Sep 16, 2014

And yet it’s worth holding creativity a little apart, and remembering where it comes from. Even if you’re being “creative” in our modern sense, the Romantic benefits of creativity can elude you, because you haven’t escaped the rhythm of newness, of production, of “creation,” that our contemporary idea of creativity values so highly. Among the many things we lost when we abandoned the Romantic idea of creativity, the most valuable may have been the idea of creativity’s stillness. If you’re really creative, really imaginative, you don’t have to make things. You just have to live, observe, think, and feel. Coleridge, in his poem “Frost at Midnight,” uses, as his metaphor for the creative imagination, the frost, which freezes the evening dew into icicles “quietly shining up at the quiet moon.” The poem begins: “The Frost performs its secret ministry, / Unhelped by any wind.” The secret, silent, delicate, and temporary work of the frost is creativity, too. It doesn’t build, but it transforms. It doesn’t last, but it matters.