Where Does Creativity Come From?

The creative impulse is what moves the human race forwards, and so it’s hardly surprising that we find the question of where it comes from endlessly fascinating. Some people say that creativity comes from having lots of knowledge. It’s certainly true that knowing lots of stuff can help you be creative: the more words I know, the more I am able to be creative with them. The more books I read, the more I can draw on the voices and ideas of other writers. Some people say that creativity comes from having lots of skill or technique. Certainly being skillful at something will help you be creative at it. I must form coherent sentences if I want you to understand my ideas. But if creativity came from knowledge or skill, we would expect to see a correlation between people who have most knowledge/skill and people who are most creative. And we would not expect to see creativity in small children, since they don’t have much in the way of knowledge or skill at all.

In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book Little House in the Big Woods, Chapter 7 is called ‘The Sugar Snow’. The sugar snow is very special, because it is the best kind of weather in which to make maple syrup, by tapping the sap from the trees. Laura and Mary sit on Pa’s knee as he tells them about the process. Pa describes how grandpa spends all winter making wooden buckets in which to store the sap. He explains exactly how grandpa makes the little trough that he will hammer into the trees. The process is long, and complicated, and grandpa needs a great deal of knowledge and skill to get to the sap. But the sap is already in the trees – grandpa just needs to set it free. Knowledge and skill might help us get to creativity, and shape it once we have found it. But I think creativity is inside us all already. Place the bucket; hammer in the trough. And let the sap run free.

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2 Responses to Where Does Creativity Come From?

  1. chrismwparsons says:

    Hi Sue – I really appreciated our Twitter exchange on Sunday revolving around this topic. I do find myself feeling beguiled by your post above, and I do love the reference and metaphor at the end, but I’m still wrestling with some itches which I’m trying to scratch! I’ve read a few of your other posts now (I think you made some great points in your Mr Men Wars post) and have now realised that I have too many divergent ‘explorations of thought’ going on to write a comprehensive response here. Consequently, my next blog post (which I hope will emerge at some point in the next week) is going to be trying to specifically draw together various strands of debate about teaching creativity. Hopefully you will find it integrates all the best bits of what you believe about the area, even if challenging it in some way. I’m quite passionate about trying to find genuine ways forward with areas which seem to polarise opinion.

    As an indicator of where I feel I need to tease things out, I’m particularly interested in pinning down the differences between the terms ‘imagination’, ‘originality’ and ‘creativity’, and exploring the dynamic of what needs to be ‘allowed out’, what needs to be ‘put in’, and what is the most fertile order to how we do this as educators. I’m particularly aware that there is a difference in terms of the creativity which tends to predominate in the arts, and which is essentially a ‘natural flowering’ of the creator, and the creativity which much of the 21st Century Skills movement tells us we are going to need, which is linked to goal-directed problem solving.

    Anyway, I will send you a link to my more detailed post when it goes up, and would be very pleased if you wanted to critique it in whatever manner.

    Thanks again, Chris 🙂

    Like

  2. Pingback: How Progressivism cripples creativity, and how to stop Traditionalism from stifling it | Stepping Back a Little

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