One of the truths that is easy enough to uncover when it relates to creativity is that it is easiest for us to talk about ourselves and our own creativity. We are the creators we know best, after all. Just as the phenomena in which human creativity takes place are immensely diverse, so too is the process of creativity itself. Before attempting to sketch some of the ways in which we may say that creativity takes place in general, it is worthwhile to examine how it is that I come to create. You will no doubt come to creation from a somewhat different place yourself, and you will create things in your own way, likely without realizing or even thinking about the wide range of ways and fashions in which people demonstrate their creativity. In fact, it will probably be most useful if you create in a different way, because you will be able to look at my own creative approach from a place of some distance, and you will be able to say to yourself that the way I create things may be all well and all good as far as I am concerned but that it would not work for you for such and such a reason. And that is perfectly fine. I would likely say the same thing if I knew the way that you created, but I do not, and so I cannot.
Most of my own personal creativity relates to writing, but by no means all of it. Most of my writing is either in the form of a book review or the form of a personal essay. When I write longer works (like this one), I tend to break them into smaller chunks largely because I can only write bits at a time and it is worthwhile for those bits to be as self-contained as possible even when (perhaps especially when) they are a part of a larger whole. In that sense, I suppose you could say I am a modular writer. I tend to write a day at a time, perhaps 1,000 to 3,000 words a day on the same topic (depending on how fluid my writing is), and a book length project therefore will take me somewhere between a month to several months of time to write, again depending on its scope and how much effort it requires. A project, like this one, often comes about because of a conversation. In the case of this work on creativity, I had a conversation with a co-worker of mine that is also very interested in the subject and we agreed to collaborate on a project about creativity, where I would approach the subject from the point of view of history and the humanities and he would look at things from a more scientific perspective. I often come to a project with some sort of understanding and knowledge from previous reading and thinking, and then engage in a great deal of research that relates to a particular subject. In the case of this particular project, I had a book on my to-read list about the subject already and found nine more books in my local library system that provided the basis of further research that would provide a solid lit review as well as provide some opportunity to think a bit about the history of creativity and about how it is that creativity is demonstrated in the humanities.
For the most part, while I am in the course of writing about creativity I tend to try to structure my thoughts, adding to them as I figure out the need to discuss something, while picturing how it is that the work as a whole is to be tied together. Because I like writing book reviews and think that a good understanding of relevant literature is of use to other readers, I tend to include a lit review section as part of the supplementary material to many of the books I write about. At times, as was the case with my writings about the Apostolic Fathers, this section can be very large as I read and review a large amount of books that deal with what one would think would be an extremely obscure subject. At times I am still reading and reflecting on material long after I have started writing, to the point where a project is not finished so much as abandoned and released as is because one does not want to keep going forever. There are, however, other cases where a book of mine takes shape after the writing has been done. These are situations where I am aware of a genre that has been published, say, a collection of sermons or compendia, and I realize that I have a lot of these materials already finished that have a certain structure and approach that merits them being combined together as a book. I call these happy creations “accidental books,” and they demonstrate to me that the creation of books is not always an intentional process but sometimes is a happy realization that one has been engaged in a process for a long time and one can simply compile and collect worthy material.
For the record, this is not a style of creation that is limited to me. Many collections of writings (and not only writings) are such feasts of scraps. When a noted author releases a book out of their letters, they are repurposing previous creations that were written in a previous context as part of a larger whole that deserves attention. As someone who is fascinated by letters, I enjoy reading the correspondence of others and seeing the ebb and flow of relationships based on what is written, and ponder on those things that are not written and why. At times, these letters can be very revealing about the people who both are writing and receiving the letters. Given the fact that destroying letters that may be embarrassing is a very common fate of the letters of others, we are reminded of the fact that creativity is a process that must be viewed as paired with another activity, namely that of destruction. Whether we remove a tweet or burn a letter or consign a manuscript to being hidden in the floorboards, we are attempting to shape how others view us by removing writing that may bring trouble upon us all. Not all writers, and I speak personally here as well, are well attuned to the sorts of writings that may cause harm, as all kinds of writings may make our lives more difficult. To the extent that we are creative people, we do so in a context that either encourages that creativity or discourages it. As I am mostly a writer, it is perhaps little surprise that most of my creativity is focused in this area. However, our creativity is far more widespread than simply those things that relate to obvious creative arts like writing, composing, sculpture, performing music or drama, paintings and drawings, architecture, landscape design, interior design, set design, or other areas where the creative aspects are at their most obvious.