Column is a monthly feature that follows the lives
of creative people and explores the world of creativity.
The Creative Spark
de Sousa, Director, AbleStable
Where does our creativity come from? Some believe
it is a divine gift, others that it is exclusive
to those with a particular predisposition. Form
your own view after reading what I hope proves a
thought provoking investigation.
creature could never be conscious without
being creative, or vice versa'
In common with all humans, I dream each day. I have
no doubt it is in my dreams that the spark of creativity
resides, but a fire is not created with sparks alone.
To be creative we need the fuel of self-awareness
to filter and select from the often random input
of our daily lives.
I remember my surprise when I saw, for the first
time, a dog dream. I'd presumed dreams were the
exclusive domain of 'higher animals'. If dogs dreamed
Our family labrador Sam was a powerful dreamer.
He was a bright and demanding animal always planning
his next move to place the families attention firmly
on him. When he dreamed, although his eyelids would
often stay open, he saw nothing but that which filled
his dreamworld, his eyes darting from one scene
to the next. His breath quickened, his muffled bark
revealed the excitement of his journey, his legs
raced while his torso lay heavy with sleep.
That Is Me
I am because I am self aware.
It is our ability to be self-aware that distinguishes
humans from other creatures. While there is no doubt
and would make choices between different actions
he might take based on past experience, he had no
language abilities, and it is language that is the
dominant force in our ability to be self aware.
Sam would look on at a table where a biscuit had
been left. He could not articulate his thoughts
as a human might: 'Will the trouble I get into for
eating this biscuit be worth the enjoyment of the
chase and the taste?'. Sam however had no such language
capability so the process for him would be different.
There was a part of Sam's brain that stored important
'principles' that helped him enjoy a better prospect
of survival. I guess we call that store 'experience'.
We use experience as much as language in our decision
making. Add to that the affects of temperament,
intuition, physical predisposition (genes), and
it's clear the process of taking that biscuit from
the table remained a complex one, even for a dog.
People influence each other through their abilities
to manipulate inanimate objects to their purposes,
and to transmit ideas to one another and receive
feedback. When we exchange ideas they influence
the thought of others whose influenced thought may
be returned to us and alter our original ideas in
an incalculably complex web of ideas. Sam however
could not exchange ideas. He was an island, cut
off from the mainland of linguistic communication
and all the advantages that provides. Sam was not
creative, he could not look at himself as if from
outside himself. He could not play with the idea
'the eye that is me', and it is this 'idea play'
that is crucial in stimulating creativity.
Her dreams crash like waves on the beach
of her half-waking body. Her arms and
legs twitch, sparked by the electricity
of imagination. Her lips mouth the secret
language of her dream life, then, slowly,
as each salty wave collides with the
next in its retreat to the sea of her
unconscious, the morning bathes her
room with early light.
She wakes but keeps well hidden, deep
beneath the covers. A thought comes
to her. Another, then another. Diverse,
disordered images of the day before.
'It's warm', she likes the warm, 'how
does this bed stay so warm? Perhaps
someone from my dreams was here'. She
draws a deep breath in. The scent of
her sheet spreads, she smiles. Her hand
slowly reaches out beneath the covers,
her fingers guided by the familiar landscape
of her bedside until she touches upon
the key that punctures the smooth surface
of her tiny metal music box. She gently
pulls the box into her darkened wombworld
then turns the key. 'I like this sound,
it makes me think of flowers, I'll draw
a flower now, a flower like no other'.
If I'd ended the passage above with the words 'Marie
is five years old' your feelings towards the passage
might be very different than if I'd said 'Marie
is ninety five years old'. Context is everything
and the context clues that language, music, and
visual art provide significantly alter our ideas
The bright spark that propels our creativity is
ever present within all of us. Whether we awaken
from the slumber to play with ideas and create is
however very much up to us...
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