As I am a writer and a psychologist, one subject that continues to fascinate me is individual creativity. We are all creative in one aspect or another but like all abilities creativity is expressed in a multitude of fashions and degrees. One person’s most creative act is using a spoon for a shovel while another’s is using a Coke can to fix their engine; degrees of creativity.
What is creativity? J.P. Guilford (1967, 1988) proposed creativity involves divergent rather than convergent thinking. Divergent thinking requires coming up with a variety of ideas or solutions to a problem when there is no one right answer and convergent thinking is “converging” on the best answer to a problem and is, interestingly enough, exactly what IQ tests measure. Consequently correlations between creativity scores and IQ are low to moderate and really only relate in that highly creative people rarely have blow average IQs suggesting that a minimum of intelligence is necessary for creativity (Runco, 1992; Simonton, 1999).
Interestingly, creativity in the arts seems to peak, on average, for people in their late 30s and early 40s. There are of course exceptions; Michelangelo was in his 80s when he worked on St. Peter’s Cathedral. But in general, creative work is thought to require two things, experience and enthusiasm (Beard, 1874), people in their 30s and 40s have both of these. Dean Simonton (1984, 1990, 1991) suggests that each creator may have a certain potential to create that is realized over their adult years; like a well of novel ideas that slowly runs dry as they are used up regardless of when the tapping into them began; this may explain eminent works actualized later in life. By my mind then, can there be any more horrifying event for a creator than the completion of their opus? The Pulitzer darkening their door? “What now?” I hear them cry.
We’ve all read those books, “How did they come up with this?” Something so unique while still able to suspend disbelief, like witnessing magic, it’s the way I felt after reading the first Harry Potter book. This author had somehow transported me back to childhood (along with everyone else) and I clamored for more (along with everyone else) unique and yet still tapping into our ancient archetypes, our universal truths that ring our bells. Creativity.