How do we value creativity?
Creativity is a funny thing. For most of us, being creative in some way—keeping in mind that creativity can take many forms—is essential to achieving quality of life. Creativity is so inherent to humanity; it’s a compulsion, something which both energises and exhausts us. In short, the need to create is powerful.
In an episode of the podcast Inside Voices, host Kevin T. Porter speaks to Hrishikesh Hirway about what value creativity holds for him. Hirway, who is first and foremost a musician and composer, also hosts a podcast of his own: the highly successful Song Exploder, in which he ‘interviews’ other musicians and composers, including the likes of Solange, Metallica, Lorde, and U2, and invites them to de-construct an individual song in their repertoire. I say ‘interviews’, because unlike many podcasts, Hirway’s voice is mostly absent, as he effectively defers to the musicians to speak their piece. It is this convention that has made the podcast so successful, because by choosing to all but subtract himself from the equation, Hirway provides audiences with a direct, almost one-on-one connection with the musician.
But therein lies the tension. Being ‘a creative’ himself, Hirway explains the difficulties of helming a podcast about other people’s properties, where he functions largely as a shepherd of others’ creative works. Indeed, Hirway acknowledges that Song Exploder has become more objectively successful than his own music ever did or likely ever will, and this displacement of identity, Hirway says, is something he is still grappling with.
This begs the question: what sort of value do we ascribe to creativity? Is creativity only warranted when it results in success of some kind? Or, is creativity for creativity’s sake all that’s important?
To emphasise an earlier point, perhaps it all comes back to creativity being a human need, rather than a want. We might want success (however we choose to define it), but creativity need not be obsolete without it. Hirway acknowledges that, for much of his life, he felt as though creativity without genius was worthless. Eventually, though, his insecurity was overtaken by the sincere longing to return to what brought him an instinctual and overwhelming joy: the creative process.
Perhaps the true value of creativity, then, lies in its absence: it’s the ‘not doing’ that reminds us of why we felt so compelled to begin in the first place. Whatever creativity produces or whatever success it yields is secondary; surpassed by the simple desire to just do. Maybe that’s enough.