Creativity is an amazing process. People who have learned to tap into their creative powers are able to create beautiful works of art, solve impossible problems, and make something out of nothing. As is evidenced by the masters, human beings are capable of producing creations that far exceed what seems humanly possible.

People in the peak of the creative process describe it as a “high” or an elevated state of consciousness. Some go so far as to claim that they were able to tap into something greater than themselves such as God or a collective consciousness. Whether or not you believe this to be the case, we all can agree that the power of creativity is immense.

Duality and the Way we View Creativity

Duality is the existence of opposing forces in the universe. The principle is so omnipresent, it can be found in everything from the tiniest atomic particle to the society we live in. I find it fascinating that as human beings, we tend to follow principle by instinct, polarizing ourselves from each other, even in the way we view creativity.

On one extreme, some people believe that nothing is creative unless it is completely unique to the creator in every aspect. An example of an artist who is completely committed to this paradigm might be someone who straps themselves to the top of a New York City cab and calls it “art,” instead of painting a picture because too many other people have painted pictures before. These people tend to be counter-culture, starving artist types.

On the other extreme, some people blatantly plagiarize other people’s work and claim it as their own by only changing a small piece. These people tend to be soulless, opportunistic types.

The rest of us live in the grey area on the continuum between these two extremes. Some of us prefer our music, movies, and culture to be more obscure (the alternative movement), and some of us prefer our art to be more conformist (the pop movement), but most of us are somewhere in the middle.

The interesting thing is that there is often friction between the two opposing forces. The alternative movement criticizes the pop movement for being boring, and the pop movement criticizes the alternative movement for being “weird.”

Who’s Right?

Which side is right? Is it better to create art by making an effort to be as different as possible; or is it better to create art by making small improvements on an already popular formula?

As in most cases of duality, who is right is a matter of relativity. Each side can justify their paradigm based on their own circumstances. From within each paradigm, the other one looks “wrong.”

The alternative movement believes that they are right because they are the most original, intellectual, and unique. They believe that the pop movement is wrong because they are being dogmatic and cookie cutter-ish

The pop movement believes that they are right because they are just following their instincts and enjoying the art that they like, even if their taste is the same as everyone else, and the art is similar to many other pieces. What’s wrong with a good formula for success? They think the alternative movement is wrong because they automatically reject pop just because other people like it, even if it is good work.

My Take

When I see this type of duality between human beings, I can reasonably assume that each side holds a little bit of truth. To be a critical thinker, you have to understand and respect each side before you choose where you fit on the continuum.

While originality is a virtue, no art is made in a complete vacuum. The collective art of a society evolves together as one individual artist influences another.

Think about the rich periods in our art history; here are a few examples: Renaissance, Romanticism, Impressionism, Cubism, Abstract-Expressionism, Modernism, and Post-Modernism. Artists within each of these movements shared certain characteristics, but retained their own style.

Music is the same way. Consider these American-roots movements: Folk, Blues, Jazz, Country, & Rock. Each movement grew out of another, and each artist contributes to the evolution of the movement and to new movements yet to be heard.

Simultaneous Independent Discovery

There have been many documented instances of two people in different parts of the world independently creating, discovering, or inventing the same thing. The first gasoline powered automobile was invented by two different people who had never met in 1885 and 1886. Two early versions of the first bicycle independently appeared in 1816 and 1817. Radar was discovered independently in the 1930’s by Germany, Great Britain, Japan, and The US. There are countless other examples.

How does this happen? A spiritualist might explain that we are all connected spiritually. A biologist might say that evolution creates windows of opportunity for certain advances in technology. Others might say that the idea’s time had simply arrived.

Creativity is a Communal Act

All of this goes to show that creativity is a communal act. You create your own style through both the influences of others and your own originality. Instead of plagiarizing, know your influences and give credit where credit is due.

As creators, we need to realize that we are part of the larger community of creators in our society. Let’s not be ashamed of having influences, but at the same time, let’s be respectful of the originality of others. As we tap into the amazing powers of creativity, we can all be part of this planet’s creative evolution.