I read a quote recently from departed literary legend John Updike. It read
“Creativity is merely a plus name for regular activity. Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better.”
Interesting what he’s saying there I think – and it runs against what many people might naturally feel. He’s suggesting I suppose that there is nothing ‘special’ about creativity. That it is something which can be accessed by anyone and in many different settings.
That’s what I think too – but I’m not sure that it is the prevailing mood. There is a belief in society that creativity in the arts is different and that it can be something almost supernatural. That a poet, for example – is someone who wanders around on hillsides with a furrowed brow and a back pocket full of daffodils waiting for inspiration to strike.
It’s true that certain environments help you access your creativity of course, and if hillsides and daffodils do it for you then please be my guest – it’s about creating a state of mind.
The notion that there’s something more to it – something outside of ourselves, can be traced I think to Romanticism. All those brooding Romantic poets with their belief in strong emotion as an aesthetic force. I mean just look at the picture below – need I say more?
That’s Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, 1818 – and doesn’t it just sum up the mood?
The whole concept of ‘Genius’ was tied up with this as well. Bach, for example, was not considered a genius during his lifetime. The concept was not in currency in his time. He was considered a master of his craft who, through a combination of talent, and hard work, had achieved wonderful things. Beethoven, by contrast, was a genius. He lived bang in the middle of the Romantic period – so his combination of hard work and talent was given a different name.