Creativity: You are not alone

14 Feb

We often think about creativity as being the creation of new ideas. The image of the artist or writer, locked in a room and who emerges with an amazing painting, poem or novel. However, it is more realistic to think about artists, writers, musicians, anyone doing anything creative really, as being influenced and inspired by others. Lets look at a few examples:

Have a look at how Roy Lichtenstein reworked the ideas of Van Gogh:

Bedroom at Arles, Lichtenstein, 1992

Bedroom at Arles, Van Gogh, 1889

Writers do the same thing. Have a look at the blurbs of these two novels (you’ll read them when you get into M5/DP1):

George Orwell’s 1984 (published in 1949)

Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101. . .

From Penguin

Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We (published in 1924)

In the One State of the great Benefactor, there are no individuals, only numbers. Life is an ongoing process of mathematical precision, a perfectly balanced equation. Primitive passions and instincts have been subdued. Even nature has been defeated, banished behind the Green Wall. But one frontier remains: outer space. Now, with the creation of the spaceship Integral, that frontier — and whatever alien species are to be found there — will be subjugated to the beneficent yoke of reason.

One number, D-503, chief architect of the Integral, decides to record his thoughts in the final days before the launch for the benefit of less advanced societies. But a chance meeting with the beautiful 1-330 results in an unexpected discovery that threatens everything D-503 believes about himself and the One State. The discovery — or rediscovery — of inner space…and that disease the ancients called the soul.


And then there is music; it’s not the music recent example but the influence is clear:

(composed ((maybe)) in 1694)

(released 1999)

TASK: Choose two of these comparisons and describe how one influenced the other. What is the same? What has the second artist added? Write this in your notebook. 

Can you think of any other examples? If you can, point them out to Mr. Tangey

So what does this mean for you? Well, it recognises that being creative doesn’t mean that you have to create something completely new. That building on the ideas of others, while adding your personal ideas, feelings, and expression is also a creative process.

TASK: Write about a time when you have done just this (not in English class). Write one paragraph in your notebook. 

I remember when I was in Grade 1, I loved the story of Rumplestiltskin. I still remember writing a two or three page story that basically retold the story, but I replaced all the characters and changed the ending.

But this also adds a debatable problem. When is doing this considered creative, and when is it considered plagiarism (taking the ideas of others)?

TASK: Write 1 paragraph on your opinion about this statement.

And now lets get creative…

I have given you lots of examples of how you might take the ideas of others and build upon them.

TASK: Find a poem you like from one of the anthologies – not online this time. Take some part of it and write a new poem.  

You might use:

  • The structure of the poem
  • Character, plot or setting
  • You might start your poem with one of the lines and then build the rest new
  • You might add to the end of the poem or change the ending etc.

You will need to look at the poem carefully and see what might work.

Final Thought

I think this poem by JonArno Lawson perfectly describes what we are talking about.

The Idea

First it struck her, then it hit her
Forcing her to reconsider — but —
Finding parts she didn’t like
She changed it so it better fit her. 

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