By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: Scott Barry Kaufman, Carolyn Gregorie
Narration by: Nick Podehl
The book “Wired to Create” is an internet sensation. It began as an article in the Huffington Post; written by Carolyn Gregorie. Based on the article, she co-writes a book with psychologist Scott Kaufman. The book is promoted as a loss leader (no charge) to attract customers to Google e-books and other internet savvy vendors. The book’s popularity is in the argument that intelligence is only one characteristic of a creative mind. With IQ as only one characteristic of creativity, the field of human subjects who fit the definition of creative is broadened.
Scientists, inventors, artists, sales people, mechanics, technicians, sports stars, and other unnamed categories of people are “Wired to Create”. This is no revelation. It is not unusual to find friends or acquaintances that are able to think in three dimensions, rotate objects in their mind, come up with solutions to complex problems, or create art out of ordinary things. Some of these creative people are great explainers; others are introverted and non-communicative. Some recall events in perfect detail; others only remember broad outlines. Some create art out of nothing; others say nothing about art but build cathedrals.
Kaufman and Gregorie identify some characteristics of creative minds. There is the ability to hold opposing concepts in mind while rendering something never thought of before; i.e. like a work of art that shows planes of a human face from every angle in two dimensions. There is a disruptive quality in a person with a creative mind. That disruption is often seen in school students who cannot sit still, are always talking, and are constantly interrupting class activities. It is the creative teacher who handles the disruption to gain participation of all students, including the disrupt-er.
Kaufman and Gregorie mention famous creative geniuses like Einstein, Edison, Wozniak, and Jobs who exhibit creativity in varied but similar ways. Einstein may rise above the others because of a creative universality but each exhibit a passion and intensity for what they think and do. Edison and Jobs are super salesmen; Wozniak is a tinkerer; Einstein is a conceptualizer. To varying degrees each practices the others’ skills.
“Wired to Create” notes that creativity is not restricted to either introverts or extroverts. Creativity encompasses all sociological categories. Creativity comes from persistence and resilience; driven by passion. The authors note the many failures of creative people; e.g. people like Edison and J. K. Rowling. The authors note that only a handful of Edison’s thousands of patented inventions are successful. Rowling had many publishers turn Harry Potter down until one publisher accepts her work.
The tortured personality theory of creativity is addressed by the authors but it is only one of many factors that make people think what they think and do what they do. As noted with Einstein, Edison, Wozniak, Jobs and Rowling not all creative people are negatively affected by hyper activity, repeated failure, or intense focus. Kaufman and Gregorie imply some creative people may have tortured personalities but correlation is not causation.
Gauguin is financially unsuccessful as an artist in his lifetime because of the public’s rejection of his work. Gauguin’s paintings are sold for millions today. Kaufman and Gregorie imply creativity is no guarantee of money, success, or happiness. Gauguin’s lack of success may have led to use of drugs but it seems as likely that penury and failed acceptance, rather than misunderstood creativity, is the proximate cause of death. Taking drugs is a malady of the uncreative as well as the creative.
Vincent van Gogh, a contemporary of Gauguin, commits himself to an asylum in which he paints one of his most revered works of art, “The Starry Night”. However, like Gauguin, van Gogh is never financially successful. Gauguin and van Gogh succumb to the stresses of life; not because they are creative but because they are poor and unable to cope with their perceived failure.
Kaufman and Gregorie broaden the definition of creativity. However, there seems little revelation in their suggestion that creativity comes from intense interest, average or higher IQs, hard work, and persistence in the face of rejection. Talk of left brain, right brain activity, and frontal lobe brain waves are unconvincing physiological origins of creativity. Play theory seems passé in the face of competing theories of learning that suggest human brain interaction with environment is too complex to measure. It is estimated by geneticists and some psychologists that fifty percent of who we are is genetic but the other half of who we become is largely determined by the minds interaction with the environment. The way the brain works when stimulated by the environment remains a mystery. Mysteries of the creative mind remain undiscovered.