Thursday, November 22, 2007

A rant about creativity....

I read something in YEN magazine the other day that really annoyed me. It was this quote from some ad agency bigwig who concluded with something like "i firmly believe that creativity cannot be taught". The article was interviews with people in the creative industry who had "made it" giving advice to those who want to get in.

Given the context of the article I thought that was such a horrible, narrow minded thing to say. It is exactly that sort of mindset that stops many lovely & potentially very talented people from realising their creative dreams.

I guess it's something that's really close to my heart because I know that feeling of not being 'creative enough', and it's purely through persistent effort and the support of people like my blog readers that I've been able to develop in recent years. It just takes practice, persistence, and confidence that you're on the right track.

I guess my point is that creativity is like any other skill. We all start off as highly creative little individuals, but the people who seem 'naturally' talented as adults probably just continued outputting creativity throughout their life, rather than putting it on the backburner for more 'appropriate' pursuits.

The type of people that surround you when you're growing up make a huge difference - if you're parents are supportive of your creative outputs, you're much more likely to keep doing it - practicing, refining, getting better.

But that doesn't mean that someone can't pick up creative skills later in life. It's not that they lack some magical, exclusive talent. They're simply out of practice, and how can you expect to be good at something that you haven't practiced?

What I love about the blog community is it's like a big, supportive family, providing a lot of much needed support and encouragement. It's been great to see everyone collectively growing and improving, feeding off one another, taking things to the next level.

Anyway I'd love to hear other people's opinions on the above. If you think it's true or not, and what has helped you develop creatively...

45 comments:

Anna Laura said...

I've often wondered about this one, because I have heard a lot of people say that it can be taught and that it can't be taught. I applied for a scholarship when I was in Year 12 to a private university in Sydney and I remember the application said that creativity cannot be taught and it was something you either had at 18 or you didn't have, once you got to that age, you couldn't learn to be creative. That stuck in my brain for a while and I often wondered about it and remember a coworked told me later on he thought it could be taught.

I agree with what you have said about it being a skill that we need to develop. Five years ago I was working full time in a call centre in customer service and I was living this horrid uncreative life. Since I have started my business I am much more creative and I feel I have developed the skill so much in the last few years. But I don't think that argues the point that it is something you have or you don't. Maybe all these people who are making these things have got it, becuase I know teaching art and getting students to push boundaries, there are kids who can do it quickly and with ease, kids who need some pushing, but some that just don't have the ability from what I can see and it is difficult to teach these students art because they are really shut off to the whole notion of it and of being creative. That brings me onto something that annoys me which is the way part of our society doesn't value art at all. The number of kids who tell me their parents don't care if they fail because "it's just art" annoy me because I think when you look around at the environment we live in a lot of things indicate that design and art are not that important, particularly when you compare us to Europe.

Wowies, this could be it's own blog post!

Amy said...

Hi Lara,

I've just logged on to find your lovely comments on my page, thank you! I suppose I have been busy with adding a few posts in the past 2 weeks. I've written you a reply in the comments area of the 'katazome' entry. You were perfectly right with your guesses :)

As for the *creativity: taught/inherent* debate, I am very much in agreeance with you. I think everyone has the little *creative urge* within them...it just might be dormant for some. Children are incessantly creative and imaginative...I think we just stop practicing in the same way as we start to grow up. It is perfectly true that you cannot expect to be good at something without practice...and so the support and encouragement from family and friends goes a very long way in helping us develop as creative individuals.

xox.

missmeshell said...

We talked a lot about this when I was at uni (BA art/textiles), a lot of what people construe as creativity is the result of damn hard work and patience! And you can be as creative as all hell and never make a thing if you don't dig in to your ideas and do some work. :)

naomi said...

Such a discouraging thought .... to not be able to learn or be taught creativity considering we're all born creative creatures. It's best we don't surround ourselves with such negative thinking and rather find supportive and very encouraging creative mentors.

Hollabee said...

Lara, I'm totally with you on this one.

I'm the living example (I think) studying something non-creative because at home I was never stimulated to be creative after the age of 12. Hobbies..yes..a career in a creative field..no. I recently picked it up again after being soooo creatively frustrated and look where I am now...and I know I still have a long way to go, but the more you practise, the better you get :) just like you said. My dad is still sceptical about what I do and questions if one can make a living with art & craft...but I guess he just doesn't understand. Don't get me wrong, I love him to bits, but he just doesn't get it.
I am so grateful that the blog community values what we do...it makes me smile every day! Thanks for sharing your frustrations ;)

Kirsty said...

