developing creativity, creativity and society, social support of the arts, creativity and personal development
Everyone may be creative to a degree, but for some there is what writer Pearl Buck (1892-1973) described as “the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off… they are not really alive unless they are creating.”
Creating can be a powerful means for enhancing personal growth and mental health. Meryl Streep, for example, has commented about acting, “I’m sure it has to do with working out private passions that are almost inscrutable to me.”
How much does society value creative products? How much do we support artists and the arts? What are the personal and business impacts of developing creativity. Below are some perspectives by Rachel Maddow, Sandra Tsing Loh, Debbie Allen and Dean Keith Simonton.
The Los Angeles Times recently asked a number of people what they would do if they ran the National Endowment for the Arts. Here are two responses:
“The arts are critical to my admittedly totally chauvinistic goals for my country: I want the United States to have the biggest economy in the world, the best standard of living, a healthy population that shoots at each other far less than we do now, systems of governance and justice that are both envy and inspiration to the world, and I want our athletes and artists to be total international badasses.
“If I ran the NEA, I’d double down on this part of the NEA’s mission: ‘to bring the arts to all Americans.’ If our artists are going to be badasses, we need to tap all our potential pools of artistic talent, we need to cultivate a national expectation of artistic literacy, and artists need jobs doing and teaching art.
“My NEA would fund arts education in every juvie, jail and prison in the country — creating those art jobs, probably slashing recidivism, making our big dumb prison system slightly less pointless, and maybe someday paying off down the road in the form of the next American international art star.”
Sandra Tsing Loh
“Oh, if only I were head of the NEA! The mighty power I would wield, at the helm of a cultural institution whose annual budget is less than half of one-hundredth of 1 percent of the U.S. military’s. (Alternate yardstick I noticed recently, in comparing pie charts: The NEA budget is about the size of a recent U.S. Department of Transportation program dealing exclusively with traffic congestion.)
“On the one hand, we could bemoan this fig leaf-like paucity of dollars — oh, what will happen, particularly in a depression, to the various Smithsonian medals and touring chamber ensembles and archival recordings of long-dead American jazz masters or whatever else it is the NEA is always earnestly, fustily and obscurely busy doing? (The mistake of throwing a few dollars to obscene, Jesse Helms-baiting NEA Four performance artists is now far, far in the past.)
“We could bemoan the fact that in America, as opposed to, say, Italy (a tiny country whose national arts budget is three times the NEA’s), national “culture” isn’t — and has never been — a priority.
“On the other hand, given that we will never catch up with our Western peers (Germany has 28 times more opera houses than us), perhaps America’s greatest arts potential is, finally, to be less like Old Europe and possibly more like Bali, the land where, legendarily, everyone makes art. Even the children make art — although, of course, this would require turning off the endless chatter of TVs and computers and Wiis.
“No, currently, our national culture is Disney and Sony and Nintendo and hence, due to cultural harm perpetrated by crimping our children’s imaginations, I suggest those entertainment corporations pay a .5% arts tax that is redirected into things like required free piano lessons for all American children. With — Hey! A play-along CD by Wynton Marsalis. Why not?”
Sandra Tsing Loh is a writer, performer and radio program host. The photo is from my interview with her.
The quotes above are from the article If I ran the NEA…, by Lisa Fung, Los Angeles Times, March 1, 2009 – which starts off :
“The slogan of the National Endowment for the Arts is ‘a great nation deserves great art.’ Were it only that simple.
“When Congress voted on President Obama’s $787-billion stimulus package, fiscal conservatives slammed the NEA’s $50-million allocation. It wasn’t the first time the agency, whose 2008 budget was about $144 million, had been thrust under the microscope.
“Since awarding its first grant in 1965, the NEA most famously riled opponents in the early 1990s with its plan to award grants to a quartet of controversial artists. As the president prepares to name a new NEA chief, we asked people from the arts and other fields to share what their priorities would be if they ran the cultural agency.”
The Pearl Buck quote is from my report Being Sensitive and Creative, available to subscribers of the Developing Talent newsletter.
Dancer, choreographer, teacher and producer Debbie Allen thinks “Dancing is so good for the brain, the thinking process.
“People who are not dancers boost their creativity or become better problem-solvers by participating in dance or the arts.
“When you dance, you are completely in tune with every cell of your body. You learn how to balance and to execute a vision, just as one does in business. There are so many parallels.” [Success magazine, April 2009.]
Dean Keith Simonton
Dean Keith Simonton, PhD, University of California, Davis, writes about the interactions of intellect and cognition, creativity and social value.
“There’s first of all ‘little c creativity’ which is creativity in everyday life, solving everyday problems. And that kind of creativity is very closely related to intelligence because intelligence includes, as part of it, problem-solving abilities.
“But when you are talking about “big C creativity,” you’re talking about being able to generate new ideas, generate some kind of product that’s going to have some kind of impression on other people.
“It may be a poem, it may be a patent, it may be a short story, it may be a journal article or whatever. But it’s something that is a concrete, discrete product that is original and serves some kind of adaptive function.
“And that kind of creativity, that big c creativity, involves a whole bunch of other characteristics besides intelligence.
“It involves motivation, it involves expertise in a particular domain, it involves certain kinds of abilities in regard to imagination, free association, remote association, and so forth.”
From his article On creativity and intelligence.
Also see more Creativity enhancement articles.
The inner meaning and value of being creative
There are many pages on the site related to the personal values of creating – such as Healing & art; Nurturing mental health: acting; Nurturing mental health: films/filmmaking and Nurturing mental health: writing — see the Site index.
Anne Lamott articulates some of that personal value in her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life :
“In this dark and wounded society, writing can give you the pleasures of the woodpecker, of hollowing out a a hole in a tree where you can build your nest and say, This is my niche, this is where I live now, this is where I belong.
“And the niche may be small and dark, but at last you will finally know what you are doing. After thirty years or more of floundering around and screwing up, you will finally know, and when you get serious you will be dealing with the one thing you’ve been avoiding all along — your wounds.
“This is very painful. It stops a lot of people early on who didn’t get into this for the pain. They got into it for the money and the fame. So they either quit, or they resort to a type of writing that is sort of like candy making.”
But even “candy making” can be a worthwhile form of creative expression. So find a form you like and do it.