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Debunking the Myth About the Creative Process

MozartThere is a very interesting article I read recently called “The Creativity Myth” – Creativity is not what we think it is. I heartily encourage you to read the article in its entirety but if you don’t have the time, here’s the gist of it (with some extrapolation of  my own)…

We have a romantic idea about genius and creativity like it is some magical power only certain people wield. Myths about geniuses like Mozart perpetuate that idea because we have been led to believe that his musical masterpieces come to him in a flash of inspiration. He would hear the entire composition in his head – just like that – and all he would have to do is write it down. We cling to this idea because it gives us an excuse for not attempting to emulate his genius – what would be the point when he was so far beyond anything we could ever hope to achieve?

Such myths must be debunked and exposed for the lie that it is because it works against the nature of the true creative spirit – the one where you actually have to put in the work before reaping the results. And yes, even Mozart had to work for his genius. There is no denying that Mozart was “exceptionally talented, but he did not write by magic. He sketched his compositions, revised them, and sometimes got stuck. He could not work without a piano or harpsichord. He would set work aside and return to it later. He considered theory and craft while writing, and he thought a lot about rhythm, melody, and harmony. Even though his talent and a lifetime of practice made him fast and fluent, his work was exactly that: work. Masterpieces did not come to him complete in uninterrupted streams of imagination, nor without an instrument, nor did he write them down whole and unchanged.”

In Psychology Today, there is a terrific explanation on how we fall prey to the Mozart Myth. We may work on a project with numerous ideas that we struggle with for months without really getting anywhere and then, in a stroke of insight, we discover a way to tie everything together and our masterpiece is complete. When asked about this amazing masterpiece that we have created, we may only recall the “aha!” moment when everything fell into place, but not the endless nights of struggling with the individual ideas.

The most powerful message we can take away from this about how the creative process works is best summed up in a quote I once stumbled upon:

“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” – Somerset Maugham

Or as Jack London put it so aptly:

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

You can hear more about the Creative Myth from David Burkus:

You can also read more about it here:

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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