The creative process

The creative process is often not responsive to conscious efforts to initiate or control it. It does not proceed methodically or in programmatic fashion. It meanders. It is unpredictable, digressive, capricious. As one scientist put it, “I can schedule my lab hours, but I can’t schedule my best ideas.”

Creative individuals have the capacity to free themselves from the web of social pressures in which the rest of us are caught. They don’t spend much time asking “What will people say?” The fact that “everybody’s doing it” doesn’t mean they’re doing it. They question assumptions that the rest of us accept. As J. P. Guilford has pointed out, they are particularly gifted in seeing the gap between what is and what could be (which means, of course, that they have achieved a certain measure of detachment from what is.

It is easy to fall into the romantic exaggeration in speaking of the capacity of people of originality to stand apart. Those who are responsible for the great innovative performances have always built on the work of others, and have enjoyed many kinds of social support, stimulation and communication. They are independent bout they are not adrift.

John Gardner, Self-Renewal