Does Self-Expression Equal Creativity?

Krista from the Daily Post titled this week’s photo challenge “Express Yourself.”

tiny shells on horseshoe crab

tiny shells on horseshoe crab

Self-expression comes in a number of ways: expressing one’s feelings (emotional self-expression); expressing our creative impulses through writing, painting, sculpting, photographing, knitting, dancing, or skate-boarding (artistic self-expression); expressing our thoughts (intellectual self-expression), expressing our connection with Nature and the Divine (spiritual self-expression). If we are daring enough, we can express ourselves in virtually any arena: in politics, business, education, child rearing, even customer service.

bird in cross-currents

bird in cross-currents

Self-expression may or may not be creative; but the two can go hand in hand. Creativity implies the creation of something novel that hasn’t been seen or experienced before. After writing a creative essay on a particular emotion, I may discover that others share similar feelings – so there’s nothing novel or creative about the feeling itself. But the manner in which I express a common feeling can be creative – the selection of words, the metaphors, the sequencing of my experience.

plastic bag and debris

plastic bag and debris

A friend told me recently that the preferred subject matter for my photography (nature) is challenging because everything has been photographed already. That may be true, but is there not a chance that my eye is drawn to an angle, or a color, or a shape that only I can see in my surroundings? Or could I not creatively turn a photo that someone else could have taken into a piece of art through some creative processing that adds a new dimension?

shell in shimmering sand

shell in shimmering sand

Then there are those who insist that everything is already known, that there are no more new ideas, feelings, or experiences that humans haven’t already had before us. It’s all been done before. I do believe that humans have felt the broad spectrum and subtlest nuances of any kind of feeling we could possibly name. So maybe there are no new feelings to experience?

marshland

marshland


But what about thoughts? Is it not possible that the many new inventions and various compositions of populations and modern experiences bring about new scenarios that humankind never had to face before? Wouldn’t that require new ways of thinking? Or do the same principles of thought hold up despite brand new situations never encountered before?

I came across a chapter on creativity in Robert Nozick’s book “The Examined Life.” He introduced the idea that creativity goes beyond the creation of something novel in that the creative process involves the expression and processing of our own unique self.

“The process of shaping and crafting an artistic work has, as an important part of its impulse, the reshaping and integration of parts of the self. Important and needed work in the self is modeled in the process of artistic creation, and symbolized there…  The artist herself can represent in her audience’s mind a way and possibility of articulating and transforming a life and self.
“Creating itself is important, not simply the new and novel product, I conjecture, because the personal meaning of such creative activity is self-transformation in the fullest sense, transformation of the self and also transformation by the self. The process of artistic creation stands for our own autonomous recuperative and transformative powers….[T]he artistic product represents a more whole self we can get to under our own powers of enlargement and repair.” (p.39)

Wow, that is quite a mouthful, coming from a loquacious philosopher.

heart shaped shell

heart shaped shell

What this means to me is that the creative process is mediated through what we need to express and complete within ourselves. While there may be considerable overlap in our life experiences, we are as unique as our fingerprints. And so is our self-expression, especially when it is generated from an authentic and deeply experienced place within ourselves.

man at water's edge

man at water’s edge

This post was co-created by the flotsam and debris and comings and goings along the beaches and marshes of Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

About Beauty Along the Road

My name is Annette. I am passionate about nature, health, simplicity, self-reliance, truth, and life-long learning. Originally from Germany, I now live in Virginia, USA. I am a therapist, health coach, writer, photographer, and organic gardener.
This entry was posted in Artistic Inspiration, Weekly Photo Challenge and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Does Self-Expression Equal Creativity?

  1. Tish Farrell says:

    The heart shaped shell and final triptych are captivating, Annette. They illustrate both your self-expression and your creativity. From a writer’s perspective it is said that every story has already been told. In the visual domain it could be said we are overloaded with images and have indeed seen everything. But showing people the world from a fresh angle, arresting their perhaps jaded senses, opening their inner eyes – all this is art, isn’t it. Lovely post.

    Like

    • I loved finding that large, heart shaped shell with the mollusk still inside. The hidden life inside blowing tiny bubbles seemed so perfect for a discussion of the creative inner spark. I agree with you about the fresh angle – we are all striving for that in a flooded world where we have access to everything we could possibly think of.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Veracious Poet says:

    I think creativity usually emanates from self expression. But what audiences will call creative is subjective. Considering the various types of self expression you spoke about, I think there is a single source and that is the passions or emotions which is responsible for the artist’s sensitivity. In other words, the creative world is like a tree – different branches growing out of one stem.

    We must also bear in mind that there are born artists or creatives, for whom creativity, no doubt, equals self expression and there are trained artists who follow formulas and come out with creative works with very little of their emotions in it. So yes, there is always some self expression in creativity but self expression is not equal to creativity. True creativity or novelty is at the extreme higher end.

    I am not sure this answers your question though.

