Part I—Creative People Shape the World
What does creativity mean?
Let’s start with the dictionary definition and go from there:
- the use of skill and imagination to produce something new or to produce art.
In Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/creativity
Creativity is the capacity or ability to generate new ideas or concepts from pre-existing ones.
As a rule, creativity is aimed at solving a problem by using constructive imagination and so-called divergent thinking.
A person who is considered “creative” is someone who is distinguished by having an aptitude, and perhaps an appetite, for creating and innovating. It is assumed that they create new things, or that they create them from their unique and singular perspective of their surroundings.
In this sense, the act of creating is based on two major aspects: thinking and producing.
The premise is that the object of creation cannot simply remain in the realm of thought: we have to actually make it. If we don’t make it, then that’s not creativity, it’s just imagination.
Surely, you can think of a few personalities who have stood out for their inventiveness, and who are considered exceptionally creative.
Creative professions have historically been taken less seriously, but what would our world be like today if not for creative people?
Here are some examples of creative personalities who changed the world by making it what it is today, or who are timeless and continue to inspire us today:
The French writer born in 1828 was the father of science fiction, having created stories that compelled men to travel to the moon, dive into the depths of the oceans, or try to unravel what lies at the center of the earth.
Verne was the author of some of the most famous literary works of the fantastic genre, such as A Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in 80 Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and From the Earth to the Moon. He inspired and continues to inspire scientists and inventors, and some of the inventions we use today were first portrayed in his stories before they were even real, such as the submarine or the space rocket.
Born in 1847 in the United States, Edison was one of the greatest inventors in history with over 2,000 patents!
His most famous invention was the electric light bulb, but he also improved the inventions of others, such as the movie camera, the telephone, and the typewriter.
Born in 1879 in Germany, Einstein revolutionized the studies of space, time, mass, and energy. He was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in physics and is still considered one of the greatest geniuses of the 20th century.
He developed more than three hundred scientific papers, among them the notable theory of relativity.
Born in 1904, Salvador Dalí i Domènech was a prominent Spanish painter, and one of the best-known and most influential painters of Surrealism. Dali deconstructed reality as we perceive it and represented it surrealistically in his masterfully realized and dreamlike works.
Dali designed a famous commercial logo that we all know (Chupa Chups); he was a fashion designer, photographer, and he designed jewelry and he created covers for the Vogue magazine. His most famous works, which have inspired thousands of artists, are The Persistence of Memory (1931) and Sleep (1937).
Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter born in 1907 who stood out for her creativity and uniqueness, but also for her physical and emotional pain and her remarkable endurance!
Today, Frida’s face and style has become an icon in both marketing and fashion, and can be found here, there, and everywhere, representing the strength of femininity.
The painter, married to muralist painter Diego Rivera, defied gender stereotypes as strongly as she defied her own illness and disability. Author of many vibrantly colored and lively portraits and self-portraits inspired by nature and Mexican culture, her naïf artworks are extremely expressive, and all seem to tell us her story and the history of her culture. Examples of this colorful narrative are The two Fridas, The Broken Column, and The Wounded Deer.
Born in 1901 under the name Walter Elias Disney, the artist created a panoply of unforgettable characters that we all know and love since childhood, such as Mickey and Minnie, Donald Duck, Daisy, and Uncle Scrooge, Goofy and Pluto, etc.
Some of his quintessential animated features were Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and Bambi. He was awarded 22 Oscars in his lifetime—a record not surpassed to this day.
Born in 1947, David Robert Jones was a British singer, songwriter, actor, and music producer who remained at the forefront of pop and rock music for decades. Bowie was also on the silver screen, with several memorable roles in well-known movies.
Nicknamed “Rock Chameleon” for his ability to reinvent himself and embody colorful thematic personas of his own creation, he left us such exceptional and original works as “Space Oddity,” “Starman,” and, lest we forget, “Ziggy Stardust.” His music and personality have influenced many contemporary musicians and other artists around the world.
Born in 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien became one of the most creative writers of the 20th century. His 1949 trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, is still one of the world’s best known book series and has inspired thousands of other creators in film, literature, painting, comics, and even in music.
Besides having created an entire highly detailed and complex world called Middle Earth, he populated it with magical and fantastic beings: enchanting hobbits, elegant elves, strong dwarfs, brutal ogres, and wise talking trees.
Considered one of the most brilliant directors of the contemporary era, Timothy William Burton was born in 1958 in California.
As a child, he had difficulties integrating and adjusting, and he protected himself from the outside world in his own fantasy universe. An avid reader of Edgar Allan Poe’s works and a fan of horror movies, he has created drawings and film productions with a dark but captivating and wondrous atmosphere that became quite distinctive in time.
Disney gave him the opportunity to make The Nightmare Before Christmas, and following the resounding success of Jack Skellington—now also a marketing icon—he would go on to give life to other fantastic and unique characters in films such as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride, and the remake of the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
His interpretation of the “Sweeney Todd” character revolutionized the musical film genre and earned an Academy Award in 2008 for Best Art Direction. More recently, Disney gave him once more the opportunity to offer us a unique, inventive, and colorful interpretation of Alice in Wonderland.
Born in 1965, Joanne Rowling is a British writer, screenwriter, and film producer, most famous for writing the delightfully imaginative Harry Potter book series, which has won numerous awards and sold more than 500 million copies.
Like Tolkien, Rowling has created a detailed and complex parallel universe filled with magic and fantastic monsters and characters such as Harry Potter, Hermione, Ron, Hagrid, Dumbledore, Professor Snape, and Voldemort.
Interestingly, in the 90s before being a best-selling author, she lived in Portugal, where she taught English and was briefly married to the Portuguese journalist Jorge Arantes, the father or her first daughter.
The much-feared creative block
All these famous personalities—scientists, writers, musicians, painters, inventors, and even filmmakers—have changed and shaped, or at least inspired, the world as we know it.
They seem to have been born with an inexhaustible source of creativity!
But know that they too must have gone through difficult times when they were unable to create. Painful barren periods when ideas stubbornly failed to emerge or when they were unable to give substance to the ideas that did emerge.
Even the most prolific creators at some point have lost sight of their “inspirational muse” or, simply put, inspiration.
Or they have experienced what is popularly known as “writer’s block.”
People who are noted for their creativity, and even those whose ideas are their sole livelihood, will occasionally spend days or weeks, maybe months, in search of inspiration…
For example, thriller writer Graham Greene (author of Orient Express and The Quiet American) kept a journal in which he recorded his dreams to help him avoid creative block.
Maya Angelou (novelist and poet author of I Know Why the Bird in the Cage Sings) said, “I suppose I do get ‘blocked’ sometimes but I don’t like to call it that. That seems to give it more power than I want it to have. What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks… and it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try.”
John Steinbeck (author of such classics as East of Paradise and The Grapes of Wrath) said, “Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death…In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.”
Want to know more on how to stimulate creativity? Read the second part “Are we born creative, or can we exercise creativity?” here!