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Ganesh K Kamath

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On Creativity
by Ganesh K Kamath   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Sunday, April 19, 2009
Posted: Sunday, April 19, 2009

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Is creativity innate or can it be acquired? Is there a correlation between creativity and talent? Read on and find out!

After giving substantial thought to the question of creativity among people, I have come to the firm and undeniable conclusion that one either has it or one doesn’t. One can neither will oneself into being creative nor can one learn it; and while practice, as we are told so many times and in so many different annoying ways during our lifetimes, can make one perfect, it hardly can lay claim to making one creative. And where does talent fit into all this? Is there a correlation between talent and creativity? Or are they two separate entities with one having nothing at all to do with the other?  


Before we jump to conclusions or form any half-baked ideas, it will perhaps pay to understand the meanings of the two terms - creativity and talent. The indispensable Merriam-Webster Online dictionary comes in handy at this time. This faithful guide defines creativity as marked by the ability or power to create or imaginative and talent as the natural endowment of a person or a special often creative or artistic aptitude, among other definitions. From the former definition of creativity and the latter one of talent, one can safely conclude that there is indeed a correlation between the two. In brief, it may be stated that in order for a person to be creative, that person must have creative aptitude or talent. Let me go a step further and state with authority, that is the only way to state things, I have found, if one is to ever be taken seriously – politician with little (occasionally) or no knowledge (almost always) of any topic under discussion are often found to do this – talent is equivalent to potential energy and creativity to kinetic energy. Another way of saying this is that talent is the potential for creativity and not creativity itself, and only when that talent is exercised does creativity become apparent. Creativity, in other words, lies dormant in a talented person until that person chooses to exercise it; talent can then be said to have manifested into creativity.


Having defined the terms creativity and talent clearly, one may proceed, albeit cautiously, to attempt to answer the question whether all creative people are talented, and conversely, whether all talented people are creative. I submit the former to be absolutely true – that all creative people are talented – and the latter to be not always true – that all talented people are creative. Why? How many times has one not heard the trying phrase “that’s a shame because he/she is so talented” or the tedious but true “talent is wasted on him/her”? As mentioned earlier, talent is the potential for creativity; one does not become creative simply by virtue of being in possession of a talent. Rather one becomes creative only when that potential or talent is exercised, and the degree of creativity directly correlates to the amount of potential or talent that is exercised. Hence the ones that never exercise any talent are never creative, and those that do so in small degree are mildly or moderately creative. It must be stated, as obvious as it maybe, that creativity cannot exist in a person that has no talent to begin with.


Now that it has been firmly established and authoritatively demonstrated that there is indeed a correlation between talent and creativity, the next question that is bound to trouble the inquisitive mind would be whether two or more equally talented people, assuming that talent can be measured and quantified unambiguously, can be equally creative or not. Probability demands that in a sample of any substantial or reasonable size, there is a good likelihood that there are perhaps a few, very few to be sure, individuals possessing the same amount of talent will demonstrate the same level of creativity. By and large however, this cannot be the case. Common sense will tell anyone, and heuristics will bear this out, that at any give time in history, and in any area of expertise or discipline, be it physics, chemistry, mathematics, cosmology, biology, astronomy or any other arena, there has almost always been exactly one single individual that has been considered to be the best in that field at that time. Johannes Kepler in the 16th - 17th century in astronomy, Sir Isaac Newton in the field of physics and mathematics in the 17th century (and for several centuries hence), William Shakespeare in the 16th century in poetry and playwriting, and Albert Einstein in the early 20th century in physics are but a few examples. Superlatives such as greatest and best can only apply to one person with respect to individuals, and when that term is applied to someone, it automatically precludes everyone else in that field and at that time. The same superlatives may be applied to others, but it can never be done to another individual in the same field and at the same time. The famous battles between the two very gifted and creative inventors Edison and Tesla in the 20th century resulted in Edison winning the mantle for being more creative and successful although it is tacitly acknowledged that Tesla was the more brilliant and creative of the two and that Edison was doubtlessly a better business person. It simply was not possible for people to accept them both as the best inventors in the field of physics and electrical engineering at that time; there can only be one number one.


