We revere creativity in our culture. We praise children for having vast imaginations and we reward adults who craft the best art and entertainment.
But there is a dark side to creativity. Creativity is essentially the rejection of the truth. Of what is in the world vs. some vision of a different world.
I understand why: creativity is something that—while not completely unique to humans—certainly puts us in the rarefied space of very few creatures on this planet.
Creativity is a tool, and like all tools in a toolbox, there are situations for which they work great, and there are situations for which another tool is far more appropriate.
There is value in being anticreative. To be able to embrace the truth of the world regardless of how unpleasant, painful, or undesirable is a real skill. We are so good at creativity, we can wield it without awareness (e.g. The Elephant in the Brain).
Anticreativity—seeing the world as it is with no judgment of right and wrong—is a key concept in Buddhism called Tathātā. I was reflecting recently on the fact that Buddhists are not known for their art (unless it is a reflection of nature), creative writing, acting, or other forms of making things up. Their daily practice is to know the mind’s tendency to want to create what is not there and to gently guide attention to what is.
I searched the web and even asked ChatGPT* about anticreativity, and it is all framed negatively. That’s a big problem. Until we can see the value of both creativity and anticreativity—the yin and yang where both are interconnected and necessary—we will continue to struggle with our collective suffering.
* The term “anticreativity” is not a widely used term or an established concept. However, if we were to interpret it literally, “anticreativity” could be understood as the opposite of creativity, i.e., the absence or suppression of creative thinking and innovative ideas.
In such a context, “anticreativity” would refer to a state of mind or a set of behaviors that hinder or prevent the emergence of original, novel, or valuable ideas. This could include a lack of openness to new perspectives or ideas, rigid adherence to traditional ways of thinking or doing things, fear of taking risks or making mistakes, or a general resistance to change and innovation.
It is important to note that creativity and innovation are complex and multifaceted phenomena that are influenced by various internal and external factors, including individual traits, environmental factors, and socio-cultural contexts. Therefore, the concept of “anticreativity” should be taken with caution and analyzed within specific contexts and frameworks.