Saturday, July 9, 2011

Creativity and Arrogance

An article this week talks about the relationship between creativity and arrogance. My usual feeling about most so-called scientific research into creativity is that it is misbegotten. Here is the money quote:
Participants in a large study who consider themselves creative, and regularly participate in creative activities, scored low on a personality test measuring honesty and humility.
What's the crucial word there? Consider! Oh yes, those who consider themselves creative are often insufferably arrogant. The very fact that they consider themselves creative is part of the arrogance! Are the truly creative arrogant? Not in my experience. Take the case of that greatest of all musicians, J. S. Bach. Not at all arrogant. He regarded all his music as an offering to God and simply did the best work he could. He did not suffer fools gladly and he did not under-rate his abilities, but this is not the vice of arrogance. What about Beethoven? One of the most touching quotes from him was in a letter to someone about his C sharp minor string quartet, op 131--possibly the greatest quartet ever written. He simply said that it was "less lacking in fantasy than my other works." Great performers I have known personally have a pragmatic sense of their own abilities, but nothing approaching arrogance. That is reserved for the second-raters who try to puff themselves up beyond their abilities. The truly gifted have no need of arrogance.

There is nothing like sitting down before a blank sheet of paper (or computer screen) to make one humble!

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