Creativity seems to be a fairly easy thing to define on the face of it. Those of us who are active in the pursuit of the creative arts will quite happily describe ourselves as creative, and the more po-faced of us will even deploy the word as a noun: we’re creatives, dahling.
I’ve considered myself to be fairly creative over the years; I’ve written four novels (working on the fifth), one of which has been published traditionally. I’ve written several short stories and novellas, some of which I’ve published right here. I’m competent musically and have written and performed music publicly, some of which is publicly available. I also host a podcast and got that off the ground under my own steam, and I’m a reasonably competent artist.
So if creativity equates to the production of creative outputs ie books, stories, essays, songs, etc etc then it’s reasonable to say that I’m probably a rather creative individual.
I’m no longer so sure about that definition being the case. I recently did a personality test and by the strict letter of personality theory I’m not really that creative. My personality came out as, among other things, deeply analytical and capable of mastering technical disciplines, which I find to be true. It also said that I was not spontaneous or impulsive, and lacked creativity. My first impression was, well, that’s wrong – of course I’m creative, look at what I’ve created!
But there’s a point of difference. To truly be creative, in the ideational sense, is to pull ideas and creations almost fully-formed from the recesses of one’s mind. I suppose it’s like being directly plugged into the creative logos, and having a channel to whatever place deep within ourselves from which the lotus flowers of ideas sprout. And that isn’t me. Perhaps a short story idea might pop into my head, or even a piece of music, but the actual act of creation for me is rather a slow process that is formed upon the bedrock of technical competence and a very wide and deep knowledge of the cultural foundations upon which I stand and build. In other words, I need to know my shit. Others can simply pluck things from the air.
I was initially rather disappointed in my personality results, but after much deep analysis (the pros and cons of being a deeply analytical thinker!) of my results, I’ve come to discovered that I am actually working quite well to complement my lack of ideational capability by having access to wide cultural resources and an ability to retain it, recall it and call upon it in times of creative pursuits. My advantages compensate for my disadvantages. I wonder if it works in reverse, where extroverted creative types use their spontaneity to overcome their shortcomings in perseverance and phlegmaticism (or however their personality is structured)?
It’s a pertinent point, especially for writers. That not everybody has the capability to be truly creative. Even if you have a hankering to be a writer, or artist, you have to be aware of how your personality is put together to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Ideas might come easy, but applying them to paper might be hard. Or persevering when a sexier, newer idea or challenge comes along. The point is, you don’t have to be creative to be creative. But I’m sure it helps.