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Week 1 & 2- Creativity- oversimplification and the war against the night

Hi all, and welcome to our first week into learning about creativity. The first thing we were tasked with was providing our own definition on the idea of “creativity”, and my definition settled on the idea of “making something out of nothing”.

Our first reading was on psychoanalytic theories which attempt to describe creativity as oversimplified scientific and psychological actions.

Sigmund Freud concluded that sexual themes lay behind the unconciousness, and the conflict between libido, id and social repressions led to individuals firing off energy into creative pursuits (Davis, 2004). Freud also suggested that creativity is a regression into childhood play, a primary process thinking which involves relaxation, dreams, reveries of free association and fantasies (Davis, 2004). According to Freud, this is different to the grown up mode of thinking called secondary process, which involves more logical, analytical and realistic ways of thinking (Davis, 2004).

Similar to Freud,  Ernst Kris wrote that creativity is motivated by the Libido and aggression, and are emphasised by idle fantasies and daydreaming, which occurs at the fringes of consciousness (Davis, 2004). Kris too accepted that creativity is a regression to more childhood like thinking (Davis, 2004).

Lawrence Kubie went on to ignore all these ideas of ids, egos and libidos, and instead went on to highlight the importance of preconcious mental activity (Davis, 2004). From his description, creativity takes place in the transliminal chamber, the area between our conscious mind and our unconscious mind (Davis, 2004). Doodling on my work book while listening to lectures and tutorials is an example of the transliminal chamber at work in my brain. I often have no recollections of drawing these simple shapes, as I am usually mentally entrapped in the lecture content to notice myself doodling. Harold Rugg went on to emphasise the transliminal chamber as the centre of creative energy (Davis, 2004).

doodling in class

doodling in class

another doodle

another doodle



After these explanations of creativity generation within the brain, we are then bombarded with behaviourist theories of creativity which suggest we are not infact creative, and are just instead socially programmed to copy others through the process of rewards and punishments. I don’t know about you, but somehow I feel like I will be in trouble for being creative.

Burrhus Skinner claims that there is no such thing as creativity, nor should we accept any dignity or sense of achievement from creative accomplishment (Davis, 2004). He argues that all our behaviour is controlled from social experiences of rewards and punishments, and any creative accomplishment is determined by our history of these enforcements (Davis, 2004). For example poets piece together bits and pieces of language to make their poetry, and unaware of their history of strengthening tendancies through stimulus and reward, the poet believes he miraculously created poetry (Davis, 2004). Irving Maltsman suggested creativity can be increased when it is encouraged and rewarded (Davis, 2004).

Arthur Staats suggests that creative ideas are new combinations of previously unrelated ideas or mental associations, which leads on to Sarnoff Mednicks idea that a highly creative person posses’s a large number of verbal and non-verbal mental associations and can recombine them into creative ideas (Davis, 2004).


Carl Rogers listed important creative mindsets which foster the growth of self actualisation (Davis, 2004).

1) Psychological Safety

2)Internal locus of evaluation

3) A willing to toy with ideas and play with possibilities

4) Openess to experience (Davis, 2004).

Sternberg theorised that creativity lies at the intersection of intelligence, cognitive style and personality/motivation, and Theresa Amabile  theorised that creativity required Domain relevant skills, creativity relevant skills and task motivation (Davis, 2004).

Mihalhyi Csikszentmihalyi listed the production and success of creativity as an interaction between three mediums (Davis, 2004):

1) The creative person- his/her ability or talent

2) The persons Domain- the structures employed

3)The field- The critics and experts opinions (Davis, 2004).

Society apparently determines whether or not it’s creative, and if  it is accepted by society, the creative piece will alter the domain (Davis, 2004).

Howard Gardner’s definition of the creative individual is very restrictive with one or two out of a thousand being creative, but he wrote:

“The creative individual is a person who regularly solves problems, fashions products, or defines new questions in a domain, in a way that is initially considered novel but that ultimately becomes accepted in a particular cultural setting” (Davis, 2004).

According to Simonton, the creative individual must be prepared to adopt a leadership role to persuade others of the quality and creativeness of their final product, and it must be viewed and accepted (Davis, 2004).

A central message is that we can all be creative and we all can solve problems with more imagination (Davis, 2004).

History of creativity

Humans have always been creative, and in the ancient world this was expressed through cave paintings and primitive idols (Spoors, 2014). These have been theorised to represent humans trying to connect spiritually with other creatures, “shamanism” (Spoors, 2014).  I found it interesting that one of the worlds oldest surviving creative pieces is a sexualised idol (porn LOL).

Ancient Egypt practised expressed their imagination through representations and mummification of the body for 3000 years, enforcing the ideas of a stable and ordered civilisation (Spoors, 2014). Their process was repeated and rarely changed, and I find it extremely fascinating at the sheer amount of time that these crafts had in which to refine themselves. From present day, 3000 years is going back to the period of Troy and Homer. Ancient Greece also had set forms and rules for their creative plays and crafts, and creativity was seen as invoking the “Muses” (Spoors, 2014).

For early Christians, true creativity was the domain of god, and creative individuals were seen to rework Christian symbols into their pieces (Spoors, 2014). The word “creatio” meant “creation from nothing” (Spoors, 2014).

The renaissance led to the idea of art as a skill and genius, a requirement for the ideal of the “renaissance man” (Spoors, 2014). People saw individuals as a “second creator” and artforms became a commodity for rich and powerful as symbols of their status and fortune (Spoors, 2014).

With the industry and the age of reason, creativity was put to work with the creation of new machines and inventions, and with the rise of romantasicm, creativity was seen as a form of self expression and spiritual connection (Spoors, 2014).

Today the creative industries focus’s on ideas as commodities, and art is consumed in mass amounts in many forms (Spoors, 2014).

ASSAULT ON THE NIGHT (by light =o)

Between 1730-1830CE, society during night hours was radically changed with the introduction of mass amounts of street lamps and improvements to the police force. Growing numbers of people venturing out at night led to a need for better lighting (Ekirch, 2005). Night became more profitable with after hours leisure and around the clock industrialised work (Ekirch, 2005). Theft, vandalism and violence were dangers of the night life (hasn’t changed much). Mass hysteria over public disorder at night led london to pioneer better lighting (Ekirch, 2005). Two major offensives against night time were the introduction of mass lighting and an improvement to law enforcement (Ekirch, 2005). This led to tensions between public safety and public privacy (some people would just spend the nights strolling and spying on their neighbours) (Ekirch, 2005). Mass amounts of illumination led to an interruption in sleeping patterns (Ekirch, 2005). Prior to this time it was common to have a first sleep from eight till midnight, and then another sleep from early hours to morning (Ekirch, 2005). This would have helped people remeber dreams and discussed them (Ekirch, 2005). Light pollution became rampart and this ofcourse destroyed our glimpse of the cosmos (Ekirch, 2005). Lamps came to represent law enforcement, and whenever there was a riot or social crisis, the lamps were often the first targets to be destroyed (Ekirch, 2005).

Rural communities still remained fairly lightless, and this remained a land of the fairies and fireside tales to civilised travellers (Ekirch, 2005).


Davis, G. A. (2004). Definitions and Theories.

Creativity is forever (pp. 58-73). (5th Ed.).

USA: Kendell/Hunt.

Ekirch, A. R. (2005). At day’s close: Night in

 times past (pp. 324-339). New York: Norton

 and Company

Spoors, G. (2014). Creativity: an historical overview.

Lecture given at Edith Cowan University, Mount Lawley.

4 March 2014.