    Like

    • Dear V.Poet – thank you for expanding the discussion. I also think that there is a “single source” for true creativity, some deep place where we link up with our Higher Self. And, yet, the expression of what we experience there is utterly unique to each individual.
      As far as ‘born’ artists – even they can use some refining and channeling of their talents to bring them to their highest expression. However, artists who follow formulas are probably highly motivated by the income they can/must generate from their art, or else, really lack true creativity (or must suppress it in order to appeal to their markets). It’s a fascinating topic, isn’t it?!
      Thanks for your thoughtful input.

      Like

  3. I truly enjoyed this post. It’s not the camera, but the eye of the photographer that creates. It’s not the medium, but the vision of the artist that creates.

    Like

  4. I do firmly believe that “there is nothing new under the sun” in terms of our emotions. But the question you raise about “thoughts” is a bit different, isn’t it? What an interesting mind you have, Annette. I always look forward to reading your thoughts and ruminations.

    Like

  5. Barneysday says:

    Great post, as usual. Those who believe its all been done before, or we’ve seen, or felt all there is, or that there is nothing new in nature, deny the wonder of the dawning day, the new age. They remind me of those who would have had the Patent Office closed in the late 1800’s, because everything that could be invented, had already been done.

    Like

  6. Very good things to ponder. I love how you tied-in the idea of new and fresh expression with your beautiful photos that clearly show a different perspective. I think each day brings new moments and new ways of seeing things. Sure, the phone was just a phone when it was first invented. Now look at what we are holding our hands and calling a phone. Certainly there are infinite ways to view nature and I’m so glad for that. Beautiful post as always!

    Like

  7. dogear6 says:

    I enjoyed the discussion that your photo subject matter is challenging because everything’s been taken already. That’s true of everything – writing, music, dance, etc. etc. But fresh interpretations, different viewpoints, and bringing them to life at a different point in time makes it all fresh again. I’m glad you pushed back (in your mind) and sorted out how we each see things uniquely.

    I loved the quote by Robert Nozick. It was very appropriate. Is the book pretty dense to read? i.e., worth the effort?

    Nancy

    Like

    • Hi Nancy, I very much agree with you re: application to other venues of artistic expression. And, still, don’t we come across art work that seems brandnew, fresh, and takes our breath away?! Nozick’s book is dense reading, a highly intellectual philosopher. Some of his writing is a bit too academic, but still worth reading as he has many chapters on a wide range of topics.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. jpeggytaylor says:

    A fascinating post and I love the images you have chosen to illustrate it. For me, the human mind and its capacity for creativity is unique in each of us and we each interpret our experiences in a different way. I think that when we are creating or crafting something we are adding something of ourselves to the created piece and also developing or growing in ourselves as a result of the creative energy we have put into our creation.

    Like

  9. Thank you for sharing Annette. Sure “almost” everything has been photographed, which doesn’t mean to photograph it again. It is the photographers own soul connected with the subject, which leads to different interpretations of an image. There are different angles, different light conditions, different circumstances of the day, every moment taken is different, so no images are like another. Creativity reflects your self expression, therefore it is totally individual, and there is no judgment involved, how ever what creativity means to somebody else might not be creative another somebody else. Only the creator of it can be it’s own judge and that shouldn’t be either, because it is the moment of the creation.

    Like

  10. Nomzi Kumalo says:

    “We are as unique as our fingerprints” is precisely what was running through my head when I was reading your post. How many songs about love have ever been written? How many ways can a song be sung? How many ways can a song be heard? Ooh, you have just sparked a new poem out of me. Thank you so. Have a super weekend Annette.🙂

    Like

  11. jamborobyn says:

    Great post! I really love the images and it was interesting to read your perspective on creativity. Thank you.

    Like

  12. Aggie says:

    I can easily use creativity as a concept with which to judge myself harshly, because I “should” have created some significant unique contribution. I prefer the ethic your describe, where each person’s unique expression of self, like each snowflake, is valued… In the old days, when we lived in small communities, uniqueness was easier to achieve. Connected by the internet, similarities in creative thought have become more easily observable, perhaps evidencing our oneness. The most significant example of which I am aware is the concurrent invention of calculus by Newton and Leibniz.

    Like

    • To me, creativity is play. If creative energies are flowing, it’s enjoyable and satisfying. If they don’t flow, I’ll take a break and wait until they return. I suppose I’d have a less laid back attitude if my livelihood depended on creative production; then there’d be a lot more anxiety associated with the down times.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Katalina4 says:

    Photography generally is all over, done, it seems. So many photographers, so many photos…
    But it is still so very fun to keep looking for that something new…. 🙂

    Like

    • I suppose we could say the same for paintings…but it truly becomes an individual pursuit and expression when we use any artistic medium. I think the more we surrender to the process and enjoy it, the more likely that we generate something truly unique.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. MJF Images says:

    Great post. When I hear the “everything’s been done” argument, I think the person is expressing themselves, the push-pull of connecting with the experiences of others and our desire to carve our own pathway through life. The act of expression itself is enough for me, though I do feel you need to steer yourself away from copying others.

    Like

  15. Wonderful essay. Prose and images dovetail well. Thank you for a great morning!

    Like

  16. Patti Ross says:

    Very thoughtful and provocative! I love nature and thoughts about life and creativity. Your post merged all those things together. Beautiful. Thanks for visiting my blog as your visit led me back to you.

    Like

Let me know what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s