“Natural” Creativity

When I went looking for someone to blame for the whole creativity-is-a-totally-magical-process idea, I found Romanticism.

Here's Mark Forsyth in The Elements of Eloquence:

"The Romantics liked to believe that you could learn everything worth learning by gazing at a babbling mountain brook, or running barefoot through the fields, or contemplating a Grecian urn. They wanted to be natural."

Mark's adding some sarcasm, of course. He’s English like that. There's a more stripped-down explanation in Brittanica.

"Romanticism emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and the transcendental...[there was also] a preoccupation with genius."

That's a preoccupation we haven't shaken. We love geniuses and genius itself - the idea that (at any moment!) we could be struck by a revelation that could change everything. These moments do seem natural, as if the insight dropped out of the sky.

Once in a while, you get a glorious and bright spark of genius.

But after you get the spark... what do you do with it?


Garbage In, Garbage Out


Why Stories About Creativity Don’t Tell The Whole Truth