In this post, I will again dive into the work of mental health professional Carl R. Rogers from his essay, “Toward a Theory of Creativity.” I will try to provide you with an adequate understanding of his work via my understanding of the text. If you have read Rogers and wish to comment on his ideas of creativity, be my guest, the conversation is yours.
Social Need and Creative Process
We live in an age where the roles of active-creator and passive-receiver are changing. With various social media sites and free software applications, one can produce movies, which can be uploaded or share beautiful photographs for free with others. There is a social need to create lest we sink into actless consumerism. The reading of books can change our ways of perceiving the world and the active creation of books or essays can also greatly affect us in myriad ways. Us humans seem to find ourselves in our creations, the vortex of creativity arises from us, comes into us and colors our world.
The “creative process” as Rogers defines it can be broken down into two parts. The first is that there must be “an observable product of creation.” That is to say, the musician, instead of rehearsing the song only in the confines of the body’s interior, brings it out through the fingers or through the voice. The designer fashions a table or a draft of the table on paper. “Creativity” enters the picture when we examine the tools and the product of the imagination as it exists in reality in accord with other actual creations that exist in the world. That is, we recognize the once-occurrence of the piece of art or of the live speaker’s speech as novel, as something authentic, as something coming from the true part of one’s self and not from a false space.
Actualization and Inner Conditions
Human, the incomplete animal, tends toward actualization. The painter leaving the painting half-finished may be haunted by the forgotten project that could have been. The musician sets a goal of completing an album or of crafting a stellar live show. In doing this, the person moves into the realm of the creative, of actualizing an imagined work and breathing life into it, animating it. Moreover, there seems to be a tendency for us to want to perform to our potential. To be caught in a job that you don’t like may mean quitting the job or it may mean to more fully utilize your potential on the job. In either way, the lagging feeling that you are not doing in accord with your potential may usher in and pester the imagination, sometimes fruitfully and other times not. However, where there is “open-ness” to the situation and to and with others, the results of one’s creative endeavors may flourish with felicity.
The inner conditions, which promote creativity include “extensionality,” “an inner locus of evaluation” and “the ability to play.” Extensionality is Rogers’ term for this “open-ness” to reality. It is to be fluid, to bend and sway with one’s life situations and learn from them. The internal locus of evaluation is the recognition that only one can truly judge oneself and one’s own performance. That is, for example, after performing a concert, the musician needs to be able to fairly examine the performance and try to come to see it an a balanced way. Moreover, there should be the ability to play with the materials at hand, to brainstorm to create without evaulation, to let what wants to emerge, come out and develop under your guiding hand.
The Creative Act
But, what about the creative act? What happens in the play known as “the creative act?” Think about your favorite musician and what that musician seeks to create, what that musician seeks to construct. Maybe, if you are like me, you find yourself listening to Austrian experimental guitar music. What exactly did this experimental guitarist/composer wish to bring to life? Whatever it is, perhaps you can sense the essence of the piece, the images that stir in your mind, the blurry outlines becoming crisp, the image becoming clearer and clearer upon closer listening.
When we listen to that musician, we become aware that we have entered that musician’s world, that the “I” of that musician is communicating with our very own “I.” Similarly, what makes a certain film stick with us. What gives a marvelous film, its marvelous qualities. Whose vision is the film? When we watch a David Lynch film, even if we don’t know that it is a David Lynch film, we can tell by the way the characters interact, by the music, by the atmosphere…We can sense the “I” of Lynch himself through the fantasy world of cinema.
Factors for Considering Constructive Creativity
In closing, for Rogers there are roughly four factors that foster constructive creativity. The first, “individual as unconditional worth,” sees the individual as a once-occurrent event, an ever-changing worlding moment. The second factor wishes to alleviate any forms of external evaluation. That is, the school teacher would have to stop comparing grades for grades only work to block the creative process of the student by pitting student against student, student against parent, student against teacher or student versus self. The third factor is empathic understanding of the other, an acceptance of the other as he or she is, which promotes a willingness to share and to express. The fourth and final factor would be allowing the other person complete symbolic expression. In this way, the person may write a poem about a specific traumatizing situation instead of reacting violently toward a real flesh-and-blood other. Or, the writer may write about a powerful experience, that is, expressing it through a symbolic medium. This is freeing.
Thank you very much for reading. Have a creative and productive day.