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Myths of the mad genius to be debunked by UVic panel

03/03/2015 02:51 EST | Updated 05/03/2015 05:59 EDT
The world of artists and geniuses is often surrounded by stereotypes, and a group of experts from the University of Victoria want to debunk some of those misconceptions at a panel discussion on Tuesday.

"There are so many different kind of ideas and myths about what makes a creative person or a creative act," said Kevin Kerr, an associate professor at UVic's Department of Writing, in an interview with All Points West.

"You have to be a tortured artist to make anything, you have to be somewhat dysfunctional, or that a work of art appears fully materialized into a person's mind and they just have to try and transcribe that."

The panel discussion, "The Mythology of the mad genius: Five myths about creativity" is part of IdeaFest, an annual event that features UVic thinkers, innovators and artists who explore ideas to change the world.

Here are some of what Kerr says are common misconceptions about creativity:  

Myth 1: Originality is the same as creativity

Kerr considers Shakespeare a genius, yet he claims that of the roughly 40 plays that the bard wrote, only one of them was an original story.

"Everything else were existing tales, previously existing plays, poems, narratives that were passed down, legends or just historical figures that he read about," he said. "His genius was how to take those existing ideas, those familiar tales, and bring a new truth to them ... in a way that was so theatrical and human."

Myth 2: Artists are hit with thunderbolts of inspiration

The moments when ideas strike like lightning are actually few and far between, said Kerr.

"There's often great moments when you sort of surprise yourself and things happen," he said. "But the only way to really consistently make things happen is to just force yourself to … sit at the computer or pick up the instrument or pick up the paintbrush and actually hack at it and work through that mortal dread that you fear of failure."  
 

Myth 3: Creativity requires perfection

"(There is) the notion that if it's going to be a creative act, it has to be perfect," Kerr said. "I think there's a lot of room for flaw in our creations that makes things sometimes more special, more magical."

"The Mythology of the mad genius: Five myths about creativity" will take place at 4 p.m. PT on Tuesday at the University of Victoria.

To hear the full interview with Kevin Kerr, click on the audio labelled: Debunking the myths of the creative genius

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