Question of the Day: No. 533

By Troy Headrick

From time to time, I like to go back and revisit things I published a long time ago on Pointless Overthinking.  Recently, while doing this sort of review, I reread this piece and thought that the title seemed like a great question to ask, so here goes…

Where does creativity come from?

When thinking about this, you might want to consider your own creative endeavors.  Why do you feel the need to write or make art or quilt or whatever it is that you do?  Where do your ideas originate and what drives you to make things?

By the way, years ago, back when I was teaching at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, I taught a writing class on creativity, so it’s a topic I’ve long been interested in, and I expect to learn lots of cool things from your comments.


Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.

54 thoughts on “Question of the Day: No. 533

  1. For me, creativity comes when I feel the need to express myself in a way that goes beyond the five senses. I have noticed that my burst of creativity is an escape mechanism, it occurs when my mind needs respite from all the hum-drum of everyday life.

    1. The quotidian activities of everyday life have a tendency to deaden us and make us a bit robotic. I like how you’ve explained your creative impulse. It seems that making things is your way of getting past the robotic. It reminds you that you are greater than the mundane. Creativity certainly functions this same way in me. Thanks for the insightful comment.

  2. Creativity for me emerges from despair. From where it comes, I can only speculate. I suspect that, for me, it is the result of my creator/ created relationship, that being, having been created in His image, the urge to create is inherent.

    1. Creativity is certainly very cathartic and healing. I sometimes refer to the creative act as “the god act.” That’s because making something out of nothing is very similar to what all gods in all religions did when they created the universe. Thanks so much.

  3. Top 3 from my side:

    1. Passion for art.
    2. Innovation in thinking.
    3. I get creative when I start to read other creations. Dreams have helped in writing fictions, reading the perspectives of different minds. They all show there is a different dimension waiting to be walked. That triggers my unknown part of mind and flows through the contents I write.

    1. I agree. I make art and write, so looking at the creative works of visual artists and writers really gets my creative juices flowing. Do you think that inspiration is mostly a mysterious process or can we turn it on and off? How much control do we have over inspiration? A wise person once said that being an artist is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. How do you feel about that quote? Thanks, Praveen T. S.

      1. I think inspiration is mysterious. A magic happens out of nowhere. If we had option to turn it ON, I would be blessed to keep it ON all the time ☺️

        And that quote is 200% true. Inspiration is the seed, rest lies in the watering and nurturing process.

      2. Thanks! Here’s to us learning how to spend more of our lives being more creative. I think just making uncommon choices encourages creativity. Always taking the easy path discourages creativity. Perhaps, by always seeking “comfort,” we suppress our creative problem-solving skills?

  4. Here’s some stuff I’ve come across. It won’t directly answer the question, but…

    Creativity seems to be inherent, but closed to a lot of us. It was found that many of us can recall a specific memory in which they were shamed for their creativity during their childhood (The Power of Vulnerability, Brené Brown).

    During the late stages of sleep, our brains go through our memories and look for new links that can be made with what we already know. A study was conducted in which people were asked to answer a series of questions, then later asked if they’d noticed the underlying pattern in them all. Those that were asked the question after getting a good nights sleep did far better than those asked about it later in the same day they did the test (Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker).

    There were once a number of babies in an orphanage left in the same room with minimal adult attention. They ended up creating and agreeing upon several dozen words not know. to any language spoken by those around them. (The Boy who was Raised as a Dog).

    An experiment was once done whereby two groups of people were asked to complete a maze puzzle. The first was of a mouse seeking cheese, the second was of a mouse with an owl nearby. When both were asked to perform a creativity test, it turned out that those who avoided the owl did fifty percent worse than the group seeking cheese, suggesting that the spirit in which we approach a matter affects the opportunities available to us (Mindfulness… in a Frantic World, Mark Williams and Danny Penman).

    1. Thanks for your very informative commentary. It seems that you know a lot about creativity. Have you done extensive research on the topic? Are you an educator or researcher? You might want to check out the link I embedded in my blog. It links to a piece I wrote that reports on research findings on creativity.

      1. They were things that were brought up whilst I was reading up on something else and figured it was relevant here is all. Otherwise no, not an educator or researcher or anything much.

        God willing, will take a look at the link soon.

