Thursday, May 17, 2012

Creativity vs. Originality

Lately I've been putting a lot of thought into the difference between creativity and originality.

Creative people tend to have a certain intelligence with the way they approach art (and life). They know how to look at it, how to solve problems, how to develop an idea, how to find patterns and inspiration between disparate sources, how to change perspective, and how to fit things together in a logical fashion. Often, they also have the drive and impulse to create art.

Originality can be an aspect of that, but I would argue that many people are creative without being original. Some people are also original, without ever honing their artistic skills. Originality is that way of looking at the world with unique eyes, of finding words no one else would ever think to use. It involves ideas that seem to come out of nowhere - random and powerful like lightening. Maybe that's why originality occasionally disguises itself as craziness or eccentricity.

So, here's my question, from the perspective of a creative person who would like to be more original: do you think originality is a skill that can be developed, or is it innate? If it can be developed, how would you go about increasing your own originality? Or do you believe that originality is a sham and is no one truly original?

6 comments:

  1. I'm going to tackle this from a writing perspective:

    In writing, and most things, I think I'm naturally creative. Especially the 'find patterns and inspiration between disparate sources' aspect. Just how I think. I'm a person that will never run out of ideas for a story in a million years, simply because I'm always watching, reading, listening, etc. And I think there's a story in all of it. I'm inspired by all of it. It just makes sense to me. Creative people are sponges in that way.

    So I've got all kinds of clever ideas and concepts. Now for the execution. To me, that's where originality comes in. If creativity is an idea, originality relates to the expression of that idea. We all have a way of expressing something.

    Example: Everyone knows the story of the Three Little Pigs. Ask three people to tell it in their own words, and you'll likely get three slightly different versions, each colored in the unique language and style of the teller. However, none of them are likely to be told in a wholly unique way. Why? They are telling the story from basic memory recall. They aren't practiced storytellers, so they're going to recite it similarly to how they've heard it told so many times before.

    So how would one go about telling the Three Little Pigs in an original fashion? Simply put, you'd practice. You'd read every version that's out there, you'd listen to other people tell it, you'd tell it over and over. More importantly, you'd learn to figure out (as I mentioned above) what your unique language and style choices are. Then you'd emphasize those.

    If you keep doing that, you'll eventually end up with a story not very much like the Little Pigs everyone knows. It would most likely go in a completely different direction. Your direction.

    Occasionally, people come up with something totally new off the cuff. More often than not, however, I believe they can only come up with something new because they're so well-schooled in the normal that, for them, there's only one obvious thing to do.

    I don't believe "voice" in writing is spontaneous. You have to learn to articulate your unique thoughts and ideas by doing it over and over. I guess in that way I do think originality is a sham, because I do believe it is mostly grown, not born.

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    1. Great comment. Thanks for your thoughts! I hope you're right. :)

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  2. Yes, EJ has some great points to your thought-provoking post! I think originality can be fostered too, but I do also think some people have more of an innate sense of it. Just like some people have an artistic talent or musical talent or dance talent. If you're not born with it, you have to work harder at it, but you can still develop it. :)

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    1. I've had a couple of students that just astound me with their originality. I have to admit, it makes a little jealous how easily it comes to them. Kids in general can be so original with the way that they look at life. :)

      Oh well, time to work harder!

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  3. I think the more we surround ourselves with art - other people's creations - the more likely we are to tap into the part of ourselves that creates. And while there may be stories out there that have hints at the same thing as ours, because we first nurtured creativity, ours will be different enough to be original.

    Great post - just found your blog. Looking forward to what else you have to share.

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    1. I think you're totally right. Ray Bradbury and Douglas Adams both wrote about surrounding themselves with all kinds of art, because that was what helped inspire and refine their own creativity.

      Welcome to the blog! Glad to have you. :)

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