The Creative Life

23 November 2018

Is creativity something you’re born with, or can it be cultivated? Living a live of creativity sounds fantastic—but is it (possible) for everyone?

If you think it would be wonderful to be more creative, you could try to do something about it, like take a creative writing class or something. But it’s probably not that easy. If someone is already creative, a class can help them sharpen their skills. But if you honestly don’t have a creative bone in your body, then is there any hope for you?

If you're someone who believes you're just not creative, what you really need, according to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, is to switch from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Dweck has shown that many qualities of mind can be cultivated, and that it’s a really bad idea to think that our character is just given by, for example, our DNA or innate abilities. If you have a fixed mindset, you may just give up, and not do the work you need to get better.

In other words, your fixed belief that you're not creative may well be the reason, for example, you write bad poetry. Changing to a growth mindset would be a start to motivating you to try to become a better poet. According to this way of thinking, creativity is like self-discipline—it’s something you can learn. Maybe you start off not that creative, but with the right training and some hard work, you can become a much more focused, creative person.

But maybe creativity is more like brilliance—you've either got it or you don't. You can’t train someone to be a genius. Well, obviously some people are naturally more creative than others, just as some people might naturally be more disciplined than others. But take any person where they are and give them the right training and education, I'd wager that they will become better than they were when they started. That’s why a growth mindset is so important.

So could something like a bootcamp to make people more creative? Could the university be a kind a bootcamp for creativity? Are there particular disciplines that cultivate more creativity than others? These are the kinds of questions we're asking our guest for this week's show, Scott Forstall, who designed the software for the iPhone and iPad, and who is now an award-winning Broadway producer.

Comments (2)

TuskegeeDNA's picture


Sunday, November 25, 2018 -- 12:10 PM

When it comes to creativity I

When it comes to creativity I say PAY ATTENTION although I say that applies to everything. Observe your environment. When you're taking a selfie look to see what's in the background. Don't miss an opportunity to compose the picture. If it's a selfie in your bedroom, make your bed and pick your clothes up off the floor. As for ideas: look around you at how things are made. A lot of things can be improved. Just because the original idea didn't come from you doesn't mean the genius of the item can't come from you. I look at a bicycle. It's perfection in its greatest simplicity. As is an electric clock. So I wouldn't bother with those items. In a museum I see works that inspire and thrill me--that's where ideas come from. Your painting or sculpture doesn't have to be derivative, it can simply have your twist. The same can be said for a blender or little red wagon. Years ago I saw a Richter New Yorker cartoon, clipped it and still have it brown-with-age on my wall. Two men sitting on the stairs at a cocktail party with drinks with one saying: "My feeling is that while we should have the deepest respect for reality, we should not let it control our lives." Things aren't set in stone. It's up to everyone to make something real. Make it the best real you can and that will be creative.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Sunday, November 25, 2018 -- 12:21 PM

I am not of genius caliber--

I am not of genius caliber---never was, as far as I can recall. But, about twenty years ago, give or take half a dozen, I determined to re-educate myself, inasmuch as I had decided the job was poorly executed and received during my more formative years (i.e., twenties and thirties). I stopped reading fiction; started reading non-fiction (science, physics and philosophy) and began to THINK about things which really seemed to matter. Philosophy has held my attention throughout this re-formative period of life. It has made a big difference in how I apprehend the world. I like to contrast my life now with something John Locke said in his "Concerning Human Understanding" circa 1689: consciousness is the perception of what passes in a man's own mind. (Book II, Chapter I, paragraph 19) Am I smarter than I used to be? Maybe not, but My thinking is clearer. And, I value things differently.