Here here Lara. Fabulous post - absolutely true.

Tharvey said...

I'm with you on this one.

I've also heard this said about individual arts/crafts, like drawing. People say sure, practice has something to do with it, but some people are born with a gift already, and if you don't have that gift you can never get past a certain level. I'm still not sure about that one. Sure, I was good at drawing as a young child, but that is what I did *all* the time. Lots & lots of practice.

emma said...

I'm not really sure whether creativity can be taught or not, I haven't thought about it much before, but I think it's in everyone, perhaps some people just like to use it more and so are seen as more creative.

I guess I've always been encouraged to do creative/arty things because my grandpa was an artist (who's becoming increasingly well known, of course now after he's dead :S) and was also an art teacher so luckily no one in my family thinks it's a waste of time or a useless pursuit.

I was always drawing away in high school, and I remember one of my friends saying how everyone drew and painted etc. when they were little, but after that you are deemed as being able to draw or not, and if not, you stop, which I think is sad!

futuregirl said...

You are totally right about this! It's exactly the issue that deserves a rant. Power to the people ... I mean, creativity to the people! :)

Frankly, that's the kind of attitude (creativity is endemic) that people develop when they want to justify charging thousands of dollars for a large rock on some faux fur (I seriously saw this last week). I don't care how "creative" you are, ANYONE can put a large rock on some faux fur.

Jo :: jelly baby said...

I whole-heartedly agree with you - I am only now starting to unearth my creative self after years of 'worthwhile' pursuits (read law, accountancy and admin)... the most wonderful part is that I am inspired every day by this blog community that encourages creativity - in all its forms - and my children and myself all benefit.

and do you know what?... we are all so much happier having creative outlets in our lives.

Thank-you for sharing your thoughts - your creativity is inspiring :)

Shawna Carpenter said...

I agree with you. I grew up in a family that told me every day that art wasn't a career. My only saving grace was that I got a fantastic art scholarship in high school and college at a young age and it was the teachers that helped me grow and learn and blossom. It's scary to think that with people publishing things like that, there could be tons of artists just giving up instead of working harder to develop there talents into more than just a interest. I think if you have a want and will to learn, the doors are always open.

p.s. I love that you spill your heart on your blog, I wish more people did.

Shawna

leslie said...

i completely agree with you. i think everyone is inertly creative, in one area or many - it could be through photography, cooking, crafts, whatever. it just takes a bit of time and interest to find out what you want to be creative with, what inspires you, excites you, drives you.

Anonymous said...

As others have said, the " you can't teach it" idea is almost invariably put forward by people who have some kind of status that they desperately want to hold onto. Don't want everyone thinking they can be creative do we? God forbid! ;) They often have a narrow idea about what constitutes being creative too.

However....

I do think sometimes we say "creativity" when we actually mean "talent".

Can you teach someone to be talented? No, sorry. That's an inherent you've-got-it-or-you-don't thing. But can you teach someone to be creative? Yes because everyone has it within themselves to create in some way. Whether the end result will be any good...well, that's another matter. But the act of being creative can be taught, nurtured, encouraged (and discouraged), practiced etc.

Some people are more inclined to express their creativity without being prompted. I guess a mixture of your environment and your personality tends to determine that.

Anna Laura - I hear ya. It would be nice for people to value the arts rather than just the economy (or sport!). And for the govt to suppport it more too. I vaguely remember when they used to. Maybe after Saturday eh? ;) Hee hee

msd

Danielle McDonald said...

This is too true! I have always likened it to the fact that we were "taught" to write and form the letters and words, and it took years of practice and study to perfect how you do this physically and then how you learnt to compile them in a way to express and communicate. We all have very different levels of how we write and communicate. Like anything it's those who practice these skills who are the best at it. I think art and creativity is the same and yet people dont understand the "practice" element of this industry too!

Anyway - I am recent and yet avid reader of you blog (who is often too shy to leave comments) but I thought I'd be brave and have tagged you to reveal 5 random or weird things about you. Please don't feel you have to participate but if you think it would a fun thing to do, check out my blog to see the rules.

Hyena In Petticoats said...

Yup.
I'm sticking my hand up for this one....

Absolutely you can be taught to be creative, and refining your skills in ANY field requires dedication and a commitment to learning.

My main beef is that people tend to forget that they can take thier education into thier own hands, that we don't have to be fed information with a spoon.

