THE BLOG
11/18/2014 01:05 pm ET Updated Jan 16, 2015

A Purveyor of Truth (Part 3)

Creativity is a quality we know but can rarely ever define. We know it when we see it. When it's apparent, we take joy in it. And when it's absent, we often cringe. Today, people in many fields of study are attempting to gain a better understanding of what constitutes creativity. More importantly, people are trying to understand how creativity develops.

In the last two pieces, Dostoevsky and his creative genius were discussed. This is just one particular brand of creative force. We can think of creativity in many ways; from the practical ability to solve a puzzle; to the masterwork of a painter; to the inspiring, sleek technology we see around us; and in line with the last two pieces, the genius of fiction.

Yet we must remember the genius we witness in pleasurable creativity (as opposed to functional creativity, like with technology) is not one we have always needed. It lifts our spirits and adds to our psychological complexity more than our bulging wallets.

Perhaps here we see the first problem with creativity in today's world. There was once space for artists and authors to flourish; from the Medici family of Italy supporting the great Renaissance painters and sculptors, to the world Dostoevsky himself lived in, where writers were revered, and in many ways supported by patrons (if not also from a burgeoning publishing industry).

Yes, there is an issue with money. If the consumer doesn't care about artistry, and patrons are no longer willing to give their support or outlet for creativity, these art forms will be further marginalized. And sadly, the impetus for producing great art is naturally lower if an artist can't make money. This is the reality face; the music, art, and writing industries seem to be suffering under the lackluster support of the general audience.

The source of this lackluster support is in many ways psychological. Our patience has declined--the kind of patience that allows people to wait, observe, and truly appreciate something that takes time to culminate, to reach a climax. Something that makes us fundamentally question our lives: its beauty, its ugliness, and everything in-between.

This idea however, is increasingly irrelevant. Fifteen minutes of fame has turned into fifteen seconds. What is at once imminently important in today's culture quickly becomes obscure, then meaningless. Have we merely become too focused on material wealth, and not social wealth, to allow creativity to flourish? It seems more likely there are mutual, cyclical forces at work; art today is made for the moment, and not to represent something greater. And in turn, our expectations decrease, and our hesitation to become attached to these popular forms of art increase. Most importantly, our motivations to create meaningful art become nonexistent.

Dostoevsky was certainly a product of his time, insofar as his motivation to produce great art, and his opportunities to do so. But true creativity should not be contingent on a period of time. The expressive outlet existed, and because of that, he was able to turn his tragedies into beautiful artwork. Those struggles expressed in pieces like The Brothers Karamazov still resonate because they transcend the period in which he wrote them.

Yes, the artist possessed patience and creativity, but so did the consumers. This is the paradigm of great art; it requires both creator and audience to gain legitimacy. Perhaps instead of looking at why we're experiencing a dearth in creative producers, we should look at the lack of creative consumers. There's no simple answer on how to do this. But artists must begin somewhere. Just as Dostoevsky revered Gogol, the next wave of great creative must have idols. Otherwise, we will lack the context to become creative ourselves.