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(I Can't Get No) Creativity

Posted by Chris Holman on Oct 31, 2010 11:05:00 AM


In a recent interview with Terry Gross, Keith Richards described how he composed the riff to “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”.

It was May 7, 1965 and the Stones were on their third U.S. tour. Awakening in the middle of the night in a motel room in Clearwater, Florida, a fuzzy-headed Keith Richards grabbed his tape recorder and guitar (which he always slept with) and recorded the opening hook to “Satisfaction”. The next morning when he replayed the tape and he heard a drowsy 30-second rendition of “Satisfaction”…followed by a ‘CLANG’…and 45 minutes of snoring. Three days later, the Stones took the song to the legendary Chess studios in Chicago and recorded the first version of their iconic song. Issued in the U.S. in June of 1965, “Satisfaction” stayed at the top of the charts for 4 weeks, and established the Rolling Stones as a worldwide premier act. Rolling Stone (the magazine) has selected “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” as the #2 greatest rock-and-roll song of all time.

In a way, this story is the more modern-day version of the Mozart Myth. The Mozart Myth goes something like this. Some people are born with creativity and talent so prodigious that it spills from their minds, as if by magic. Mozart is reputed to have composed his symphonies in one sitting, without revision, through a single burst of inspiration.

In a contra-example to the Mozart Myth, Beethoven exhibited a creative process that required extraordinary amounts of preparation and persistence. He would fill notebook-after-notebook with scribbling, musical dead-ends, and futile variations. For Beethoven, his stumbling trial-and-error method was his creative genius.

In the end, was his process any less creative than Mozart’s?

Either way, there is growing evidence in this country that our creativity as a nation is declining. Newsweek documented this in an article in their July 10, 2010 issue, “The Creativity Crisis.”

Corroborating this disturbing trend is Kyung Hee Kim, a professor of educational psychology at the College of William & Mary. Over the past number of years, she has tested 300,000 adults and children with the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, one of the better creativity tests. Since 1990, there has been alarming erosion in a number of creative characteristics, including:

  • the ability to produce a number of ideas,
  • reflective thinking,
  • motivation to be creative,
  • intellectual curiosity and open-mindedness.

According to Professor Kim, the possible explanations are numerous. One may point a finger at the excessive time our children tend to spend in front of televisions and computers, watching programs, and playing videogames, rather than engaging in creative activities such as playing outside or exploring the outside world. Another ready explanation for decreasing creativity among upper-grade elementary school children is the lack of creativity development and the stifling of children’s creative opportunities in classrooms.

For parents, Professor Kim proposes a number of ideas that, in her view, would boost and preserve creativity, including:

  • Focus on ideas,
  • Raise non –conformists,
  • Be playful,
  • Be less protective,
  • Foster independence,
  • Give time alone,
  • Travel.

In the words of Albert Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

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Topics: Innovation