Creativity Versus Consistency

02023-04-04 | Art, Creativity | 4 comments

In the United States we are raised to appreciate the accomplishments of inventors and thinkers—creative people whose ideas have transformed our world. We celebrate the famously imaginative, the greatest artists and innovators from Van Gogh to Steve Jobs. Viewing the world creatively is supposed to be an asset, even a virtue. Online job boards burst with ads recruiting “idea people” and “out of the box” thinkers. We are taught that our own creativity will be celebrated as well, and that if we have good ideas, we will succeed.

It’s all a lie. This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it. Studies confirm what many creative people have suspected all along: People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise.

Creativity is rejected: Teachers and bosses don’t value out-of-the-box thinking.

I came across that article on Slate after following a number of different links this afternoon. It is worth reading in its entirety. 

I also came across this quote, by Aldous Huxley:

Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life

I find that the two quotes, although ostensibly about different subjects, namely creativity and consistency, are very much connected. Creativity always threatens consistency, and that is why creativity is vaunted but not actually encouraged or liked by the establishment. In an uncertain world we desire consistency, solidity, something we can count on. Certainly the merchants (manufacturers, corporations, including record companies, publishers, etc.) desire consistency. I am not knocking merchants, but that’s where the tension lies. 

Creativity isn’t part of that. New ideas always threaten the status quo, whether they are musical ideas, new ways of seeing and painting, or breakthrough scientific ideas. Many corporations started with one brilliant idea but soon management took over and dictated that one should not evolve the idea, just keep the machine going and do not revolutionize it.

It means accepting that creativity cannot be comfortable at all times. Neither for the person holding the lightning rod, artist or not, nor for everyone else. But, as Huxley correctly noted, consistency is contrary to nature and merely an illusion we like to maintain.


I feel that there is so much more to be said about this subject… consistency is necessary for an artist to be discovered and to be marketed. An artist that does radically different work every year will struggle to get noticed. So that is one of the pitfalls we struggle with: on one hand it is important to strive for a personal and recognizable voice (think Santana, Jeff Beck, Warhol, Picasso, Miles Davis, etc.) but on the other hand this can also turn into empty repetition. Masters, such as Picasso and Miles Davis, seem to create new cycles of work that are each distinctive but also different from their other periods. (Picasso Periods for example)

I don’t know whether this can be taught and feel that it is something each artist has to work/struggle with on their own.

4 Comments

  1. Steve

    >”Uncertainty is an inherent part of new ideas, and it’s also something that most people would do almost anything to avoid. ”

    Wow.

    Reply
  2. luna

    Thanks for bringing this up.
    It’s beautifully put, consistency vs creativity with people.
    My first thought, idea, creativity on this subject was an analogy I read from Carolyn Myss, a medical intuitive, many years ago about how in her observation people were always wanting Change yet the Speed of the Change terrified most more than the fear of death.
    So Change vs Speed of the Change.
    Change is Consistent, always happening, albeit in small doses, like the general regularity of a daily habit. But Art, Creativity creates the Speed of Change. Creativity almost channels (or does) some new, more direct way of being that openly changes and sometimes challenges the old way or pattern, thereby “forcing” people to think and be differently than that old pattern. Usually this is Upgrading something, even if only one’s own life. But like everything in life, change requires a balance, an integration time which can sometimes be off-putting because even though people want the refreshing new energy –the passion of the Change that Creativity and Innovation brings, it usually directly requires and inner speed-up of Change that has to shift their daily Consistency/regularity somehow. This can be “uncomfortable ” to say the least. It appears as of yet, most personalities don’t like “uncomfortable” or have slowed down long enough to discover what Consistency the Art-Creativity-Innovation-Change is making go faster internally.

    What is it that that is so “scary” when Change speeds up, when we are temporarily thrown off balance, off consistency, to integrate new ways? And the bigger question for me is, Why is it judged so harshly within societies? The Change is usually exactly the energy people are craving for the next balance point, yet often the first reaction is fear.
    Is this individual ancestral DNA response? Anything new artistic creative innovative in our lives requires out-of-the-box thinking, speaking, and action/Change. Paradoxically it also requires Consistency in the Change…which creates a momentum, Speed of Change.
    People can say all kinds of things, but unless an individual is actually Willing to Be and Do the creative new innovative thing, integrate it, to throw their old consistency out of balance to allow speed of change, to be in the sometimes uncomfortable process, and allow themselves to be personally vulnerable for creativity and innovation in their lives,
    Then art and consistency remain opposed instead of in harmonious flow with each other.

    I believe this is the point where humanity is at today.

    We are now consistently “forced” to embrace the speed of the change individually and collectively, to integrate more and more flowing artistic innovative out-of-the-box ways into daily consistency/regularity to Upgrade humanity.

    Reply
  3. luna

    …forgot to add that Heart-Thinking feels to me to be a key ingredient here in marrying Creativity and Consistency, Change and Speed of Change, instead of them being thought of and felt as “opposing energy.”

    Recently, this past week actually, I had a powerful death experience. This very paradox came up (is up)…a long ago tension point between myself and a loved one that never was able to be resolved harmoniously, died playing pickleball. In the aftermath that is currently happening, sitting at the gravesite after everyone left, I realized just how much I tried to do just that during my time with that loved one…to “marry Consistency with Creativity.” And I realized a few days later, no matter my trying to “force” “harmonious intent” throughout my life with this person, her attachment to Consistency and mine to Creativity was the same. I valued Consistency like she valued Creativity. The biggest hurdle in this, that was never “resolved” between us while she was alive was the Change and Speed of Change. The lack of patience and harsh judgement on both sides created a wall, created some fear of the other, and ultimately perhaps unnecessary separation.
    I surely dont have all the answers or can speak for anyone other than myself, and i guess my point here is that there is something about balancing Heart-Thinking with this that feels lacking by everyone in different ways. Sometimes Consistency is more prevalent and necessary in the Creative process, and sometimes it’s important to let that Creative Out-of-the-box energy be the leader so the Speed of Change can do its thing.
    And All of this requires Vulnerability, which requires Will to go there… to go with Heart-Thinking past our own perceive fear…Which simply means we each have to be Willing, on our own, to embrace all of it (with Healthy Boundaries of course)…which creates more Innovative Creativity And Consistency Change and the cycle continues…
    Process vs Perfection :))

    Reply
  4. anne

    Creativity can be very chaotic.

    (sustainable funds/support helps)

    Reply

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