According to this article in Slate, a wave of critics are asserting there never was any such thing as creativity, genius or innovation, and that everything new is merely a recreation of what came before. As a person who’s always stood behind the ‘nothing new under the sun’ concept, this sounds appealing to me. I know for myself, when creating a new piece of fiction, that I would never be able to do it without having read other people’s fiction first (if only to learn what not to do, but more often to discover what worked in other contexts). Does this make me hopelessly derivative? Should I only be declared a ‘genius’ if all my ideas about writing appeared out of nowhere, unannounced, in my head?
But in reality, I think creativity lies somewhere in between the extremes of ‘thought up the idea completely on my own’ and ‘my idea isn’t new because it owes so much to everyone who came before me.’ Because when you look at the world today, it obviously isn’t the same world as when the writer of Ecclesiastes lived, or when Homer lived, or whoever. I think the essence of creativity is to take what isn’t new, and combine them in fresh ways.
So is there hope I will someday be declared a genius? Personally, I don’t feel like a fountain of genius, but I still have this urge to recombine, re-imagine, and recreate what I see in the world around me. It’s something I can’t stop doing, whether that would qualify as ‘genius’ or ‘hopelessly derivative.’ My only hope is that my perspective will someday bring some kind of fresh look to the same tired old world under the sun. And maybe that is creativity.