As you read this, I’ll have just given birth to my first child. As a “creative”—both personally and professionally—I’ve found myself wondering whether my daughter will inherit my creativity, or whether creativity needs to be learned. The debate over creativity, and why some people are more creative than others, has been going on for decades and as I read article after article, it appears there’s not necessarily a clear answer, but many interesting theories. I have my opinion on the topic, but I’m curious to know what you think after reading this. Do you find it to be an inherited trait, or, do you feel environmental issues and the way you’re raised contribute to this characteristic?
It’s been suggested that all of us have a seed of creativity inside, and how that seed is nurtured determines the breadth of our creativity. Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist; the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” As a child, I was always interested in art and excelled in my graphic design courses in school. No one in my household was particularly creative, but my uncle and cousin on my father’s side were very artistic. Was it possible that I inherited my creativity through my paternal lineage? Or was it something I learned in school from an inspiring art teacher?
Others have speculated that highly creative people are wired differently than others. The difference is not only in the presence or absence of certain genes, but also in the structural characteristics of their brain. The brain, which is divided into 2 hemispheres, is connected by a bundle of fibers known as the corpus callosum. Research has shown that the connectivity between the brain’s 2 halves directly determines creative ability. A study at Cornell University found that creative people, such as writers and musicians, tend to have a smaller corpus callosum, which could enhance their creative ability by allowing each half of their brain to develop thoughts and ideas more fully.
This forced me to question what it means to be creative in the first place. Some would argue that creativity is simply the big picture of how we generate new ideas and innovate. George Land found that children are born creative but lose their creativity as they transition through life into adulthood. Talent typically lies dormant unless we deliberately foster it through pursuit. This holds true for me personally when I look back at my life. I choose to pursue my interest in art and turn it into a career rather than allow my passion to fall dormant after my childhood. Even though my immediate surroundings weren’t entrenched with creative thinking, it was something I chose to foster along the way.
Some would suggest that creativity is the ability to form new associations and quickly string together divergent ideas to come up with unique insights. It’s about the way we problem solve and how we approach a new task at hand. Of course, there’s often more than one right way to solve the same problem, but creativity lies in the uniqueness of the approach. Einstein once said, “Creativity is seeing what everyone else has seen, and thinking what no one else has thought.” As creative professionals, we’re constantly pushing ourselves to think outside the box and find smart solutions that surprise and delight our clients. Most often to achieve this, we need to go beyond what may be considered safe or expected. You might say that in order to be creative, one must also be brave.
As you can see, creativity is complex and difficult to define. While some say it’s technically an inherited trait, others argue it’s a true blend of learnings and genes. So, could my daughter be the next JK Rowling or Salvador Dali? Will she follow in my footsteps? Only time will tell. Where do you stand on the great creativity debate, and what keeps your creative wheels turning?