First, the title, Spark: How Creativity Works, is misleading. This is not a how-to-guide on becoming an artist or even becoming creative. This is essentially a greatest hits print edition of the radio program, Studio 360. Written by Julie Burstein, the former executive producer of the show, the book provides insight to the inspiration that sparked works of art.
But is inspiration different than creativity? This question caused much discussion at the lunchroom table today. At first, I thought this was going to be a chicken-egg topic: Does inspiration spark creativity or is it the other way around? What we came up with was something different.
Creativity is something you have or you do not. I cannot hit a ball out of Citizen Bank’s ballark, perhaps I could with a whole lot of training. A whole lot. And maybe there’s some of that with creativity. People are creative in many different ways.
Inspiration is the spark. In one chapter of the book, poet Donald Hall talks about how his wife’s illness and death sparked a series of poems to help him deal with the grief. Artist Chuck Close was inspired to paint portraits by critic Clement Greenberg who said “The only thing an artist can’t do today [is] paint a portrait.”
But inspiration isn’t how creativity works and the book’s title does not follow through with its promise. However, it does offer brief glimpses into how some works came about. And the chapter on Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi was fascinating.