At this point, the more astute reader will have noticed that all the preceding discussion has been mostly rote and devoid of any fresh thought or insight. Astute readers are, as a rule, a tough crowd that is hard to placate and virtually impossible to please or satisfy completely. However, one must not throw in the proverbial towel and give up the attempt; on the contrary, one must attempt to engage the astute and satiate their endless desire for challenges. With this view, I submit the following question: Should two individuals be found to exist with the same degree of talent and creativity, then is it possible for one of them to find some means by which to exceed the creativity of the other? The assumption here is that the talent is intrinsic to an individual and that the amount of talent will not increase or decrease significantly over that individual’s lifetime, but creativity, on the other hand, can rise or ebb, and hence elevate or fall to levels never reached before. I propose that there are ways, some desirable and other decidedly not, by which one can elevate one's creativity.


In order for one to take creativity to new levels, in addition to summoning all the talent available to one, one must also have the ability think differently. In other words, one must defy conventional wisdom and abandon traditional thinking; invent means, in some case when they don’t exist, as those that may be necessary to achieve the ends. Sir Isaac Newton is generally credited with the invention of that indispensable mathematical tool calculus (Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is grudgingly given joint credit for its discovery as well) which it is said was a tool that did not exist, but was necessary for his work in the area of gravity. It is safe to assume that many talented individuals came close to the discoveries that Newton made in the area of gravitational physics, but fell short because of the shortcomings in mathematics at that time; they were not in possession of the confounding ingenuity and creativity that Newton had to invent that which was missing. How does one take one’s creativity to another level that distinguish the winner from the also ran?


There are a number of undesirable ways to enhance creativity. Mind altering drugs that are so popular among those with musical and artistic bend of mind is one avenue. For instance, at any given period in time, why were there only a handful of rock bands or guitarist that were considered great? To be sure, there were hundreds if not thousands of rock bands in the 1970s, but what was it exactly that made Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Doors or Led Zeppelin to be considered better than their contemporaries? What distinguished Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton from the other legion of guitarist? The obvious answer any person of modest intelligence will tell you is that they were better than the rest. This then begs the question, what exactly did they do that made them better than their contemporaries? One might say they were more talented than others, or that they were more creative than others. Surely there were other individuals at that time in other bands that were equally or more talented than the members of the bands mentioned above, but perhaps what distinguished the successful bands from the rest was their ability to create a different brand of music, something so unique that others were forced to emulate them if they were to find any success at all. They were the trend setters, the trailblazers whose style and direction was so distinct and powerful that others were compelled to emulate them. And reading the biographies of the individuals in these super successful rock bands will quickly divulge just how much drug and alcohol use was involved at the peak of their careers. I very much doubt that Pink Floyd would have been able to make the kind of music that they did if they were to be perfectly sober and free from the influence of any mind altering drugs. Mind altering drugs free the mind from the constraints, and these are often artificial boundaries enforced by society, and helps those under its influence to see, think, feel and hear things differently which is what I believe helps bring out unbridled creativity.


There are other more desirable ways to enhance creativity as well. Meditation is one such way that comes to mind - meditation of the kind that brings to bear all of one’s mental faculties on a single issue or problem, and not the kind that involves blanking one’s mind in order to relax it, has the potential to yield remarkably creative thoughts and ideas. It takes intense concentration, incredible discipline and extreme mental will to utilize this method, but it can be very productive as well without the dangerous side effect of making mush out of one’s brains as the mind altering drugs are often found to do. Inspiration springing from special or dramatic events such as the birth of a child, or the death of a child, spouse or lover as well as finding a soul mate can also aid creativity.


I would now like to conclude this little treatise on creativity by summarizing that talent is the basic ingredient necessary for creativity. In order to be extraordinarily creative, an enormous amount of talent is necessary and all of it must be brought to bear on a specific idea or thought. And this coercion of talent with a view to achieve greater degree of creativity can only be achieved by means of freeing the mind from its natural shackles so that it can think radically differently, and mind altering drugs, meditation and dramatically inspirational events or moments can aid greatly in providing the freedom that the mind needs in order to be truly creative.



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