  5. Creativity comes for me from life experiences translated into stories, not necessarily the exact experience, but sometimes a small part of one of them. For instance, once when life was overwhelming, I thought of and wished to be able to “run away from home!” I didn’t, of course, because I have a family, but it germinated in my mind until I wrote a book based on that concept. The name of the book is “At the end of the road,” and is totally different from my wish. To see the difference check it out on Amazon.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. I will have a look at At the End of the Road. You’ve described the creative process pretty well here. You took an experience, distilled the lesson you learned from it, and then used that distillation to create a piece of art. Was the process cathartic? Did you feel like the act of making art helped you “get over” the original experience?

  6. I think creativity comes from the realization that we all are unique with our own perspective. So we create, so others can see and maybe come to understand our unique perspective. We express ourselves through our creations in a manner that allows others to get a small glimpse of our complex self, in a way that could not be seen without our creations.

    1. If you think about the power of self-expression and how much we need to self-express, it makes perfect sense that we’d find all sorts of artistic ways to share with the world who we are, what we are about, and so on. We wouldn’t have language if we didn’t have some primordial drive to share truths about ourselves and the world and tell stories. Thanks so much for a very interesting comment.

  7. I feel the need to write sometimes as an outlet for the overwhelm in my mind, and also as a way to preserve my own thoughts and feelings at a certain point in time. I share them on my blog because of an urge to connect with those who might also feel the same way. Creativity can create a heady buzz, and people definitely feed off each other’s highs. Creating a piece of writing or art that feels honest, like I’ve imparted a bit of me on paper (or screen), can literally give me an endorphins rush, an independent happiness I can’t come by any other way.

    1. I completely agree. It is as though there are a million thoughts rushing and bubbling inside my head and I need to pen them, to record them.
      I also think that each one of us is inherently creative, although the definition seems muddled now. An inherent urge to create something, anything for that matter.

      1. I’ve had that urge many times myself. The challenge is to bring that energy under enough control that it can be directed and used to make something that I find satisfactory. Such energy can sometimes feel manic. I’ve had such energy before and wrote things under its influence that felt like failures. Ever had such an experience?

      2. Yes you are right. Sometimes channelling the energy is truly important lest what we create may seem shoddy or unsatisfactory. I think of it as a choppy sea, magnanimously energetic but dangerously chaotic. I’ve had that experience several times, when I’m unable to pen things and it seems haphazard.

    2. Have you ever watched a musician during a very energetic performance? If you have witnessed such a thing, you might see the musician caught up in a state of being that looks very much like the ecstasy of creation. When the creative juices are flowing and a creative person has lost herself in the creative moment, it’s such a wonderful feeling–one that is hard to explain in words. I think you get this. It looks like that’s what you’re saying in your comment. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

      1. Hi. I’ve done reading about “flow” before, and I’ve experienced it. It can leave a person feeling a little “high.” I didn’t know the Japanese term, though. Do you speak Japanese?

  8. I think we are all a little bit creative, but often we lose the desire or get consumed by everything else going on so much that we begin to believe that it is not part of our character or that it is only the result that matters. I always loved sewing, journaling and playing with paper as a child and teenager, but took up a career in the travel industry, and just stopped nurturing this side of myself. Until I needed it – when I gave birth to twins, one with major health problems I needed something to stop me going crazy, as I was exhausted and isolated. I turned to writing and scrapbooking. It kept me going, until it wasn’t enough and I used alcohol to ‘make me feel good’. Three years ago, I got sober, and the creative side of me was reborn as a way of making it through. For me, creativity is a path to find purpose and meaning and a way of letting go of what we can’t control. The best thing I have learned from my creative pursuits is that it doesn’t have to be meaningful or liked by anyone else, it just is what it is. It’s the doing that is healing and all powerful.

    1. Thanks for sharing your amazing story. I found it edifying. You’re talking about the interplay between the process of creativity and the product of what comes from the process. I’ve long enjoyed the process too, the act of making and doing. When that process works out, I also like to look at the product again, after it’s “finished.” I used quotation markes because I like reworking things. I guess I like solving mental and intellectual problems. Like you, I think art heals and soothes. I do art and write, but I treat those acts differently. I like to look at the pieces of art I create, but I almost never reread a piece of writing after it’s been published. Again, thanks.

  9. For me, I think creativity comes from God. And I believe that because I look at my animals and their colors, their designs, and I know I can’t make that. We had a sheltie, and it was like he was painted. Perfect colors. We can try, but He’s on a whole different level.

