23 March 2017, late...
The answer to "Am I Creative?" is best determined by whether you have produced things which qualify as creative works, according to the Creative Realism concept discussed in an earlier posting. However, just because you haven't produced any creative works doesn't rule out the possibility that you have as yet unrealized creative potential. Determining whether you have this untapped potential is the job of an army of creativity tests which approach the question from a host of different angles.
The next question is, "Which of these tests is accurate?" The answer is a complex one. First, some have been devised by researchers in cognitive psychology who are attempting to unravel the secrets of how our brain creates. Others are devised by people who have no credentials of any kind but consider themselves creative enough to be expert on the subject. Which do you think is likely to produce better results?
One test of creative potential used by researchers is known as The Unusual Uses Test.
In this test, you are presented with a common object such as a brick or a shoelace. You are then asked to list as many unusual uses for this object as you can in a limited period of time. Trained evaluators examine the results for quantity and quality of results.
So if you're a MacGyver, if you find yourself improvising problem solutions and using things in ways never intended by the inventor, congratulations, you will probably do well on The Unusual Uses Test. As far as this test is concerned, you have creative potential. Furthermore, you are demonstrably able to overcome a common barrier to creativity known as Functional Fixation.
Functional fixation is what prevents us from seeing past ordinary uses for an object to get to the unusual uses which lead to creative results.
Another test used by researchers to evaluate creative potential is the ALF Test.
In this test, you are asked to imagine what an Alien Life Form from a planet completely unlike Earth would look like. Then, you are asked to sketch this life form, label and explain parts, and generally explain how this life form lives on its planet. The more unlike Earth life forms your ALF is, the higher your score. You lose lots of points for anthropomorphic ALFs, which we see all the time in science fiction movies. But you also lose points for more subtle things like bi-lateral symmetry, obvious sensory organs, a distinct head-torso division, and an even number of limbs.
When I used this test in my PhD research, I saw some interesting but generally low-scoring results. We just don't think about life being truly different from what we are exposed to in your daily lives. Such responses are considered to be evidence of Structured Imagination, or the inability to conceive of solutions which are radically different from existing solutions to the problem. The worst case of structured imagination I ever saw in my research was a young man who simply responded to the test with, "I don't believe in life on other planets." He was totally unable to set aside his beliefs and imagine something different from his day to day experience.
So, there you have it. Two commonly used creativity tests used in creative cognition research. There are others and, perhaps, we'll take a look at some of them later on. For now, make of these what you will. Each grapples with only one aspect of creativity and is only as reliable as it's interpretation.
22 March 2017, evening...
Why do so many of us enjoy crafting? Often we can buy much more cheaply than make. And much of the time, we're simply copying what someone else has done rather than creating something original. So, why?
I think the first and most obvious answer is a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. No matter what we make, if we are reasonably successful in making it, most of us derive a great sense of satisfaction from making things. Witness Pinterest.
Yes, it can be expensive to craft. The crafting supply stores prey upon our desire to make and their regular prices are staggering. Of course, they always have coupons and many serious crafters pride themselves on never paying full price for their supplies. Tools are at least reusable. And, often a bag of supplies contains enough materials for more than one make it exercise.
But what we get from the crafting exercise is something we can customize and personalize, if we choose. And we can point to it and say proudly, "I made that." Something we don't always get from our jobs. In fact, my theory is that crafting has become more pervasive in the US because so many of our jobs bring little or no sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. We need to feel good about ourselves. Crafting is one way we can do that. And that's worth the cost.
22 March 2017, afternoon...
"Ideas are cheap." When I heard these words from one of my professors during a grad school class, I wanted to disagree. Then...
There is no such thing as a million dollar idea. Ideas are not considered intellectual property under US law. They are neither patentable nor copyrightable. Given the number of ideas that we ultimately reject, ideas might even be considered to be the effluvia of cognitive processes. Ideas may be rated on a scale from "good" to "bad," or "fanciful" to "pragmatic." But, unless implemented, they are just so much mental masturbation.
Implementation is what gives an idea value. And a given idea is generally susceptible to multiple implementations. It is the implementation that is protected under intellectual property law. The right idea with the right implementation may indeed be a million dollar design.
While it may have been "your" idea, if someone takes the idea behind your design and applies a different implementation thereby producing a new design, that person did not "steal" your idea. And that new design is afforded the same intellectual property protection as yours. Get over it. The only way to keep an idea under wraps is to never make it or its implementations public.
