Wired To Create: Unraveling The Mysteries Of The Creative Mind, by Stuart Barry Kaufman & Carolyn Gregoire
Unfortunately, creativity is a subject that has been treated by many writers in a way that demonstrates considerable tension and ambiguity. Some writers point to creativity as residing within great individuals who buck trends and overcome accepted truths, while others look at the context of creativity in societies and institutions. Some people look at creativity from the point of view of novelty, while others are focused on creativity as including technological developments of an evolutionary nature or of discoveries that are often dependent on technological advances. Some people view creativity as within the experience of everyone while others think of it as something that is limited to particularly creative elites whose immense originality and fecundity are a high and difficult standard to meet or surpass. This particular book offers a somewhat mediating position in many of these particulate approaches, seeking to discuss what is different about the thinking processes and behaviors of the most creative people in a way that can serve as an inspiration for others to imitate themselves and therefore become more creative thereby. The authors seem unconcerned that a greater and more conscious adoption of creative mindsets will dilute what it means to be creative.
This book of about two hundred pages is focused on ten habits of highly creative people, ways that they think differently from most others. After an introduction that posits that creative people have particularly messy minds that hinder the rigid compartmentalization of thinking that is common in contemporary society, the authors move on to their list. First, the authors note that creative people tend to be involved in imaginative play, something that is quite common to children but less common to most adults who are not particularly nerdy or a geeky (1). Then they note that creative people have a certain passion, even an obsession, that inspires them to create, although they note that compulsions usually do not work out for the best (2). The authors note as well that creative people have a lot of daydreams that allow their mind some freedom to wander absentmindedly (3). Like many writers on creativity, the authors note that creative people have a need for solitude to allow them to introspectively reflect (4). The authors also are in widespread company in examining the importance of intuitive hunches (5) and openness to experience (6) that leads to increased creativity. Likewise, the authors note that creative people are mindful (7) and sensitive (8) to what is going on around them, and that they turn adversity into advantage (9). Perhaps unhelpfully, they note that creative people “think differently” from others (10), which seems like a tautological formulation when creativity is viewed as novelty to begin with.
This particular text has been viewed as a manifesto for creative people, but it is unclear to what extent the qualities the authors talk about can be cultivated by the population at large. After all, to the extent that creativity is assumed with difference, it may be difficult to generate enough novelty in a world of widespread creation that someone would be viewed as particularly or notably creative. How one separates the wheat from the chaff, that which deserves to be remembered and used as a source of future inspiration from that which is merely conventional, is not always a straightforward or easy matter to judge. Likewise, a great deal about creativity carries with it difficulties or problems. Being prone to daydream is not a quality that is highly valued among most professions, nor is being extremely sensitive appreciated in those areas where our lives require us to be more tough-minded about what we see around us. Likewise, even though the authors caution against people seeking adversity in order to build resilience to it, they seem unaware of just how common suffering is and how important it is that we be able to deal with it successfully.