If you want to learn about something, anything, then it's perfectly viable to dedicate yourself to learning as much as you can about that topic, be it needlework or astrophysics! The wealth of information we have available to us on all sorts of subjects is truly astounding, and to my ears, there is no excuse for saying 'I can't do that'.

That being said though, I do believe in a concept of innate talent, and some people do have an amazing natural gift for the creative arts, but I think the potential is within all of us to access our creative selves, and some healthy encouragement can go a long way....

You've been getting some great responses - this is obviously a topic we all feel very passionate about!

xxxx

Anika said...

I think that everyone is creative.

I think that many people unfortunately have this idea of what "being creative" means (ie. that they have to paint or draw), but people can be creative in many ways.

I think that creativity can be developed, learned, and encouraged. It's interesting how people who say they aren't creative don't seem to be developing their creativity.

Great post.

Ali said...

I think everyone is creative, but not everyone is confident. Confidence is essential if you are going to express your creativity - you have to be unafraid of putting your ideas out there - or at least resilient enough to weather criticism.

Sarah said...

Too true. I whole heartedly agree with you. After working in the advertising industry for 15 years...let me tell you, they are narrow minded sometimes :)

Zoe said...

oh you really struck a cord with me on this one Lara!

Do you know that in my last job I was told that I just wasn't creative and that if I didn't "buck up my ideas" I'd be out of a job? I then found out that the company were planning major redundancies and this was their way of "getting rid" of people. They were hoping that I'd leave of my own accord so they wouldn't have to make me redundant. How awful is that? Took me ages to build up my confidence again after that. Soul destroying. The thing was that I was told this by a non creative suit!!!

Makes me mad. Good debate though :)

mizu designs said...

what helps anyone explore their creative potential is the luxury of time. when you have time, and don't have to work work work in a job to pay your bills but can nurture your creative interest, then there is so much more potential and possibility. i don't think creativity is necessarily innate, but i do think it helps if someone has a passion for and in interest in creative work. my sister says she can't draw to save her life (this is funny cos she's a doctor!) but the truth is she doesn't have any real interest in learning to either. i could go on but i'd be hogging your blog :) great topic lara.

Allison said...

Maybe it can't be taught per se, because that might mean one person imposing their creative style onto another person (whose creative style might not correspond). However, it can definitely be nurtured and developed and encouraged, which sadly does not happen enough.

It's also a lot more to do with having a creative desire. And how sad it is for someone who may desire to be creative to be told that they are not and that they will never learn. If you want to create you can do it. It may not turn out how you imagined and not everyone will like it, but it is still creative. It may not be sellable and may not make you millions, but it is still creative.

elly yap said...

I'm wondering Lara, which issue of Yen was this?

I think creativity can be found in and applied to everything in life, the only trick is how to nurture it. I think the important thing about becoming/being/staying creative is to have your eyes and ears open to the world and to have the confidence to truly express yourself. Also I'd hate to think that creativity is only exclusive to the design/art world, I'm pretty sure I've heard my mum mention something called 'creative accounting' a couple of times. ;)

Perhaps this person may have meant 'style' or 'natural talent' rather than creativity? Either way what a sad and discouraging thing to say especially when there are so many young creatively minded Yen readers out there waiting for their HSC/VCE results!

Marianne said...

I would love to read the article myself. I have been reading Yen online and can't find any quote that you refer too.

Can you point me to the article and author, please?

Happy Thanksgiving for your American Fan in Kansas! XXOO

John Coulter said...

"ad agency bigwig" usually equals "blowhard."Of course you can teach creativity. By saying that you can't belies his insecurity in his own creativity.


http://johncoulter.blogspot.com/

Anna said...

I think that it is all the technical and practical things that make up a creative dicipline that really have to be taught. You have to learn how to tailor garments before you can deconstruct them! I got through a design degree and knew people who couldn't draw by the end of 4 years- but they could do other things. I also remember spending the first year of uni learning to think more like a designer. I think I was lucky in the fact that my parents were quite supportive of me and my career choice- but I think that they could see it coming a mile away!

What I think for me, as a creativity issue is looking at the big picture, and not obsessing over the little things ( I have been having long conversations about this with my sister). If I got over working on embroidery and all the little things, and put my energy into my big picture ideas, then I might acheive something too!

Lara said...

Oh wow, so many fantastic responses here, thank you! I will have to post about this topic some more, pull out some gems from what you guys have written :)

As for which issue of Yen it was - I think it was the current one - issue 29, with the orange cover. I was reading it at the hairdresser so I can't tell you the article name or the author, but it was basically interviews with lots of different people, each one about a column long. I'm not sure if my quote was word for word but that was the gist of it :)

Diane said...