So, my message to all you idea folks out there: implement. If you cannot implement, find someone who can and work as a creative team. Continue to keep those idea notebooks because ideas do tend to be ephemeral unless committed to paper, either tangible or electronic. But choose the ones that most inspire you and implement as many as you can. And if you see a design that is built on a good idea, consider a different implementation, a new design on an old idea. That's creativity.
17 March 2017, St Patrick's Day, before sunrise...
The requirement of novelty or uniqueness for a work to be considered creative is a bit of a stumbling block for many. Do I have to produce something that has never before existed? How can I know? After all, people have been creating and making for millennia. This uniqueness thing seems a bit extreme.
The answer to all of this is that uniqueness and novelty are relative. As is creativity.
If you produce something that is novel to you, something that you have never previously experienced, then you have produced what I like to call MICRONOVELTY. Who knows, or even cares, whether someone thousands of miles and perhaps decades away has produced the same exact thing before? You did it without knowledge of any previous work and, therefore, that makes it unique for you. Micronovelty.
If this something you produced happens to also be novel and unique to a larger milieu, say, the contemporary US quilting community or cell phone app market, congratulations!, you have MACRONOVELTY. One of the great things about macronovelty is that it is often lucrative. It almost always brings the satisfaction of recognition among peers. Macronovelty.
Finally, if you produce something that is truly unique in the history of mankind, you have UBERNOVELTY. This is the realm of the Nobel Laureates and the master artists who also have high utility and are the most creative among us. Ubernovelty.
So, there you have it. If you can combine macronovelty or ubernovelty with very high levels of utility, you have a high level of creativity otherwise known as Creative Realism. These productions are generally well received and often bring fame and fortune. Works which have high levels of novelty, even ubernovelty, with low levels of utility are, unfortunately, examples of Creative Idealism and are seldom recognized as having any worth.
PI Day, 2017, late...
I've been experimenting a lot recently with digital designs for use on Print On Demand services like ArtsAdd.com and RedBubble.com. Creating an appropriate digital design in a .jpg or .png file for uploading is, of course, the challenge. There are several ways you might do this.
For all of my digital image creation and enhancement projects, I have been using PhotoShop. Adobe has made this a subscription service so I began using PS because of its reputation and its affordability as a month-by-month service. (I could never afford to purchase the software outright.)
Then a professional designer and Facebook friend of mine turned me on to Paint.Net. Now, the first thing I have to say is, Paint.Net is NOT NOT NOT the website you want. That web site has nothing to do with the software Paint.Net.
Paint.Net is a free downloadable software product that shares the ease of use of MicroSoft Paint with some of the more advanced features of PhotoShop, including layers. And yes, it is FREE. The author asks for a donation but does not require it ever.
You can download from GetPaint.net. Try it.
NOTE (17March2017): Sometimes my mind and my hands don't work too well together. For whatever reason, in the original version of this, I named the product PRINT.NET. Who knows why? I don't. Anyway, the correct name is PAINT.NET. I think I've corrected it everywhere...
13 March 2017, before sunrise...
As a necessary component of creativity, usefulness or utility can be difficult for some to come to terms with. Engineers produce utility (one hopes). Scientists seek to produce utility. But, the artist in the audience cries, what about ART? The answer is...
Usefulness is measured differently for different fundamental types of creative works.
So the long and the short of it is, when you produce novelty and utility in a work, you have creativity.
Ever have an idea while waiting in the doctor's office then not be able to recall it at a more appropriate time? Ever wake up in the middle of the night with a solution to a long battled problem and have said solution vanish like a wraith when the sun rises? Or are you the person with sticky notes everywhere? Well, you're not alone.
Throughout the history of making and creating, humans have had problems saving, organizing, and accessing their ideas so that said ideas could be turned into something useful. Leonardo Da Vinci solved this problem with his iconic notebooks.
You can see images of his notebook pages, which are themselves works of art, on any number of web sites. I copied this one from Sacred Texts. But Da Vinci lived in a different time and the pace of innovation was much slower.
Scientists of the 20th Century kept detailed hand-written notebooks of their endeavors to the extent that said notebooks filled book cases. And you have to ask yourself, how did they ever find anything amongst all those scribblings? If you can't find what you want when you want it, why keep all that stuff? The 21st Century pace of innovation is such that you can't waste time looking for things. They need to be there when you look there.
In the connected world of the 21st Century there must be any number of solutions to this dilemma if you can only find them.
A former colleague of mine who has a blog called BytesAndBuds recommends a solution. It's called EverNote and I've been trying out the free version. So far, so good. I had been working with an alternative product but it lacked something; I don't know but I wasn't using it as diligently as I need to do. I think EverNote may do it for me. Galanda has great instructions for getting started with EverNote and is an EverNote consultant so I won't attempt to provide instruction here. Suffice it to say, it's quick, easy, and free. It allows you to add text and images to your notes and it syncs up across multiple devices!
