Let me put it this way. Creativity would be easier to define and learn if it was an exact science, like mathematics.
An exact science is knowledge systematised to the extent that you can predict and verify it through measurement, experiment and observation. For example, mathematics has specific elements which you can define (such as the numerals ‘0’ or ‘1’). It has finite and repeatable steps (like addition or multiplication) which allow you to create the same single answer, again and again. Thus, 1 + 1 will always equal 2. In chemistry – another exact science – two parts hydrogen plus one part oxygen is the eternal recipe for water.
While creativity isn’t an exact science, it has attributes which are ‘science-like.’ It has specific elements which you can define, like an idea. There are finite and repeatable steps, like the rules of a brainstorm. The difference – and the fun – lies in the fact creativity doesn’t create a single answer, but creates trillions of answers. I didn’t say they would all be good answers, but I’ll address the value of bad ideas in a moment.
Because creativity doesn’t fit the true qualities of an exact science, it’s more common referred to as an art, which means an innate knowledge – one that’s not learnt, or something you’re born (more commonly known as talent.) For those who are or are known as creative, coming up with lots of ideas is as natural as breathing.
So, neither true science nor true art, we can find good news in the fact there’s enough specific attributes of creativity which can be learnt, if the student is willing and able. You could learn the basic principles of creativity. You could practice the methodologies (as you would in a chemistry class). And, over time, you’d gradually improve. (Willing and able is important. If you have no interest in architecture for example, no one can teach you to become an architect.)
P.S. There’s an interesting story – probably a myth – that Picasso created Cubism (an art movement founded with Georges Braque about 1906) to rebuff a novice art collector. This man told Picasso that it was impossible for anyone to see two different perspectives at the same time. The genius of Picasso is that he created in Cubism the ability to see something from different angles: both the front and side of Dora Maar’s face.
You can do the same thing, see two perspectives at the same time. Hold up your right index finger at arm’s length, then close your left eye. You see one perspective. Still holding up your index finger and switching to your left eye with your right eye now closed, you will have a different perspective.
So what do you think? Is creativity an art? Or is it a science? Or perhaps something else?