Most people associate creativity to an exceptional intelligence, to a person with an uncommon psychical strength. I’m not minimizing the importance of a good intelligence, especially when paired with a talent in a specific area, whether it is music, arts, philosophy or science, but creativity requires more than an exceptional intelligence. It requires tenacity and hard work in a specific field of knowledge; dilettantes, or people who have multiple interests but do not focus anywhere seldom find success.
Therefore, having a focused mind is a very relevant ingredient to the creative process. A creative person must also hold a very objective system of thought, through which they observe facts, and not respect much long-held assumptions, because their beliefs come from what they see, not what they have been told. Others refuse to learn all there is to know about their area of study, because they’d rather rediscover it in their own terms.
Those who walk away from the official knowledge and beliefs can follow a course that lead to serious mistakes, so it takes a lot of courage to go on an adventure along an unknown path. Being unafraid of making mistakes or of the embarrassment of spending months or years on a task that might not become anything important is an essential trait of a creative mind.
It’s always good to remember that even people who are being objective, working hard and focusing on their projects will also have to be favored by circunstances: chance—or luck—are a part of life, so a person also has to have the opportunity to stumble upon a new phenomenon or look at something in a new way—be it a harmony of sounds, a type of image or arrangement of colors, a different movement of nature or a discovery in a lab, such as the reflections a theoretical physicist does based on mathematics. People like Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin, Freud, Picasso, Bach and so many others followed this path.
I named some of the most notorious innovators in history, but it’s important to know that any creative act, even one much less important to humankind in terms of scale, follows the same path: they saw something different and worked hard to extract all they could from their breakthrough. And then, the longer and hardest phase, the perspiration phase, starts. Those who say it’s 90% of the work are right!
Besides, innovators must be brave enough to, while they explore the extent of their new concepts, bring forth ideas that can be uncomfortable to most people. Intellectual honesty is also one of the essential characteristics of innovators, as they often face strong opposition—which can often be unethical—from their peers. People resent and protest whatever goes against the values they are used to. They take a while to accept the new, and this goes from ideas, to arts, literature and music. This opposition is less drastic in the sciences, because innovations usually have a practical, useful application, which makes it easier to accept.
Furthermore, not only must a creative person be brave and strong enough to uphold their ideas when bombarded by critics—especially when they are reputable—they also must remain innovative and not allow themselves to become enslaved by their own creations. A creative mind is never satisfied and must always see other possibilities beyond what has already been gained. As human progress is endless, all work is unfinished. If an innovator is unable to develop their ideas any further, a new generation will take over and use it as a foundation for another building. That’s the beauty and joy of knowledge.
Tradução: Amanda Morris