“My work isn’t always incredibly creative, it’s just different than the way other people think about the same things.”
Creative work is defined by circumstance – we work creatively for our jobs but we also work in creative ways for personal fulfillment. Each requires a different mindset and each results in its own reward.
For instance, if creativity is defined by a work’s “novelty, effectiveness, and wholeness,” (Mishra, P., Henriksen, D., & the Deep-Play Research Group, 2013) in a work situation, effectiveness comes first. “Function supersedes form,” as Vicari put it. Her creative work (design) needs to communicate an idea first and foremost. Conversely, Kaitlin said the best part of working in her kitchen is “getting it right.” Hitting the flavors, texture, and appearance of a baking project (wholeness) is the goal.
We also discussed the nature of creativity…in other words, is creativity in the product1 or the process? Both Kaitlin and Vicari believe that creativity resides in each individual.
Here’s an analogy: You and I are given a task to complete. We go our separate ways and do the work; we experience and respond to the prompt in unique ways, which leads us down unique paths for a product. Regardless of the final medium, we have gone through our own creative process. Additionally, the product does not need to shared with anyone else in order to have been creative. Kaitlin often bakes because she wants to bake. Vicari writes because she wants to write.
Creativity is not rooted in the product, but in the product’s creation.
So often, our interpretation of the value of our work comes from others. I may take a photo, but compared to other people’s, it isn’t very “creative.” Perhaps it isn’t as novel, but it may be more effective at communicating an idea. Novelty is often over-emphasized with effectiveness and wholeness falling aside. Perhaps this is because the novel work is celebrated by culture; it’s what is passed through email and discussed at lunch. It causes discussion, inflating its importance in the creative process.
External affirmation is linked with creativity, I think, because of our culture celebrating musicians, artists, athletes, and other public figures. I don’t think this is wrong, but it often dilutes the innate value in thinking and acting creatively because of the limits we impose on ourselves. Creativity and talent are often blended, and it leads to confusion over what true “creativity” looks like.
Vicari and Kaitlin helped expose the value of the process we follow to create. Being cognizant of the purpose of the creative task is going to play a big role for me. I often bog myself down with novelty and not enough effectiveness or wholeness. Thinking with purpose and the big picture in mind is the first step to improvement, and it’s one I’m learning over again each day.
Many thanks to Kaitlin Flannery and Vicari Vollmar for answering my half-baked, very ambiguous questions this week. You can read about Kaitlin’s baking on her blog, Whisk Kid. Vicari has just started her own blog, So Vicarious.
Notes and Resources
Mishra, P., Henriksen, D., & the Deep-Play Research Group (2013). A NEW approach to defining and measuring creativity. Tech Trends (57) 5, p. 5-13.