Creativity Breeds Creativity

The is my fourth post in a five-part series for my seminary course at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg on Media and Religion.

I am creative. We are creative.

This is the idea behind Jacie Richmond’s post, “The Start of Something New,” where she talks about the idea of creative products having a lineage– they stretch back to what others have created before them. Jacie writes,

While it is true that knowledge is collective (otherwise we would constantly be re-creating the wheel) we are taught to think that creativity is more individual. The point is to think of something that is drastically different from anything else that has been done. The more different it is, then the more creative it is.  Digital media is causing us to redefine this though with more and more people creating parodies of other work. It is also easier to create something which gives a creative voice to many more people than was previously possible.

When we’ve seen the nine-hundreth “Let It Go” parody we may start to question whether there really is anything creative going on, but I would suggest that these nine hundred parodies are actually indicative of something else going on– creativity breeding creativity.

Let’s be honest, just as Richmond points out, our creations build off of other ideas. A quote I heard a while back that has always stuck with me, “You learn based off what you know.” In other words, we aren’t creating anything completely new because everything we do is based off of building blocks that come from something we know.

Did that just deflate your creativity balloon? Did it make you feel like you aren’t the original Picasso you thought you were? Well, stop worrying, because I don’t think this means we’ve lost that spark that comes when you mould clay with your hands or edit video and align it with audio. What I think this really highlights is how important it is for us to be creative in the first place, so that others can see what is possible.

In class we’ve been watching a ton of videos that show different ways of conveying the message of the gospel through digital media, and each one has given me an expanded framework for thinking through what is possible. It’s not that these ideas and their derivative products limit future creativity because they “got there first”, but that they show us ways for us to be creative in the future. Others give birth to our creativity.

It reminds me of hearing stories about how the election of President Barack Obama, an African American man, gave young African American boys and girls the framework to conceptualize what it might look like for them to be President of the United States someday. A similar idea is how the ordination of Rev. Elizabeth Platz, the first female pastor in a Lutheran church in the United States, paved the way for people to understand what it might look like for women to be ordained in the U.S. Lutheran churches. I, myself, think of at least a few female pastors that have spurred me on to think creatively about how I can be both myself and a pastor in ways that I don’t think I would have dared to imagine without their models. Other people thinking creatively give us the space to think about new ideas, and to create new possibilities from that space.

So while the bajillion music parodies we find all over the web may seen like an indication that creativity as gone to the (lol)cats, perhaps it is a sign that creativity is providing even more fertile ground than ever before. In fact, maybe I’m excited to watch another fifty “Let It Go” parodies and covers because each one takes its creative roots in a new direction.

Most of all, this reminds us of our interconnectivity. In the book Click2Save, Pastors Elizabeth Drescher and Keith Anderson describe the richness of digital media to “connect us more deeply to those we know already, and extended real and meaningful relationship to those we may know only indirectly– only as links in the helixes DNA of the Body of Christ” (177). Creativity does not happen on individual islands, but in a web, connected through ideas, observation, crowdsourcing, sharing, and the Holy Spirit that moves through us all.

In what ways have you created because of others? What creative projects have you done that you are proud of and how have they been inspired from other creative people/projects?


8 thoughts on “Creativity Breeds Creativity

  1. jacierichmond says:

    This is a great continuation on my own thoughts. We keep hearing that we cannot solve the problems of the world on our own. This is absolutely true, and if we want to tackle these problems we need to acknowledge this collective creative process including the creative processes of God in the world.

  2. kimgifford says:

    I really enjoyed this post. I have wondered the idea of “creativity” many times. I often wonder if the idea of having an original idea is a lost hope.
    To answer your questions, I have used the work of others as a spring board when preparing sermons once in a while. Often times their thoughts and ideas can spur something in me that I never would have thought on my own.
    I am probably most proud of a prayer partner project that I spear headed at my home congregation. This project was based on a similar project in another local church. We took what we liked from their program and added new ideas to make it our project.

    • Courtney says:

      Yes! One of the best lessons I’ve learned in ministry is that if another person has a great ministry idea…DO IT! If someone else has a great sermon topic that you can’t get out of your head, use it! Obviously we give credit where it is due, but we don’t have to be geniuses on our own and we don’t have to re-create the wheel. Our ministries are more connected than we often think or consciously practice.

  3. pnordquist001 says:

    Hi Courtney! I hadn’t thought of myself as creative, but maybe I am?! About 8 years ago, I created a breakfast alternative for people on the go. I was the first to introduce packaging that held yogurt, fruit, and granola in one easy-to-go convenient container. It’s called a Parfait, and I introduced them to our market. I sold thousands of these to deli’s and coffee shops, including Lunds, Byerly’s, Kolwalski’s, Holiday Pantry’s, Fairview hospital systems, (cafeteria’s) etc. Then I introduced a luncheon plate with the same concept: Baked Pita Chips, hummus, carrots and snap peas… a complete plate under 300 calories in an easy to go container. Then other products too. Sounds very basic, but packaging and label design took some thinking!

  4. Philip says:

    Thanks for sharing your perspective on creativity. I think your thoughts are not only insightful, but also very motivational for which I totally agree with you. Our individual creative arts provide the opportunity for wider and inclusive participation in the processes that develop new cultures (digital, political, economic) which influence our world today. My tribal people have a parable in Liberia that says: “it is from the old mat that one sits to ply a new mat.” While individualism is deeply reflected in creativity, it is also amazing to note how one new idea relates to another in the past, or sets the basis for the intervention of future ideas.

  5. Mary Hess says:

    I love both this reflection, and how it is, itself, an example of what you’re saying since it builds directly on Jacie’s post!

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