Erik Stinson, "Towards a New Theory of Creativity"

This post is useful in navigating across various disciplinary divides (art, literature, web publishing and self-publishing, advertising) that are becoming all mixed up in the internet mesh (and were already well along in blending before the Net came along). The text's in all-caps in the original but went lower-case when pasted, sorry; the bolding is as is in the original. Am reblogging the entire essay since excerpts don't do it justice. My thoughts follow.

towards a new theory of creativity


creativity is defined as an a natural disposition, tendency, devotion, or gift, in the area of new ideas, words, and art of all three dimensions.

theory is a actionable set of values and definitions that enable someone to assess or attempt to reproduce something.

in order to 'be' creative IE exist as someone who is self-recognized and socially-recognized and creative, one must 'appear creative,' both physically and artistically

creativity is capitalism agnostic. it has neither a 'wholesome values-oriented' character or a 'profit driven' motive.

new proposals:

the internet has rendered originality meaningless as a strictly policed absolute, but not as a extremely valuable quality for all creative people.

the two most important things creativity must have is humor and surprise. these two qualities are related but separate.

to 'become creative' or 'more creative' there are very concrete steps that can be taken, but they are difficult and probably not worth while emotionally or monetarily. to be creative a person would require:

1. extensive knowledge of, [without imitation of] a wide variety of cultures and forms including:

writing and verbal language


film and video

internet function

art history

poltical history




this knowledge is sometimes called 'an education' but most educations do not include this. creative people must know about everything and at the same time actively disassociate from everything in order to grasp [the necessary remnants of what we still call] originality.

2. creative people must fit in with society. they need to participate in order to observe and reproduce desirable elements.

3. creative people must appear different in some what they identifies them as creative. this may include anything from clothing to language to place of residence. if nobody is able to identify creativity superficially, they will be unable to interact with the less superficial parts of creativity. the most important part of creativity is not ideas or productions, but knowledge and effective communication.

4. creative people must be aware that creativity is inerrant in all people and that any 'given' or 'produced' concentration of creativity within themselves is a privileged, a curse, a burden, and not a carte blanche.

5. when corporations or governments pay creative people, they do so with the understanding that anything the creative shows is morally acceptable in all fields and fit for mass reproduction on an global scale. creatives approve and reproduce social values.

6. when creative people are financially successful in a period of global pain and suffering they are effectively being paid off by governments and corporations to keep from initiating social upheaval. this is a self-aware position for creatives. creative people know good ideas alone do not make wealth. suffering and existing wealth make wealth. except as a remote possibility for prevention, creativity has nothing do to with suffering and everything to do with opportunity.


awareness of everything and mediation of position in society can reproduce creativity. responsibility exists on the part of creative people to determine the moral acceptability of everything they produce and promote under the circumstances of late capitalism.

erik stinson december 2010

Quibbles: Part 3 ("creative people must appear different") and the intro statement "one must appear creative." Society has a tendency to want to personalize everything, make it "human": it's the positive, flip side of the ad hominem argument. Book jacket photos and natty attire can distract from creativity through too much focus on the creator's lifestyle choices. Art should come like a bolt out of nowhere: authorless and "increate," to use a Clement Greenberg word. Is the author young? Handsome? "Cool"? should be secondarily interesting questions, not the images to hold in the forebrain when encountering an idea. A friend of mine was disappointed to meet a "computer artist" I had written about extensively because he was wearing "hipster" clothes--she was expecting the pocket protector and glasses with duct tape on the bridge of the nose. In this case the expression (and writing about the expression) communicated more loudly than the person--that's how it should be.

The relationship between creativity and money is also awkward, if only because so much attention gets paid to it in the New York art world. Too many critics love to start with extensive consideration of the Marxian "base" and cram the "superstructure" of someone's two years of work into a hasty final paragraph. Stinson's "Creativity is capitalism agnostic" is a better formulation. "When creative people are financially successful in a period of global pain and suffering they are effectively being paid off by governments and corporations to keep from initiating social upheaval" may be a little strong but its heart is in the right place.