Writing and the Creative Life: How Does “Creativity” Translate Across Different Cultures?

Originality. Meaningfulness. Value. Collaboration. All part of what creativity is about in the 21st century.

From a FastCoCreate.com article:

What is creativity? What does it mean to be creative? And, assuming you can come up with your own definition, how do you think it differs from others around the world? Those are just a few of the questions addressed in a new report from agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky London and Vlad Glaveanu, an associate professor at Aalborg University’s International Center for the Cultural Psychology of Creativity in Denmark.

Interviewing 806 young professional men and women in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Brazil, Turkey, Russia, China, and India, the report highlights three key topics. First, it defines a new global definition of creativity — combining originality, meaningfulness, and value — and the way that this manifests itself around the world. Second, it reveals a surprisingly lower degree of creative self-confidence in Europe and, in contrast, the creative optimism on display in markets that are currently growing economically. And third, it highlights the increasing importance of seeing creativity as a process to engage in collaboratively, rather than rely on a lone creative genius to dream up a solution.

Re the second point, the Brexit blow-up probably won’t help on Europe’s creative self-confidence front, but it’s the other two points I want to consider today.

Creativity defined as “combining originality, meaningfulness, and value”. Honestly, I would likely never have lumped these three attributes together when thinking about creativity. Originality, yes. Meaningfulness? I do think a lot about an idea’s resonance, both with me as a writer and with a potential script reader / audience member, so meaningfulness is a solid term.

What about value? That feels like a quantitative term, doesn’t it, like what is a particular creative effort worth? And here again in thinking about my process, specifically when assessing story concepts, at some point I always put on my ‘producer’s hat’ and ask, “Who’s the audience? Would they see this movie?” So yes, I could imagine bringing value into the mix when describing creativity.

As to the third point, another excerpt from the article:

Another finding was around overall support for the idea that people are more creative when they work together. Agreement with this statement peaks in India (81%), followed by the U.S. (75.3%), Brazil (74.3%), and Turkey (71%).

“The history of studying creativity has always revolved around the idea of genius,” says Glaveanu. “We had questions in this survey, asking people if they still hang on to this idea that creativity is something rare, something innate, something very few people have. And one of the first things for me that stood out was that, globally, we move from this image or old fascination of the individual genius toward an idea that everyone can create. And beyond that, we need to collaborate in order to be creative.”

Is there perhaps something going on here where the perception of the “individual genius” is giving way to a more collaborative approach? With globalism, instant communication via multiple platforms, and the rise of co-working spaces, could those communal dynamics be influencing the very nature of the creativity?

In the 15 years I’ve been teaching screenwriting online, I’ve noticed how powerful workshop environments can be. Over that time, I would venture to say that virtually every week, when we have group teleconferences, creative insight and inspiration has emerged in the form of feedback and brainstorming solutions to story issues. And this is with writers from all around the world (I’ve worked with writers from nearly 40 countries).

That’s why I always encourage my Screenwriting Master Class workshop members to continue as a writers group and many of them do, creating an ongoing collaboration and lasting friendships.

Originality. Meaningfulness. Value. Collaboration. All part of what creativity is about in the 21st century.

What do you think of this definition of creativity? How important is collaboration to you when it comes to being creative? Or do you subscribe to the theory of individual genius?

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