recognition and Development. NY: John Wiley,  1963.

Philip Weissman, Philip. Creativity in the Theater: A Psychoanalytic Study. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1965. 275 pp.

Review by: Robert Seidenberg

We as psychoanalysts like to simplify and reduce things to the first few years of life if possible. Although I have not analyzed many actors, I cannot believe that they all are what they are because of an infantile exhibitionistic fixation and suffer from lack of identity and faulty body image development from the age of one. From the opening pages of the book, one gains the impression of the author that the profession of acting is at best a disease; at worst a perversion. On page 11 we find, ‘Psychoanalytic investigation reveals that these are individuals who have failed to develop a normal sense of identity and body image during the early maturational phases of infancy‘. In the development of an actor, I would like to know more about ego ideal, tradition, as well as social climate.