Monday, March 04, 2013

Creative Individuals and Their Careers


When we talk about creative individuals and the careers that they pursue, we come across some interesting facts. Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, in his book "Creativity- Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention" (pg. 193.) says, ".. creative individuals are usually forced to invent the jobs they will be doing all through their lives. One could not have been a psychoanalyst before Freud, an aeronautical engineer before the Wright brothers, an electrician before Galvani, Volta and Edison, or a radiologist before Rontegen. These individuals not only discovered new ways of thinking and of doing things but also became the first practitioners in the domains they discovered and made it possible for others to have jobs and careers in them." So, "creative individuals don't have careers, they create them".

But what about some of the other professions, which are old. Mihaly writes, "But what about writers, musicians, and artists? These are some of the oldest professions. So it must be wrong to claim that a creative poet creates the role of a poet. Yet there is a very real sense in which actually is true. Each poet, musician, or artist who leaves a mark must find a way to write, compose, or paint line no one has done before. So while the role of artists is an old one, the substance of what they do is unprecedented.

The book is based on 30 years of deep research on the subject of creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, Professor and former Chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago. I find this research based book quite enlightening. In fact, this book has motivated me to choose my Ph.D. research topic in the area related to creativity and creative expression of Designers.

This book was written after interviewing a group of ninety-one exceptional individuals. The three main conditions based on which the respondents were selected were:
"The person had to have made a difference to a major domain of culture - one of the sciences, the arts, business, government, or human well-being in general; he or she has to be still actively involved in that domain (or a different one); and he or she had to be at least sixty years old" (in few cases, when circumstances warranted, respondents who were a bit younger were interviewed).

I find this book extremely fascinating, not just because the topic of creativity has been of my interest since many years, but also because like the author himself says, "It is the extraordinary people whose voices fill these pages who tell the story of the unfolding of creativity". When different creative individuals share about their journey, a person interested in exploring creativity would indeed be interested in reading about it. Would like to talk more about this book in some of my later posts.