What could it hurt to check it out? Who knows, maybe 500 years from now, people will be calling your notebooks works of art.
Too often, however, makers are dissatisfied with the results of their efforts, sometimes to the degree that they do not complete the project. I have just a few things to say about this.
So, makers, round up your patterns, kits, recipes, instructions, building plans, .... Shop for materials. Assemble / Make. Then, always evaluate and learn from the experience. Whether you consider the results of your efforts a success or a disaster, know that the making experience is always successful when you learn and enjoy.
I find that the words CREATE and MAKE are often used interchangeably. But I think this is inappropriate and causes a lot of misunderstanding. I'll attempt to explain.
To MAKE something is to assemble various components, generally according to a pre-planned design, and link them into a new work that did not previously exist. This may be done in many disciplines including (but not limited to) cooking, carpentry, metal smithing, collage art, popular crafting .... The results of this MAKE effort are indeed something that the maker created but it is usually not very original. It lacks NOVELTY, an essential characteristic of CREATIVITY.
To CREATE something is to produce something that is high in NOVELTY and, therefore, does not result from well worn design plans. Although the components may be well worn, the design will be new and often untested or even produced as the work progresses. The results of this effort, if successful, will be not only NOVEL but also USEFUL, the second essential characteristic of CREATIVITY.
The USEFULNESS characteristic may be somewhat difficult to evaluate in some categories of work, especially in the arts. I'll address that at another time.
For now, I think it's important to know that CREATE and MAKE should not be used synonymously. I think we often use CREATE because it sounds more impressive. "I created this," v. "I made this." But, in fact, there is nothing wrong with the word MAKE. "I made this," is a perfectly wonderful statement and one of which we can all be proud. Then, when we produce novelty, we can accurately proclaim, "I created this."
9 March 2017, afternoon...
Here I am. GreenPoodleCreations BLOG v.2.0. In the first, I got way off track from my original intent. This is to be a venue for creativity, specifically my creativity. But also creativity as I encounter it in my travels, both analog and digital.
So, it seems appropriate to begin with a look back at my grad school days to a useful definition of creativity which allows creative outputs to be measured and compared as to their level of creativity.
The problem that arises in many discussions of creativity is to first define what it means for something or someone to be creative and then to measure the extent to which creations and creators are creative. This is especially crucial if you are doing research in creativity and must be able to measure these things in order to conduct any meaningful research and reach any valid conclusions. Drs. Finke, Smith, and Ward of Texas A&M University solved this problem some 20 or more years ago with Finke's 2-dimensional creativity scale, shown below.
Four classifications of creative works.
Green is where the money is.
The two axes are NOVELTY and USEFULNESS. A work that is both novel and useful is deemed to be a most creative work. An individual who produces creative works is deemed to be creative. Works which are novel but not useful are less creative as are works which are useful but lack novelty. Those which are neither novel nor useful, well, why bother?
You can see the 4 classes of works which arise from this classification system. Many artistic types make the mistake of producing works that are novel but not especially useful. This is Creative Idealism and usually results in a starving artist.
The artists that produce in the Creative Realism classification are able to earn from their works. Works that are both novel and useful are generally well received in the market place.
The denizens of the scrapbooking shops, kit crafts, and pattern books are MAKING things that, by their very nature, lack novelty and are, therefore, not particularly creative. And perhaps these makers are fine with this.
Finally, those who simply assembly line cute or humorous items for sale at flea markets are generally in the Conservative Idealism classification. Low on novelty. Low on usefulness. This is not creativity in any real sense. They are MAKERS, of course. But there is no creativity, except, perhaps, in the original prototype for the mass produced works.
What about art for art's sake? you ask. Yes. That is useful in so far as people enjoy experiencing the art. Of course!
So, there you have it. The word CREATIVE gets bandied about with no agreement on meaning. In the research community, both novelty and usefulness must be present in order for a work to be considered creative. An individual must produce creative works in order to be considered creative. Simple as that...
Deborah K Smith, PhD
As a self-proclaimed mixed media artist and creative professional, I am in my 3rd career, having spent 15 years as a software developer and another 15 as a university professor. My first love and my most demanding one has always been creating whether it be a drawing, a bit of crocheted lace, a cloth doll, a piece of software, a PhD dissertation, or a piece of digital art. I simply LOVE to make things and I see make and make-over opportunities everywhere. My only regret is that there is no possible way that I can live long enough to make all of the things I see in my mind.