  10. We often limit creativity to arts, writing, and other such pursuits that require imagination that further results in abstraction of thought, feelings and ideas. But creativity is not limited to any sphere or subject. It’s a concept that deals with elaborate thinking. And where there’s a mind and a will to explore, the possibilities are infinite.
    We all are creative in our own ways, but until this beautiful power isn’t tapped it’s wasted, and that’s a shame.
    Even simple conservations are bursts of creative banter with words, expressions, and feelings jamming together to create interesting fodder.
    But conditioning is required, passion, devotion and practice.
    Innate talent is also a criteria that’s forms a sturdy foundation.
    So creativity comes from many sources and it’s most welcome to stay for a lifetime. Thanks for this wonderful question. 🙂

    1. I absolutely agree. I think it’s possible to live artfully. I know some folks in my family have aged more creatively than others have. Creativity is simply being open to lots of possibilities and living adaptably. Those who continue to be life-long learners are often more creative than are others. Thanks very much for your comment.

  11. Troy, you really got me thinking with your really insightful questions. I started writing my journal when I was 16 years old. I kept getting this thought in my brain… “You need to start a journal”. And finally… I listened to that voice–it’s honestly one of the greatest decisions I ever made.
    When I was 14… I was watching a skateboard video… and as I sat there watching it… the tricks I saw professionals do… I made an internal commitment I would one day learn those tricks and become “pro” like them. I was inspired by others.
    My areas “creative pursuits” are… socializing, social media, journaling, reading, self-affirmations, board games, and skateboarding–these creative pursuits keep me grounded and consistently happy.
    What drives me to “make things”? I want to feel good and experience happy emotions–I think getting into flow with any of my creative pursuits is a consistent gravy I keep eating and loving.

    1. I have an interesting story to share with you about journaling. So I’ve spent a lot of years teaching writing classes to college and university students. I always have my pupils keep a learning journal. Many have started terms by dreading the idea of journaling but then end up telling me, at the end of the semester, that journal writing ended up being their favorite part of the class. I enjoyed hearing about your journal experience and other creative endeavors. Thanks so much!

  12. I write because I seem to have a little bit of problem getting my mind across. I think about a lot of things, but when I try to say it, it’s convoluted, and oftentimes, they fail to understand what I mean 😅

    1. I think this comment and most of the others you post here are pretty clear. So, maybe you think your writing is confusing or perhaps you’re getting better over time. Keep on writing! It’s a great way to build lots of really important intellectual skills. Thanks!

  13. Maybe just boredom, nothing more interesting to do, relaxation. Focusing the mind in alignment with the heart on something that in this moment is the most important thing in the world, brings so much satisfaction, fulfilment and feeling of completness

    1. All those reasons sound perfectly cool and legit. I really liked your point about aligning the heart and mind. That’s really great! Thanks for the comment.

    1. I find walking very meditative as well. Sometimes, though, when I go out for a walk, I have to remind myself to get out of my head. I’m too much a thinker at times. How about you? Thanks very much for participating in this interesting conversation.

  14. If I knew that, I certainly wouldn’t leave the answer here I’d write a book and go on the talk show circuit. It’s a mystery. It sorta has to be. For that matter -we have no idea where our thoughts of any kind come from. We can be following a chain of reasoning, but why we have thoughts to begin with isn’t really in control. I’d say the best you can do is try to create good soil for creativity, which usually involves relaxation, the time and freedom to follow a lot of roads with dead ends,, and a willingness to keep trying after you’ve come up with something you think is done. John Cleese has a wonderful, quick, and highly readable book on the topic.

    1. Thanks, Jack. Like you, I’m mystified by creativity and thinking. (Hell, I find so many things mystifying!) I like your idea about the “soil” from which creativity can sprout and grow. I also try to cultivate the right conditions. For me, I need a certain amount of laziness. I need to vegetate. I’ll check out the Cleese book. I’m always interested in finding something new of the topic.

  15. When I see a particular thing and think what more can I do with this. I start doing creative items out of it.

    My writing creativity emerges after any bad or good experience/lesson. The particular incident can motivate me.

    1. Like you, I find that extreme emotional states–especially those akin to frustration–are especially good at helping inspire me to be creative. Thanks for the comment.

  16. The question: Where do your ideas originate and what drives you to make things?

    – I believe my creativity heightened when I began meditating and could access my subconscious mind more. However, I believe my ideas originate from a combination of higher intelligence, my environment, accumulated knowledge, and other realms of the subconscious mind! It’s a good question that I’m not sure I have the answer to.
    – What drives me to make things is processing the world creatively to understand life and myself on a deeper level. It’s also very exciting to create something. And, I feel like it’s fulfilling to share creativity with others~

    What about you?

    1. Yes, “processing” is very important. Making sense of things. If I had to point my finger at one key factor that spurs creativity for me, it would be the need to understand, to make sense, to order. Thanks for the comment.

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