Friday, 19 February 2010

Creativity or discovery

I have been reading Creativity: Understanding Innovation in Problem Solving, Science, Invention, and the Arts (Weisberg,2006). I am only part way through but his discussions of creativity vs discovery have caught my interest.

I (not unusually) have thought of the arts in terms of creativity and the sciences in terms of discovery; as Weisberg writes: "no Picasso, no Guernica" but great scientific discoveries are discoveries because they tend to be finding, or finding out about, things already in existence.

Weisberg shows though, that it isn't as simple as that - creativity/discovery are not two sides of a divide but two ends of a continuum and this made me think about the act of creation in poetry.

I have no doubt that writing poetry is a creative act and process though sometimes, with those rare 'gift poems', it can feel like discovery. However, writing (whether poetry or anything else) is the only art form that I can think of in which the raw material - language - is used by all of us, all the time, in our everyday existence. Unless we are writing nonsense verse or experimenting with typography and/or nonce words, we don't create the material a poem is made out of. We may find a different way of using a word or phrase, we may find something about the way words work in a certain combination, or play with the way words look on a page, but these things are surely further along the continuum line towards the 'discovery' end.

In a way, I find it reassuring that discovery is (or can be) part of creativity. I feel it validates some of the tools and tricks I use to access my process.

Maybe this interests no-one else but me but writing it out helps me think about it.


  1. There's a great book I read recently about evolution and fiction. Its title is "On the Origins of Stories: Evolution, Cognition and Fiction"

    I recommend it to you.

  2. I'll definitely add it to my reading list - thank you!

  3. Angela, I love that I make discoveries in each poem I write.

  4. OMG! I wish I'd seen this post sooner. I just wrote about this today! I'm off to read what you're reading...

  5. Jen - I've been reading a lot of creativity theory, I'll mail you.