Can creativity confound clarity?

Two of my favorite “C” concepts are creativity and clarity; and yet, I haven’t found these aspects of language and expression to always be in cahoots.

I want them to be.

Often it seems that creativity is a word applied when someone comes up with something interesting and “novel” but isn’t quite “ready” for others to be exposed to yet. “It’s creative” can be similar to saying, “it’s confusing.”

Somehow it appears that creativity has to be vetted by clarity. All the while, however, clarity does not need to be “truth,” but it needs to be, perhaps, “digestible,” “recognizable” and “receivable” to others. Some may, in my opinion, confound clarity with truth.

How can creativity be more clarifying? Well, it certainly works with analogies. Analogies help people recognize and “experience” information in a format that is receivable.

Creativity can be frustrating, because it’s often “divinely” inspired; yet, that doesn’t mean that others will receive it, so there’s an interpretation or conversion period, the editing process that makes the creativity more “clear,” readable.

Oftentimes I enjoy the original and raw form of art, but this is rarely popular. Most folks have to have an art education to “believe” that they understand art or context. It’s confusing to me because I grew up with art and contemplating art, and then received “some” education in both art-making and interpreting, and memorizing and writing about art.

But this isn’t art, to me.

To me, and maybe you?, Art is raw, art is unformed-becoming-formed. Art involves risk.

Art is process and not product.

And yet. Societally, we reinforce “polishing” and “perfecting” creativity as though it is more true, when maybe it is clearer. I do not see clarity as being equal with truth.

What are your thoughts?

16 thoughts on “Can creativity confound clarity?

  1. Lots of wonderful threads here, Ka! For me there can be a challenge for sure in bringing together creativity and clarity–depending on how those words are defined and how the attempt is made to join them. One of the joys of creativity for me personally, for instance, is that it seems to require my being unclear in the process of it. It involves an encounter with the unknown, a willingness to be confounded even as I am inspired somehow. What results is often enriching to me, and occasionally to others.

    I wouldn’t say that the overall process of creativity lacks clarity, however! I mean, even as I am mired in uncertainty of what exactly is happening, and dipping my bucket back down into the well of inspiration, I’m clear on what I’m doing in a sense. And often through this process I emerge with a fresh clarity about something I hadn’t previously considered or understood.

    Clarity feels like it is important for setting things into motion–for having a direction or a vision even. And then creativity feels like this hands-in-the-dirt, building up and tearing down, tacking things on the side and then placing potted flowers in the sun and rearranging them until my heart sings kind of thing. I could never be creative without clarity, and I could never be clear without having allowed myself to be uncertain at times. In a sense, clarity for me is that umbilical perpetually attached to the heart, and with that sustenance in place, then we are free to explore the creative kingdoms that beckon us…


    1. I enjoy reading through and considering your thoughts here in reply, Michael. I feel like you added a few threads 🧵 and there’s also the way that you deliver your own relationship and meaning with these words. I am prone to agree with you, especially when you say “clarity feels like it is important for setting things into motion,” and especially relate to one of your joys, “…it seems to require my being unclear in the process of it.” I like the way you looked at the question that I posed and demonstrated how you see the “cahoots.” I also feel like I was uncovering some new truths for myself in this examination of this relationship between clarity and creativity (and confusion). The emphasis for me on this piece is on process and discovery, while asking the question that is emerging, in a way, when is a piece of work actually finished? Any why should any of us stop at any point along the way without asking questions that can bring us into more awareness and create clarity (or reveal it). Lots of this has to do with the way we define terms but I don’t think all of it does, as we are discovering and exploring together. Thank you for sharing your response 🙂

  2. This is a very interesting and thought-provoking post Ka. I agree with you in the perspectives you bring here – I hadn’t really thought of the 2 in relation to each other. I think creativity is the attempt to express any clarity we perceive or are attempting to achieve. I also agree that to appreciate raw art there needs to be a deeper wisdom accessible or the an open mind that can be educated in the direction. I enjoyed the thought-process and the space your post created in me.

    1. Thank you for your interest, Pragalbha! I also so much appreciate reading your thoughts and enjoy how you relate to clarity and creativity in your own ways, and where we overlap. I’m so glad that this written piece created space within you; that’s really lovely. Thank you for exploring with me!

  3. I haven’t had much formal training in art, but I do love it. I’ve been saying for years that I want my art to be more abstract and now, I think, more raw, is part of what I mean by that. I know I have a tendency to want to polish and/or add detail. Sometimes I think I overwork (like thinking too much. 🙂 ) But I still love art.

    1. Hi JoAnna, your artwork is gorgeous! I love the flow of your brushstrokes and the sense of movement and elegance I get from your paintings. I hear you in wanting to be more abstract. I think sometimes this mirrors our way of wanting to investigate “within” and without attachment to defining form/s, externally. Details can be amazing and wonderful, and fun!

      Yes, most of us do art to get out of our heads but then again, it’s also part of it. I think also we spend time “unlearning” in our education after the foundations are laid, anyways. I remember having started drawing figures before I was educated and having a hard time unlearning what I once taught myself, or unlearning how to move around an object, defining it, the negative space, deconstructing, and learning how to see.

      I think we, as artists, professional, learned, or none of the above, are always looking to “see” in a new way that transforms us as the observer, so that we can see more clearly, or as explored in my photography classes years ago, make decisions about what we want to transform or interpret (enhance) subjectively, and carefully craft that expression. Thank you for your response!

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