I read through the feed from Tom Barrett’s #creativitychat recently. It made for an interesting yet frustrating e-conversation. Maybe the whole concept of creativity is tough to define in practice, that is in the real world rather than the dictionary, but most of the attempts to nail it down gave the impression of people wrestling metaphorically with a bar of soap in the bath. Creativity is always near the top of the pile when it comes to those interminable lists of ‘what employers want’ or ‘what skills are most important for the future’, which is odd when people seem to find it difficult to explain what is means, let alone how one might go about developing it.
Despite being hard to define, we can usually fall back to the line that ‘you know it when you see it’. It is therefore relatively easy to give examples, either of creative people or creative works. We can isolate these in what are generally (and I think unhelpfully) termed the creative suite of subjects, that is Music, Drama, Film and Art. Think Bowie, Picasso, Un Chien Andalou, The Garden of Earthly Delights etc.
Except that’s not really true at the moment. TV feeds us a yearly cycle of derivative, formulaic visual wallpaper (Strictly, Bake-Off, I’m a Celebrity, Survivor; film is dominated by franchises, re-makes and adaptations; music relies on nostalgia and covers; the YBAs, Banksy, the Chapman brothers and Grayson Perry feel about as fresh and edgy as a tomato that’s been in the fridge for a month, but who is set to replace them?
Just at the time where creativity is seen as being so important, we seem to be struggling for inspiration. Technological advancement aside (given that we expect all civilisations will move forward in this respect over time), where are the ‘original idea that have value’ (to quote Sir Ken) in the traditional areas where creativity has flourished? Why are we stuck in such a rut and happy to be fed a diet of Paul Hollywood, Ant and Dec, Michael Bay and Justin Bieber? It is perhaps not too much of an over-statement to suggest that empires tend to collapse when they no longer develop, progress and create. Let’s not wait too long to unearth the next incarnation of genuine creative talen.
Even if we still don’t really know what it means, I’m sure we’ll know it when we see it.