Thoughts on Creativity

Why are we starting to talk about a Kerouac Center for Creativity in Lowell? Aside from the facts that Lowell was founded by inventors and entrepreneurs, that the city is a contemporary hub of the creative economy, and that higher education institutions like UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College demonstrate the positive results of innovation and imagination (creativity by other names), see what others are saying about the importance of creativity.—PM

We live in an age when the most valuable asset any economy can have is the ability to be creative — to spark and imagine new ideas, be they Broadway tunes, great books, iPads or new cancer drugs. And where does creativity come from?

I like the way Newsweek described it in a recent essay on creativity: “To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result).”

And where does divergent thinking come from? It comes from being exposed to divergent ideas and cultures and people and intellectual disciplines. As Marc Tucker, the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, once put it to me: “One thing we know about creativity is that it typically occurs when people who have mastered two or more quite different fields use the framework in one to think afresh about the other. Intuitively, you know this is true. Leonardo da Vinci was a great artist, scientist and inventor, and each specialty nourished the other. He was a great lateral thinker. But if you spend your whole life in one silo, you will never have either the knowledge or mental agility to do the synthesis, connect the dots, which is usually where the next great breakthrough is found.”

—Thomas L. Friedman, NYT, today

Read the complete column here, and consider buying a copy of the NYT if you like the writing.

Read the recent (July 10) Newsweek essay on “The Creativity Crisis” here, and look for Newsweek on the newsstand if you appreciate the writing.

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties. … Conditions for creativity are to be puzzled; to concentrate; to accept conflict and tension; to be born every day; to feel a sense of self.”
—Erich Fromm (German-born American social philosopher and psychoanalyst, 1900-1980)

2 Responses to Thoughts on Creativity

  1. George DeLuca says:

    Good point to review the concept of creativity. These are my thoughts about the “Kerouac Center for Creativity”, as noted on my blog:

    There should be plenty of room for collaboration, for example, with the “MCC Rialto Arts Center” project on Central Street now in design. Public meetings should be held so that a cross section of ideas can be incorporated into the design criteria. Overall, it’s a grand initiative that deserves our support.

    It’s also recommended that those leading the project have a series of focus group sessions with members of the Lowell artists community, colleges, neighborhood groups and downtown resident/business committees. To capture the essence of Mr. Kerouac’s artistic spirit, proceed under the auspices of spiritual advisors like John Sampas and David Amram, and others who knew and associated with him.

    The “Kerouac Center for Creativity” should provide a supportive and nurturing environment for creative minded individuals. But it can also be a respected international performing arts venue and exhibit hall. The Smith Baker Center would be perfect as “Jack’s House”!

  2. John Wooding says:

    Good piece from Paul M. on creativity. Exposure to diversity is key and listening to and being with people from diverse backgrounds is the only intellectually honest position we can all take.

    Good ideas too from George DeLuca about how to get folks thinking about the Kerouac Center. Absolutely must proceed from enaged discussion with as many people as possible. Let the community shape and own it – and they will come.