Sunday, April 13, 2014

Szeman and Creativity

Having been identified as the creative writer in the room, I wanted to make a couple of comments about Szeman’s discussion about creativity, his main point being that there has been an “approbation of creativity” in our culture.  He mentioned employees in some companies (Google, Microsoft, etc)  having creative time where they essentially do what they want with a couple of hours a day so that they could be creative. We talk about "creative play."

I agree with Szeman. As he said, it’s a weird indictment of capitalism that work itself is separate from being creative. I’d like to run with that a little further. I’m holding a few ideas in my head at once, but I think there’s a connection so bear with me.

If the approbation of creativity means that it is somehow held up and apart, I would go so far as to say that creativity has been commodified. Or, perhaps I should say that the image of being creative has been commodified. Creative people buy Apple products and have a certain eccentric air. You can also buy creativity in the form of pre-fabricated art kits (just walk into Michaels and take note of the prefabricated art-making merchandise). As in “buy our kit for making something and you will be creative when you put it together following our instructions.”

With the approbation of creativity a need, or should I say a desire, for creativity is created in the consumer.  This does not, in my opinion, represent authentic creativity. A desire to be creative, in a way (and I am guilty of this I'm sure), is a desire to be unique in the culture of sameness that Horkheimer and Adorno describe in "The Culture Industry."

As I’m sure you have all learned the hard way, authentic creativity is hard freaking work. I don’t think anyone in business or industry is innovative without knowing the nuts and bolts of what they’re doing. I don’t write a poem when I’m laying around doing nothing, nor do I write a poem simply by engaging in creative “play.” I write a poem after I’ve gone through a good deal of reading and actual writing. A good abstract artist will likely have spent years studying composition and honing basic drawing skills. A jazz musician can improvise well after spending years practicing his or her scales. And so on. Authentic creativity is inseparable from work.

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