Creativity is a fascinating and important subject for anyone to study. Understanding how people tap into their creative powers and why some are better than others is quite interesting. Nancy C. Andreasen is a very qualified person to address this topic. In addition to a PhD in English literature, she later switched careers and earned an MD with a residency in psychiatry. In the current edition of The Atlantic, Andreasen writes on “Secrets of the Creative Brain” (July/August 2014, pp. 62–75).
One of the main concepts Andreasen identifies is the definition or the essence of creativity. In other words, what exactly is it about a creative person that makes that person different from a noncreative person? Based on all Andreasen’s research and experience, she articulates what she believes captures that key difference:
“Creative people are better at recognizing relationships, making associations and connections, and seeing things in an original way—seeing things that others cannot see.” (p. 70)
As I reflect on that description, two thoughts occur to me:
1—Part of the joy of creativity is the very act of recognizing those relationships, seeing those connections, and making those associations. Anyone who has any level of creativity can understand that pleasure. It stimulates the mind, it encourages the heart, and it builds something bigger. We enjoy being creative.
2—Part of the joy of creativity is the very act of seeing things that others cannot see. This is experienced not as a conceited attitude, but rather as the sheer excitement the creative person naturally experiences in knowing he or she is treading on unchartered territory. (Of course, as Andreasen has equally emphasized, in that very same experience lies its subtle danger. Seeing things that others cannot see can also be a bad thing if the source of that supposed insight is not emanating from a healthy source, and hence the link with mental illness.)
This essence of creativity is what I believe underscores the importance of studying more than just your field. Acquiring knowledge in diverse disciplines becomes the seedbed to creativity. The more diverse your knowledge base, the higher the opportunity to see those connections and associations that others may have missed.