The Biography of an Idea ☆

| May 2, 2011

Have you every thought about how ideas are formed or the process by which they are born? Edward Clapp, editor of 20 Under 40: Re-inventing the Arts and Arts Education for the 21st Century, has done just that.

I was able to sit in on Clapp’s Salon at the Symposium on Friday afternoon as he presented his theory that the concept of an idea is a continuum. He puts the chronology of creativity on this continuum, starting with an input period, followed by an active period, and finally an output period.

Clapp described the idea of a “crisis of creativity” – when time is “pregnant for change,” or change is ripe to happen. This period happens in between the input period and the active period, when change then takes place.

Jacques Lacan

Perhaps the most novel idea Clapp proffered was the concept that creativity is a form of sadness. To explain, Clapp referenced 20th century French philosopher Jacques Lacan and his pleasure principal, or jouissance. The idea is that desire and pleasure are not in achieving a goal, but in pursuing it; it’s not about attaining that height, but approaching it. As you work toward a goal and see it in the distance, you experience pleasure, or  jouissance.

But once it’s achieved, there is nothing left to reach for, the pleasure of pursuit is over. Thus, you are never satisfied, always hungry to do the next thing. For creative people who always have new ideas to follow, new creative pursuits baiting them, they will find themselves perpetually in a state of insatiability, or sadness.

Do you agree? What are your thoughts on this idea of creativity and insatiability?