Creativity occurs when we find a way to look at something familiar in a new perspective.

 

As a writer, I'm always wondering how it happens. What sparks this ability to do something unique or look at something in a different way? When I find that I'm able to sit down and write paragraphs and paragraphs of words about whatever thoughts are sprinting throughout my mind, I start to wonder why it's happening in the first place. What is the fuel for the fire that ensues every time I commit my fingers to a keyboard or a pen?

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When you wonder about the foundation of why anything happens, I believe you have to start by asking questions about evolution and its agenda. After all, humans were built by an evolutionary agenda that basically guides everything we do, or at least that's what science says. Even if you're skeptical, why not check it out, see if it makes any sense? I swear, this is fascinating $#!%! Bear with me! 

 

Creativity's Roots and Pablo Picasso

About a year ago, I read a book called “Sex, Murder and The Meaning of Life” by Douglas T. Kenrick that’s theories are still plaguing my mind with wonder today. One of those theories played out in that wondrous book has to do with creativity and love.

 

As it turns out, famous-painter Pablo Picasso is an extremely excellent example of how love creates the potential to breed creativity. In case you didn't know, Pablo Picasso produced 147,800 works of art throughout his entire life (Kenrick 154). That is a lot of creativity, folks.

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What's more fascinating about Picasso's works, according to evolutionary psychologist Douglas Kenrick, is the conclusion that during every creative period in which he made his best art, Picasso was accompanied by one of the great love affairs that seemed to guide his creative life (Kenrick 155). According to Kenrick, Picasso's most classic works were all created while he was enraptured by a particular woman/love. Could it be that love was the inspiration and motivator that set Pablo ahead of the rest?

 

Well, while it may have set Pablo and some others ahead of the rest, love isn't necessarily the only igniter of creativity. Let me explain.

 

Evolutionary Psychology says that creative tendencies have developed out of some basic evolutionary survival and/or reproductive need. For instance, many evolutionary psychologists believe that creativity is important to people because it comes from a vital need to be able to create new tools and mechanisms for survival throughout the centuries (Kenrick 155).

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In other words, without creativity, our ideas would have never changed or evolved and new products and developments (such as houses, hunting mechanisms and technology) would have never been created for easier access to survival and reproduction. So, this theory says that our relentless desire to make survival easier is actually what sparks creativity.

 

Douglas T. Kenrick’s theory on the subject focuses more on the reproductive aspect of evolution. He believes that, when a man is passionate about a woman, that man's creativity is motivated by an evolutionary attempt to impress the woman.

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The Experiment

To prove his hypothesis, Kenrick completed a controlled experiment in which he had college students describe the possible scenario in an ambiguous photo they were shown. Before showing the photo, Kenrick primed some of the (heterosexual) participants into a mating-state-of-mind: he showed them pictures of attractive (heterosexual) members of the opposite sex and then had them pick one that they would desire to be romantic with (Kenrick, 156).

 

Kenrick's idea was to measure how creative each student was feeling after being romantically primed. To do this, he had he or she describe what could possibly be happening in whatever picture they were given. Once each description was recorded and analyzed, Kenrick showed them to other students to rate them on things like creative, funny, entertaining, captivating, etc…

 

The conclusion of the experiment was that reproductive motivation had no effect on women’s creativity, but it did have an effect on the men. It turned out that men's responses to what might be happening in the photos were significantly more creative when they had been primed into a mating-state-of-mind before their task (Kenrick, 156).

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Skepticism and Results

When I first began reading about this theory and research, I have to admit I was skeptical. Also, it was mildly disheartening to think that the greatest painter of all time may have gotten his motivation for creativity from somewhere other than his own mind. I gave it a chance, though, and it started to make sense.

 

The facts and data don’t seem to lie. Results show that men were able to be much more creative when they were primed for mating then when they weren’t. As Kenrick writes, “These studies established that temporary activation of a mating motive can have the same effect on humans as the mating season has on male peacocks; in both cases, mating opportunities inspire males to strut their stuff” (Kenrick, 157). It seems that males have a tendency to become more creative when they're trying to impress. 

 

Can You Tell Where Your Creativity Comes From?

What do you think? Where does your creativity come from? If you’re a man, do you feel as though you are more creative when you’re thinking about someone you're attracted to in a romantic way?

It's up to you

And women, what is your creative spark? Can you tell where it’s coming from when you get a burst of creative inspiration? Or, does it seem mysterious and difficult to track?

 

Women, Love and Creativity

Apparently, there is only one circumstance in which women can be said to be creatively inspired as a result of romantic-motivation. That circumstance is when we have thoughts about a long-term relationship: love.

 

According to Kenrick’s research, the only time women were able to be more creative after thinking about romance was “when they were thinking about a long-term relationship alongside (someone) whom they had been dating for a while and who had impressed their friends and family as a good catch. Then and only then would a women show her more creative side” (Kenrick, 161).

 

Does this sound about right ladies? Think back, have you had any creative spurts after having reached a certain point in a relationship, maybe a point that solidified possibilities of your future together?

The Past

I've been writing my entire life. My entire life, I've been building up the courage to write things that I would feel confident publicizing: things that I wouldn't regret and delete the next day. My boyfriend is the most creative person I've ever met. We started dating almost 3-years-ago now (I can't believe it!).

 

I can honestly say that it wasn't until I met him that I finally felt I had gained the motivation and confidence to showcase my creative abilities. It took me a while to be able to showcase my true creative self, though. It might have even taken about as long as it took to solidify the future of our relationship, just the way Kenrick's research shows.

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Now, I'm not saying that I rely on him for creativity: I don't. What I am saying is that it seems obvious to me that I've become more creatively motivated as a result of our relationship. If I didn't have our relationship, I would have likely motivated myself another way. I would have had to get my creative fuel from some evolutionary emotion other than love: like competitiveness, rage, boredom, enlightenment, or as a result of a problem I needed fixed: physically or mentally.  

 

Conclusively

When we are romantically motivated by our feelings for someone else, it's more likely that we'll go above and beyond to show our uniqueness, our true value (especially men). It makes sense. Impressing people we love or have the potential to love with our creativity gives us a chance to gain more confidence in ourselves, likely leading to even more creative success. It's all a cycle.

 

Make no mistake, though, impressing others with our creativity is not the only obstacle we must surpass to achieve confidence and unique success. After all, we have to accept and believe in ourselves before we can create and enact ideas that may never have been implemented otherwise. Belief in ourselves and our original ideas comes from all different places; for instance, it is often a result of a lack of fear of failure due to environmental circumstances from childhood (more on that in a later article:). Original ideas come from all corners of the earth, it's up to us to discover those corners and utilize them if we can.

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Ultimately, I believe emotional stimulation is the key to unlocking creativity. When we experience emotional stimulation, whether it's because of a relationship, a new, exhilarating experience or even a horrible experience, creativity swoops in to find a way to apply that sense of stimulation to some other, seemingly trivial idea, ultimately establishing a whole new perspective or idea: a work of art.  

 

All in all, creativity is what we get when we acquire the ability to look at or think about something familiar in an unfamiliar way. Understand that, and maybe you’ll find that it’s easier to access and cultivate your own creative roots.

 

Where do you feel your creativity comes from? Leave me a reply in the comments! :) 

 

 

Works Cited

Kenrick, Douglas T. Sex, Murder, and The Meaning of Life. New York: Basic, 2011.

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Published by Shannon McKenna