Books and talks about creativity might be more popular than ever before, writes Thomas Frank at Salon, but that doesn’t mean society necessarily values true creativity.
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Part of the problem, according to Frank, is that the literature of creativity — the TED Talks, the bestselling guides to thinking outside of the box, the business seminar anecdotes — is, ironically, the antithesis of creativity itself. Think of the last story you heard about Einstein, Edison, Miles Davis, or the inventor of the Swiffer: each and every one has a pattern, Frank claims, and that pattern is as predictable and boring as any TPS report.
“Those who urge us to ‘think different,’ in other words, almost never do so themselves,” he writes. “Year after year, new installments in this unchanging genre are produced and consumed. Creativity, they all tell us, is too important to be left to the creative. Our prosperity depends on it. And by dint of careful study and the hardest science — by, say, sliding a jazz pianist’s head into an MRI machine — we can crack the code of creativity and unleash its moneymaking power.”
So what does this mean for the creative class? Well, nothing, really. Folks who want to invent and refine and perfect will keep on doing so, whether or not their life story is likely to inspire any non-fiction bestsellers. They might even be a success at it, if the market is buying what they have to sell at that particular moment in time.
But perhaps Frank’s insights will provide comfort when we beat ourselves up for not having our very own inspirational lecture series just yet. From one perspective, at least, the game isn’t so much rigged as it is masquerading as a different sort of game altogether.
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