Creativity. It’s a word that

October 6, 2003


It’s a word that gets bandied about a lot. «Creative» gets a lot of play as well. Both words usually come up in the context of someone who creates, sure, but someone who creates something like a play or a novel or a painting or something. Scientists and engineers, on the other hand, are often dismissed as uncreative. Why is that? defines ‘creative’ as:

  1. Having the ability or power to create: Human beings are creative animals.
  2. Productive; creating.
  3. Characterized by originality and expressiveness; imaginative: creative writing

Perhaps it’s missing the point to examine a word’s definition to try to get a grip on perception and use of the word, but I’m going to do it anyway. To pick a contrived, nonrandom example, I’m going to compare hypothetical persons A and B, where person A is the author of several Harlequin romance novels and person B is a research physicist with many publications and a Ph.D. to his name.

Persons A and B are both published authors, so they clearly both fit definition 1 of ‘creative’.

Assuming persons A and B both continue to work in their respective fields, they’ll both continue to do what they did to meet definition 1’s criterion, and in doing so they’ll meet definition 2.

Definition 3, however, is the sticky wicket; definition 3 is where the simultaneous requirements of originality and expressiveness come in. Person A’s ‘creative’ output expresses just how hunky Fabio looks, and person B’s ‘creative’ output expresses the theoretical basis for his research, his experimental procedures, and what conclusions if any he draws from them; we’ll call both people ‘expressive’. Originality, however, is a different matter entirely. Person A and the rest of the Harlequin romance authors (and TV producers, and movie scriptwriters, and recording artists, and other such ‘creative types’) have no imperative for originality; banal, uninspired, derivative works seem to be produced all the time. Person B, on the other hand, is required to be original. In fact, every person with a doctorate is required to have been original. It’s possible to have a career as an author without a single original expression, but it’s not possible to have a career as a scientist without a single original contribution.

Song of the Moment: «Melatonin» — Radiohead


  • Punamütsike says:

    i read about this 19-year-old who got his ph.d. already or something; he came up with the first theorem about winning some funky science-y game.
    or something like that.

  • Punamütsike says:

    oh yeah, i guess i’m screwed over with being creative, huh? great.

  • Arne says:

    Hahaha! Mart’s frustrated! Mart’s frustrated! How about you go “invent” yourself a non-crappy comments system?

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Powered by WordPress with Hiperminimalist Theme design by Borja Fernandez.

Entries and comments feeds. Valid XHTML and CSS.