Creating - Synthesizing and Making Sense of Disparate Sources

"Monkeys don't paint; chimps don't write poems; and it's the rare animal (like the New Caledonian crow) that exhibits rudimentary signs of problem solving. The birth of creativity, in other words, arrived like any insight: out of nowhere." (Source: How Creativity Works)
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In response to my blog entry, Facilitating Creativity in the Classroom, one twit-terer responded:
3 h  160  richardewest: Why is teaching creativity hard? Because it's a lot more than "waiting until something kicks something in your brain." 
This immediately kicked something off in my brain. Wait a second! Is the tweet saying that the following paragraph is wrong?
My definition of creativity usually involves reading, consuming an incredible amount of content, waiting until something kicks something else off in my brain, and then following where that goes.
I need clarification. And, it's worthwhile to reflect on Richard's point because what constitutes "a lot more?" Can we tickle the creativity organ and get a consistent result? Some would argue so!
"The synthesizing mind takes information from disparate sources, understands and evaluates that information objectively, and puts it together in ways that make sense to the synthesizer and also to other persons. Valuable in the past, the capacity to synthesize becomes ever more crucial as information continues to mount at dizzying rates."
Source: Howard Gardener as cited in How Creativity Works 
For creativity insights, I have to turn to the work of Michelle Martin (The Bamboo Project Blog), whose writing is the only non-edtech or tech blog I have in my RSS a recent blog entry, On Release and Fallow Fields, she addresses the issue with forcing creativity, with making it a trick pony show you can call up at will (at least, that's my interpretation):
I've discovered, over time, that this is how my creativity works. Deeply productive and abundant periods of growth followed, inevitably, by long periods of fallowness. I cannot anticipate or control the times when the Muse is silent, any more than I can force the periods of creative abundance to occur. Each has its own season and I can only honor both periods, the yin and the yang of the creative process. 
You know, that's exactly what happens to me, too. Yet, I often wish that my creativity was more like William Zinsser's, which he writes about in one of my favorite books on the subject--On Writing Well. I remember laughing like heck when I was in my sophmore year in college (when I first read this passage). 

Here's what caught my eye:

About ten years ago a school in Connecticut held "a day devoted to the arts," and I was asked if I would come and talk about writing as a vocation. When I arrived I found that a second speaker had been invited--Dr. Brock (as I'll call him), a surgeon who had recently begun to write and sold some stories to national magazines. He was going to talk about writing as an avocation. That made us a panel, and we sat down to face a crowd...and the first question went to him. What was it like to be a writer? He said it was tremendous fun. Coming home from an arduous day at the hospital, he would go straight to his yellow pad and write his tensions away. The words just flowed. It was easy.

I then said that writing wasn't easy and it wasn't fun. It was hard and lonely, and the worlds seldom just flowed. Next Dr. Brock was asked if it was important to rewrite. Absolutely not, he said, "Let is all hang out," and whatever form the sentences take will reflect the writer at his most natural. I then said that rewriting is the essence of writing.

What I like about this story is how fickle creativity seems to be. To one, creativity flows like water from an open faucet, while for another, creativity is found in constant reflection and reworking what has been made (e.g. rewriting). I suppose that creativity isn't fickle, but my discipline to synthesize information from various sources, make sense of it on a regular basis is what's lacking. It's hard to believe that "a lot more" than a kick is simply the discipline to continually make sense of the world around us by gathering ideas, stories, and information from a wide variety of sources.

That makes blogging a perfect activity, one that we should encourage in learners, no matter their age.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


JeanTower said…
Miguel – I also read Michelle’s blog – I really like it. I know what you mean by periods of rich creativity alternating with periods of what I call “ripening” of ideas. One thing I would add, though, is that I think of creativity as a muscle, and in my analogy, you need to work it out to keep it strong.

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