Creativity and Imagination

Posted: 01/04/2014 in Insight, Mandtao

Mandtao 3/2/13


I want to discuss creativity, imagination and their relationship, and I began with a John Cleese talk.

Firstly however I am comfortable in describing myself as creative but here is some justification. I write science fiction stories so the question is because I write am I creative? The easiest route for creative justification is one I reject (sour grapes?), I have not been published or paid any money. Such social accolades can be attributes of creative people but equally they can just be attributes of people who play the game. I equally reject the notion that because a book sells the person is a writer, selling books means that they are a product which has been marketed and distributed. And I say this with all due deference to the many creative people who have toiled for years making a living in the publishing business.

So if I am creative, why? For creative people this question does not have to be asked, it is or it isn’t. I sit down and write a book, no choice, no financial motivation, no public accolades, the book is just written. That is creative. Is there a notion of quality attached to this? Again a creative person answers – certainly but there is no justification, none is needed.

And in the above discussion there is much that describes creativity, it just is. A person is creative or isn’t.

Let’s turn to the John Cleese talk. The Monty Python team were innovative, and I assume that he was invited to give this talk in 1992 in part because of the Python’s team’s innovation – I will discuss my use of the word innovative later. Apart from his humour I found the talk uninspiring. In truth he said at the beginning that he had nothing to offer, and I think that is true. He was there because of his fame.

However what is always useful is to listen to how creative people describe the conditions that lead to their creativity. Cleese listed five factors that enabled his creative process:-

1) Space – away from demands of daily life
2) Time – specified time away from daily life
3) Time – take time with the problem – don’t just take the easy way out.
4) Confidence – fear will prevent creativity
5) Humour – takes us from closed to open mode. A serious problem does not require solemnity.

But none of these actually described the creativity, they described the best situation he could put himself in in order for there to be a creative result. Question (there is assumption in this question) – is a weekly script for Monty Python genuinely creative? It is worth discussing innovative here. The Monty Python team changed the world of western humour, and because of this the word innovative easily applies. What is significant in their humour is that it was primarily new, but because it is new does that make it creative? I think not. In general the word creative is an apt description of Python humour, but perhaps not so for every sketch they did. However to describe every show as innovative would be appropriate. Perhaps some sketches might have been described as flat – did not work. Undoubtedly they were innovative but if they didn’t work were they creative?

Here comes imagination. How important is imagination in creativity? When I grew up art was being changed. Artists would come up with a new work, and because their imagination had thrown back the boundaries of established art the work was often assumed as creative, but because someone is capable of imagining something new does not mean that the imagined product is creative. My own sphere of art, science fiction, is new worlds of imagination, but are those imaginations creative? Perhaps so, perhaps not. It depends on whether there is mimicry or creativity, is there a genuine process of creativity or is the author simply copying another scenario? And there is only one measure, whether the writer feels s/he is being creative.

Creativity is a feeling but what sort of feeling? At my most creative – subjective view, I felt a presence. Such a presence could artistically be described as the presence of a muse, but the muse is mythological – having a creative muse doesn’t add any clarity to a discussion. So what is this feeling about? It is a measure of the relationship between the creator and the Path, and this relationship is creativity as we know it.

Is it innovation or imagination per se? No. These are faculties which can help with creativity. Is a work creative enough if the poet cannot imagine to wax lyrically? Is a work creative that is just innovative? If so, perhaps a computer could randomly “create” new works of art?

Imagination is not a creative process in itself, it is a faculty that adds to the work. For many there is a focus on imagination especially in science fiction. Without imagination there is no creativity in science fiction but the imagination itself is not a majority tool. It sets the scene, it describes Kirramura or Angellara or Kamden. But the creativity is in the story, the writing, what the writer wants to say. The imagination was a vehicle, it enabled the story to be transported into a reality – of sorts as no-one has read the book.

This focus on imagination brings me to another recognition. Imagination is a faculty of mind, like reason, and many others. But the creative process is connected to the Path and not simply a faculty of mind. It is this connection, this element of the Path, that is the spark, the uniqueness, the speciality. It belongs to us all, we can all experience it, creativity is not sectioned off for a few. But imagination is a faculty that we all possess, in some less developed than others. In some cultures imagination is hyped especially in drug cultures, the place of imagination, like the place of reason is raised beyond where it belongs.

Creativity directs, imagination and reason are faculties with places to be known under that direction.

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