The Theory of Creativity

Creativity fascinates me.

Not just the process — though obviously, that holds a fair amount of appeal to me — but the theory of it. What is it about creativity that draws us to it? What is at the root of this magnificently beautiful thing that truly separates human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom? In what ways are authors similar to painters and musicians and sculptors? In what ways are all those disciplines different (beyond the obvious)?

I’ve always been a creative person. Even before I decided to become a writer, as a young child, my creative energy was seemingly boundless. I would draw for hours on end, even without a true focus to my work. I created simply to create, and though the mediums have changed several times in my nearly four decades on this planet, my creativity has never truly vanished.

I don’t know who I am if I’m not creating. But beyond that, I’m endlessly fascinated by other creatives. Especially those who work in disciplines other than writing. To this day, I will study one of comic book artist Jim Lee’s drawings. I will watch an episode of Killing Eve, and even as I’m being entertained, I find myself wondering what things were like when the camera was turned off, the way the writers and directors and actors worked together to create what was I watching (to say nothing of how they decided to take Luke Jennings’ work and translate it for screen).

I’m constantly marveled by my current favorite band — Ukrainian progressive metal group Jinjer — a four-member assembleance of badassery that can only be experienced to be truly appreciated. The lyrical genius, the musical aptitude — in the song “Home Back,” the singer belts out the line “Morning greetings of a rooster are replaced with ‘Fire in a hole!'”

The emotions that line stirs within you — not just the words themselves, but how they’re delivered against the pulsing backdrop of a lazy guitar, a plucky bass, and an increasingly thunderous drum bit.

I feel a certain kinship to other creatives, whether or not I’ve met them before and whether or not we work in the same discipline. Obviously, when I read a book I love, I’m bursting at the seams with questions about the author’s process. The choices they made, their justification for those decisions, what their process is. I don’t wonder these things for my own creative benefit, but because I’m naturally curious.

Creativity has so many different avenues, paths to success (success in this context being nothing more than the completion of a project), so many different ways to say the same things, say different things, say things we never knew we needed to hear. Humanity’s capacity to see the beauty and the horror of life, to present them in ways beyond what’s on the surface, to gather comfort or anguish or both at the result…it’s honestly the only thing about being a human that I truly love.

One of the most inspirational figures to me is Lin-Manuel Miranda. Not because I want to write a musical or have some deep-rooted desire to tell the life story of a forgotten historical figure; no, the inspiration I draw from Miranda has less to do with the content of his work — or even the avenue through which he chooses to create — and more to do with the seeming ease with which he jumps from one project to the next, how he seems to have perpetually-full reservoirs of creative energy that he’s always tapping into.

What is it about him that lets him do that? What can I learn from Miranda to help my own creativity?

One of the worst things about the American education system’s increasingly reliance on standardized testing and the like over the past two-plus decades is how much the arts have suffered as a result. I believe creativity, in all its forms, should be cultivated and encouraged at every turn. Instead, this society is increasingly squashing those creative notions, sacrificing them at the altar of test scores and aptitude in math, science, and technology. Worthy pursuits, all of them, but a) not everyone thrives at those subjects, and b) while those pursuits can answer the how’s of the world, they can’t answer the why’s.

Not the way the arts can.

Some will argue we need science, technology, engineering, and other such fields to survive. I’m sure that’s true — after all, the eventual cure for cancer will come about because of science. But literature, fine art, theatre and film — those are the pursuits that allow us, as a species, to truly live.

Creativity is not a waste of time or intellect. It is, I argue, essential for our growth and survival as a species. Creativity offers us a window to the world in which we live, revealing answers and truths we won’t get from a microscope or a complex equation or even the most accurate history book.

We are all creative, in one way or another, and I believe humanity is as its best when that creativity is embraced.

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

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