I totally agree with you. I firmly believe that creativity is something we all have within us, it is only about the confidence and support to let go of these 'adult' feelings of it not being good enough or right or worthy. Once you can release those fears and just go for it, everyone can unleashed their creativity.

I'm quite new to this whole community and I can't believe the support and friendship that goes with it.

So thanks all for making it easier to be creative!

Di said...

I think that I am learning to be more creative all the time - I must admit I never think of myself as creative and I am trying to change that! OK mostly I am better at copying but I am now able to make my own alterations, some minor, some significant and I am sure that being involved in the blogging world and surrounded by creative people that is helping me on! I also agree that you are born creative can that it can be nurtured and taught and that we can be taught how to develop it -why would they have art colleges otherwise!! OK I think I just contradicted myself !

kwoozy said...

i guess i will put my 2 cents from someone not in the creative fields:

Creativity is not just in the arts/graphic design either. It's everywhere. Lots of other stuff/job/problem solving etc requires creativity too.

:)

Jodie said...

Yes !! I agree whole heartedly. We need to practice and we need to have people around who support us and "get" what we do. My is the best thing I have ever ever done for my creative-ness. I am inspired and supported so much by others. I get guidance, assistance and feedback from like-minded people and it is invaluable.

Christie said...

I think creativity needs to be nurtured & encouraged. I think it is about environment. Being surrounded by creative people definately helps. It is also about having the confidence to try new things & trust your instincts. We all have the ability to be creative; some people are just better at tapping into it than others I think...

Catherine said...

I absolutely agree with you. When I first started my dip ed. in art teaching we had a great teacher who told us that the worst idea you can have in your head is that the idea of creativity is something inherent that can't be taught. I think everyone has creative potential, whether it be gardening, drawing, making cakes or building treehouses...

Hannah said...

oh gosh! creativity and talent, those are all demons any artistic/ creative/ art person grapples with often. I have seen many talented individuals who never put their gift to any use. I am not gifted but I love art, I love to create and all my art stems from skill and practice. I have learned everything I can, practice, practice and more practice. Perserverance and sheer will has developed my "SKILL", for those who know little about art believe I am creative. It is all in the eye of the beholder!!!! Intelligence is also something you work towards, just as creativity is.......

cheers
Hannah

michelle said...

I absolutely believe creativity can be taught! I also believe that it shows itself in many ways that we often don't recognize because we strongly associate it with art.

By simply appreciating what someone else does in the way of creating can be just enough to give them what it takes to go further and by going further they will discover amazing things about themselves.

And as long as they are happy with the results is does not matter if anyone else thinks its good!

Learning to be creative, to appreicate this in yourself, can open up many things inside you, it can make your world bigger and bring in new things you never thought possible. I believe that learning to be creative goes way beyond art. Perhaps the word art is why so many people are afraid to know their creativity, they may think if they arent good enough artists then they arent creative. They dont measure up to the rest.

To be creative you dont have to measure up you simple need to open your mind to new things, have some fun and be happy with what you are doing! Creativity will grow the more you do.

So yes anyone can be creative, we just need to learn to nurture those creative things for what they are worth to that person, which may be different than our own.

we can all be creative!!!!!

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

I strongly believe that we all start off with creativity but that it can be "scared off" at an early age, whether it be by the kindergarten teacher that tells you that the sky can't be green in your picture or whether it be more subtly discouraged.

With that in mind, I don't know if there is such a thing as "teaching" creativity, but rather "bringing it out".

A great post by the way and I've loved reading everyone's different thoughts on the topic.

ShiriMe! said...

hi lara,

you've sparked a debate! haha. mainly one-sided. but yeah..

i don't have the time to read through everyone's comments but they all seem to be towards the same logic.

i think creativity is like any other human trait - some have it more than others, but the expression of this trait is partially determined by one's environment. a person could be born with a lot of creativity but will not display it or do anything with it if no one helps nurture it. conversely, a person could be born with very little creativity but can flourish with just the right amount of nurturing and support.

my sister and i are both artistic folks (i tend to define artistic as being able to physically make art and creativity as having the ability to be innovative and unique, etc. when making art; so, basically, i think of creativity as one step above artistic ability). anyway, both of us are artistic. but guess who's "more" creative? not me! and that's because i don't spend nearly as much time as my sister at what we do and i don't spend nearly as much time on it because i've always thought of myself as being less creative. it becomes a vicious cycle. i don't think i'm creative, so i don't create. and by not constantly creating and working at it, i perpetuate my inability to be creative. and on and on.

i guess we all just have to be the role models in the lives of the children we come into contact with and make sure that we let them know that they all possess a creative "gene". :)

Casey said...

