brain out of the box

I’ll bet that the unimaginative rarely consider all the many ways creativity might be explored. Happily for those of us intrigued by the possibilities of being more creative in our own lives, a number of imaginative and open-minded scholars have peered deeply into the topic.

The Philosophy of Creativity: New Essays, edited by Elliot Samuel Paul and Scott Barry Kaufman, is a carefully-thought-out effort to explore creativity from philosophical and psychological perspectives. Paul and Kaufman, who earned doctorates at Yale and co-founded The Creativity Post (to which I’ve occasionally contributed), introduce 14 chapters that share the latest research integrating creativity with imagination, education, consciousness, virtue, and more.

I won’t oversimplify the authors’ thinking here. For a taste, though, here are four creative insights to ponder:

1. Motivation shapes attentiveness. It's been shown, again and again, that intrinsically motivated individuals are more likely to take risks, be open-minded about what they’ve done, and be willing to shift gears. When motivation is extrinsic (you’re doing it mainly for the money or glory), you’re more likely to take the easy way, the formulaic way of creating.

2. The conscious mind helps the unconscious create. While creative inspirations may originate outside of consciousness, “conscious processes are powerfully helpful, and very possibly indispensable, for the fulfillment of the creative process.”

3. Children pretend in order to learn creativity. Pretend play predicts creativity four years later, and early imaginative play predicts later divergent thinking. Pretend play begins at around 18 months, and kids keep doing it because they enjoy it. By learning to suppose, we learn to generate more ideas and explore within them. Pretend play also teaches how to bypass obvious choices and select the non-obvious, an important part of adult creativity.

4. Creativity can be taught, if not to everyone. Those who are already somewhat creative can be taught to increase their creativity.

Not inexpensive, this volume is nonetheless a fine addition to the minds and shelves of specialists and, too, the rest of us who are fascinated by the topic.

Copyright (c) 2014 by Susan K. Perry, author of Kylie’s Heel

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