The Four C'S of creativity
By Haim Shafir
Much has been written about creativity. Artists share their experience, psychologists explain and philosophers seek for the "Holy Grail". Yet, in spite of the abundance of ideas, theories and songs, creativity remains hazy and illusive and escapes the confinement of words since Creativity shies away from words and submits only to actions. Even so, I will speak of Creativity, for it encourages proper deeds.
If we were inclined to define creativity based on its impact on the world, then one could say that creation is manipulation of matter in a way which transforms its essence or alters our perception of it. A simple example will clarify this definition: A lump of clay is placed on the table. A focus group is asked to examine it and report what they see. It is quite safe to assume that all of them would say “lump of clay” or something of that nature. However, if we give this lump of clay to a sculptor to make a horse and then ask a focus group to report what they see, all of them would ignore its material quality and say they see a sculpture of a horse. Where did the “clay” vanish? After all, the sculptor did not remove it, but only altered its form. What the sculptor did, of course, was remove the “clay” from the viewers perception and their focus on its form. A painter does the same with colors, a composer with sounds, and all of us with letters and words. When we use our vocabulary to compose a sentence that has never been uttered before, inadvertently, we perform a creative act. The listener transforms the sounds to words that swiftly merge to sentences which become transparent to let the ideas and thoughts of the speaker shine through.
The value of a work of art is a complicated issue but its essence, is the merger of its different elements to a wholeness that is greater than the sum of those elements. According to this approach, we are all creative and the world is full of creativity. This may invoke a certain sense of pride, but also some skepticism, for we all know there is a profound difference between a child’s drawing hung on the refrigerator and Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” displayed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. What is that difference? What separates a masterpiece from trivial creativity? What makes it a work of art worthy to be considered such?
The value of a valuable creation, whether scientific, technological or artistic, is judged by how useful it is, or by those who are authorized to evaluate it. The criteria are not rigid and the validity of the “artistic authorities” is often questioned, however, for a creation to be considered valuable, its creator must go through the 4 stages of the Creativity which I named the 4 C's:
Curiosity is our primary relation to the world, the desire to know it directly and without mediation. The curios mind is innocent. It scrutinizes the world without bias or intention to benefit. An infant is completely innocent and has endless curiosity. He wants to see, hear, touch, taste and smell the world around him. He is eager to absorb the world through his senses without a reason or a motive. It is not a question of choice or freewill, it’s his most basic nature.
Curiosity erodes over the years, traded for knowledge, habits, fear and other benefits. The artist must gather its remains to a safe haven in his soul and fiercely protect it, for this is where he takes off for any creative journey.
The artist is curious by nature and easily become enthusiastic, but every artist has a specific area of interest where the flames of his curiosity are highest. Menashe Kadishman, (An Israeli painter), could not resist the charm of sheep, Hanoch Levin, (An Israeli acclaimed play writer), could not stop poking the origins of evil and compassion, and Johan Sebastian Bach obsessively soared for the sublime through vocal music. When Aharon Appelfeld, an Israeli awarded writer, was asked why all his books deal with the Holocaust, he humbly answered that a writer is like a farmer who cultivates the small field near his home all his life. This does not mean that an artist must devote himself to one field; however, any creative process begins to bubble in a time and place where something pulls our attention, takes a hold of our lives and compels us to relate to it.
The creative process is not easy. Our mind is a learning machine that generates patterns and habits with which we attain good results with little effort. The creative process, on the other hand, demands great effort in order to attain humble results. To achieve a worthy creative outcome, we must abandon the ways of the many and find our own path but the artist does not remain alone for long. Once the first brush is stroked, or the first note is played, or first thought springs to mind, a work of art already has life and voice of its own. The artist listens to it, talks with it, agrees or argues with it, but always listens and allows it to participate in shaping its own destiny. At first, it might whisper bashfully, but gradually its voice becomes dominant, until the artist may feel his voice is no longer needed. That’s when the artist knows his work is complete.
Any work of art comes from life and wants to return to the world, participate and take part. The final task of the artist is to help his work find a place in the world where it can tell, move, impress, aggravate or comfort. The creative process is not complete until the work of art conquers its place in the world. Most artists find this stage extremely difficult and after several failures develop a sense of apathy towards the destiny of their work. But an artist, who gives up the struggle for recognition, loses the dialogue with the world, which is essential for his transformation from a "creative person" to a true artist.