Excellent post! :) It makes me so mad when people put narrow, snobbish confines on who can and can't join the "elite clique" of creative types!! Grrrr...

I personally believe that everyone can be creative, and should be encouraged if they show interest in a creative area. I used to be known as the "class cheerleader" in my drawing classes because I was always encouraging people--no matter what their abilities.

However, I think ability to be creative in specific ways varies from person to person. And I do think that discovering your creative talents can happen at any point in your life... not just by the time you start uni! I mean: look at all the women who discover their talent to sew, knit, or weave (etc.) when they're in their 30s? And certainly practice makes better; I know that even from my own life!

So yes, I think creativity is something that can be learned, cultivated and refined! Of course, some people's ideas of creativity can mean one thing (architectural engineering) or another (performance artist), but I do think the urge to create and express our viewpoints is inbred into our dna as humans. :)

melissa deakin said...

i totally agree with what you have said.
creativity needs to be nutured and if it is nurtured by your parents, you are lucky, but in the end as an adult, you need to nurture your own creativity, make time for it and choose to live your life in a creative way. i think it takes practice. there are many times when i am tired and would just like to lie on the couch, but very often, i work for a bit and i feel this helps to cultivate my creativity.
love all that you wrote...great topic!

Song said...

I thought creativity was a thing you were born with (and I most certainly was NOT born with it) until I read Drawing on the right side of the brain by betty Edwards and realised it's all just about perceptions.

now I'm still not the most artistic, creative or talented person in the world, but I paint and draw and write and take photographs and sew and glue and I enjoy every minute of it. I think that's what is important. If there is joy in your work, then of course you are going to put more effort into developing your skills, and creativity, like driving a car, is a skill and one that once you learn, you never forget and it becomes effortless.

lindsey clare said...

such an interesting topic! i'm so pleased to hear everyone's encouraging thoughts. i'm definitely one of those people who struggles with 'believing' that i am and can be creative. i often feel like i'm not creative enough, but family and friends always say i am!

i also love that people have brought up the importance of hard work and patience.

Jason said...

I know I am a bit late to comment on this one, but anyway...

I agree that creativity is in all of us. It just needs to come out. We spend too much time focusing on work and 'looking great' so creativity just gets pushed aside as it's not a priority.

Anna Laura talked about how parents at her school didn't care if their children failed art because it is 'just art'. They are so wrong. Studying art and graphic design at school can be the beginning of a successful career in design, fashion, graphic design or even computer graphics. These could all come under the banner of art.

I'll leave it there...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for raising discussion on this topic. Some of you may be interested in watching this video of a TEDTalk by Sir Ken Robinson titled Do Schools Kill Creativity? In this he states "we are educating people out of their creativity".

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/66

Steve Caddy said...

"Creativity cannot be taught" == "I cannot teach creativity"

Penguin & Fish said...

I completely agree with you. Every single person out there is super creative. It's just a matter of feeling safe enough to express yourself. People are so freaked out that they're going to do something wrong, that they end up doing nothing and saying that they're just not creative. Get over it, people! And get out there. Everyone has something to say. There are so many ways and mediums to express yourself. If your nervous or need a little nudge, take a class in something that interests you. Everyone there is trying to do something that they don't know how to do either. You can all learn and be creative together and feed off each other.

OK, phew, I got that out. I know this is an older post and lots of people already commented. But I just feel so passionately that everyone is creative and can express their creativity that I just had to put my 2 cents into this thread. Thanks for the great post. :)

mgfrias said...

Just my 2 cents ...
By the way, I love your designs. I saw them on Flikr and I landed here on your blog.

I saw this comment about creativity and I need to say something. People usually equate creativity with being artistic, but it exists in all aspects of life. Creativity exists in everyone and people use/apply it in their individual expertise -- in Math, music, business, culinary, etc ...

In the Arts specifically, you can be taught skills and techniques (ie. craftmaking), but it's all up to the person how he/she will combine the knowledge with his and her own creativity.

Not everyone is an artist, but everyone has the ability to draw and create something. People just have different levels of creativity -- some more artistic (ie. Monet), some more technical (ie. MC Escher) and some both (ie. Da Vinci).

So, can creativity be taught? Of course not since everyone is born with it already. But, it can only be enhanced if nurtured. So, fuel that passion and fire and keep being inspired!