The Power of Creativity

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Photo by Melissa Bowersock

I have often felt that creativity is an archetypal upwelling that is so intrinsic to human nature as to make it a universal truth. I believe it is so pervasive and so deep-seated that, like love, it exists and permeates all cultures around the globe without exception. And, because it is so mysterious and unruly and because it produces ideas of such unfathomable complexity and beauty, it is also powerful. It is a force that the ancients could only partially grasp and therefore it was relegated to the nature of god.

A recent article on Scientific American discussed the nature of creativity and really got my neurons firing. I thought it was really interesting to see their round-up of various thinkers and philosophers and their views on what creativity is and where it comes from.

To name just few examples: Plato has Socrates say, in certain dialogues, that when poets produce truly great poetry, they do it not through knowledge or mastery, but rather by being divinely “inspired”—literally, breathed into— by the Muses, in a state of possession that exhibits a kind of madness. Aristotle, in contrast, characterized the work of the poet as a rational, goal-directed activity of making (poeisis), in which the poet employs various means (such as sympathetic characters and plots involving twists of fate) to achieve an end (of eliciting various emotions in the audience). Kant conceived of artistic genius as an innate capacity to produce works of “exemplary originality” through the free play of the imagination, a process which does not consist in following rules, can neither be learned nor taught, and is mysterious even to geniuses themselves. Schopenhauer stressed that the greatest artists are distinguished not only by the technical skill they employ in the production of art, but also by the capacity to “lose themselves” in the experience of what is beautiful and sublime.

You might note the descriptors used: possession, rational, goal-directed, artistic, originality, imagination, learned, taught, mysterious, skill, beautiful and sublime. It’s fairly obvious that the descriptions cover a wide range of ideas and there is little agreement on what creativity actually is except maybe (D) all of the above.

I can remember ages ago in my Art History class in high school. Our first studies were of the small clay “Venuses” of stone-age cultures. These Venus sculptures were faceless females, fat with pregnancy, naked in their simple beauty, and relegated to an unremarkable niche of “fertility figures.” I don’t know why, but this generic, tossed-off classification always bothered me. The figures were everywhere, in every culture, even the earliest ones that may have had no inkling of the sexual process of fertilization and birth. (Phallic figures, indicating ancient peoples had come to understand the full process, began appearing in archaeological sites much later.) It seems obvious to me that these stone-age people did not understand how a woman could bring forth new life, so they enlisted the help of the gods to promote the growth of their people.

But I don’t believe it was fertility they were worshipping and praying for. I don’t believe fertility was the mysterious power they were trying to harness.

I believe it was creation: the ability to create.

Creativity produces something that did not exist the moment before. It produces something new, something exciting, something wondrous. Who has that kind of power? God, surely. Only God could create a paradise from nothing; only God could populate the world with plants and animals and humans. Only God could produce life-giving rain from the sky.

But then women could give birth. Women could create new life where there was none before.

Certainly, this kind of creativity—any kind of creativity—is power. The existence of the Venus figures shows us how the ancients tried to harness that power. They may not have understood it, but they were darn well going to do whatever they could to try to get a handle on it.

All humans want and need power. Power gives us the ability to do what we do, to build the kind of lives we want. It may not be power over anything or anyone; it might just be the power to be free, to live, to be who we are, to create. But if a person perceives that he or she does not have power, what then? If they cannot create, how then can they get hold of that kind of power for themselves?

Destruction.

But destruction is always and only a second-best to creativity. It is always and only an also-ran. Destruction will never have the power of creativity because it does not produce something new that was never there before. It can only tear down and destroy. Any fool can destroy. Not everyone can create.

But those of us who do, have a power that no one can ever take away from us.

Let’s use it wisely.

Author: Melissa Bowersock

Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres. She has been both traditionally and independently published and lives in a small community in northern Arizona. Learn more about Melissa from her Amazon author page and her blog.

23 thoughts on “The Power of Creativity”

  1. “…destruction is always and only a second-best to creativity. It is always and only an also-ran. Destruction will never have the power of creativity because it does not produce something new that was never there before. It can only tear down and destroy.” What is a beautiful and thought-provoking message,Melissa! One worth writing down and remembering on those not-so-positive days. Thank you!

      1. Kenyon, I’m not even going to think about how long it’s been since anyone’s referred to me as a chick, but you just keep your eyes here on IU. You crack me up.

  2. “Creativity produces something that did not exist the moment before.”

    That is a wonderful line! I will use it to my benefit. I often tell people that creativity is finite. Imagination is infinite. I believe this because of the window of success most writers, fiction and song, seem to enjoy.

    Off the top of my head, I would say Neil Young and Bob Dylan are two rare examples of songwriters who have never, really, run into a wall. If you read popular authors, how many of them seem to repeat themselves or lose the plot after so many years?

    I think many successful people begin to run dry because after their string of success, they begin to isolate themselves, and no longer run in the circles of the hungry and creative crowd they did before their breakthrough.

    Creative people need to recharge. I used to belong to a group of weekly-meeting writers. After two hours, my mind would actually crackle. I never mingled with them afterward. I would jump into my truck and sail home with stories and songs weaving inside my brain. When I got home, I would practically write the way a drunk spills his bladder. (Yeah, nice, thanks.)

    I have found another group to join. Four years after the other one disbanded, I’ve began clutching at ideas, grasping at straws and pecking in the snow for that creative life juice. I can’t wait. I need to recharge. It’s hard for a writer to live alone inside their head and perform well.

    That was long. Sorry. I meant to say “Thank you!” This post has kicked a piston into action

    1. Kenyon, glad I could give you a well-placed kick. Sounds like you learned a long time ago how to spark the muse, though. I feel the same way after I re-read A Prayer for Owen Meany. I can hardly wait to get to the last page, toss it down and run for the computer. Inspired writing inspires me.
      And you’re welcome.

  3. Destruction is often and act of fear or jealousy of the creativity of the other, an attempt to remove its power, both on an individual or a grand scale. It is one of the reasons that women are still oppressed. Our power to create new life has always been either revered or feared. In the case of the latter, it has to be controlled and destruction or oppression is the only way they see to do that..

    Great post. Thank you.

    1. Yvonne, I whole-heartedly agree. Power is often misunderstood, often feared, and if it cannot be controlled, it is often oppressed. The good news is that, I believe, creativity cannot be suppressed for long. It will break free. It will assert itself. Always.

  4. “But if a person perceives that he or she does not have power, what then? If they cannot create, how then can they get hold of that kind of power for themselves?

    “Destruction.

    “But destruction is always and only a second-best to creativity. It is always and only an also-ran. Destruction will never have the power of creativity because it does not produce something new that was never there before. It can only tear down and destroy. Any fool can destroy. Not everyone can create.”

    What a GREAT thought, Melissa. If the alternative, as it so widely seems, is always fool-fueled destruction, we do indeed need to use our creativity wisely today more than ever.

    1. Kae, glad it resonated with you like it does with me. Put in these terms, it seems incumbent on all of us to use the power wisely and well. It’s not often we get the chance to be an example for others, but when we do, we need to rise to the challenge. I hope every day that I am strong enough to do that.
      Okay, who’s for world peace?

  5. Create – destruct; creative – destructive; creativity – destructivity. I agree with you absolutely, Melissa, in regard to creativity being the giver of life, the universe and everything. However, I think that destructivity, rather than being an also ran, a second best, is the antithesis. Being destructive is not second choice, and it is a choice, it is the opposite choice; like good versus evil.

    Excellent, thought provoking article, Melissa.

    1. Thanks, TD. I wish destructiveness weren’t such a draw for some people. It clearly has power to it–I can almost cry when I think of those giant stone Buddhas that were destroyed by the Taliban. But the power of destruction is only the direct inverse of the creation that is being destroyed, so that power is defined by the creation itself and cannot be self-contained or stand alone. Creativity, on the other hand, is full and complete on its own. It has a potentiality that nothing else has. I think Heather Skye Wilson would agree, don’t you?

  6. Even Darwin and Einstein understood the intuitive creative forces necessary to come up with useful theories. Creativity is powered by letting go, so using it wisely is not always an option. Although one would be advised to hang on to at least ten per cent of ‘oneself’ when in the throes of deep creation, one is not always in charge. The most significant discoveries, inventions and artistic creations we enjoy today are the result of chaos.

    1. Rosanne, agreed. There’s that “divine inspiration” aspect to creativity, so it doesn’t always belong to us nor can it be controlled by us. I have one book that I actually do not feel is mine; I feel it was “given” to me, although I’m not sure by whom!

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