Quotations from Howard Gruber

From "Breakaway Minds"

"[My own method is] "to start with an individual whose creativity is beyond dispute . . . [a]nd then . . . to map, as carefully as I can, what is going on in that person's mind over a period in which creative breakthroughs were occurring" (BM 69).

"I proceeded like an explorer in a new territory, reading the notebooks [of Darwin] through, over and over again, figuring out what he was focussing on, what his cryptic notes meant, trying to recreate his thought processes from one day to the next. I tried to freeze the current of his thinking at crucial points. One discovery I made was how long it takes to think through a new idea." (BM 69)

"Piaget, working with children, found that the growth of their ideas is a process spread over years. Now that we are learning about adult creative work in this new way, we can compare two radically different development processes that have some important points in common. Each will illuminate the other." (BM 70) 

"[T]o be creative you need to know a lot and cultivate special skills" (BM 71). 

"Creative people have a network of enterprises. They become the sort of people who can easily handle seemingly different but intimately related activities. They become highly skilled jugglers." (BM 71) 

"Being creative means striking out in new directions and not accepting ready-made relationships, which take stamina and a willingness to be alone for a while" (BM 72) 

"Creative people must use their skills to devise environments that foster their work. They must invent new peer groups appropriate to their projects." (BM 72) 

"Creative people love their work." (BM 72) 

From "From Epistemic Subject to Unique Creative Person at Work" 


"[A chief motive of the case study method is] the desire to recontextualize the process of thought; rather than isolating it, to see it in a whole person working under real historical circumstances." (FES 169) 

"To see the creative thinker in full historical context is a large undertaking, requiring the knowledge and skills of historian, anthropologist, sociologist, and literary critic. Faced with such a task, one is tempted to retreat to the laboratory." (FES 169) 

"We escape from the laboratory of N = 30, N = 60, etc., into the case study, where N = 1, because we believe that the individual is worth knowing." (FES 170) 

"Averaging across subjects blurs our view of exactly that which we want to study. Think of Galton's composite photographs made by superimposing many portraits to produce the 'average' of their faces. Such a face is empty and characterless. We can see at a glance, in the averaged faces Galton invented, that the creative individual has been lost." (FES 170) 

"The question of novelty--a question introduced via Piaget's genetic epistemology--is central. How is it that certain individuals have devoted their lives or large portions of their lives to the construction of novelty?" (FES 171) 

"Creative works are constructed over long periods of time." (FES 171-72) 

"It is absolutely scandalous that people with concerns for epistemology have paid so little attention to the aesthetic side of science." (FES 173) 

"Poincare . . . speaks of himself as having a filter that operates unconsciously; all sorts of crazy, ugly ideas may be produced in the unconscious but only the beautiful ones come to the surface where they can be grasped and operated upon. . . ." (FES 173)

"We are not speaking about a set of properties that a person has in a certain moment and carries around with him. Whether or not some people have such properties is a mystery that is yet unsolved. I doubt it very much. But we do know that there are some people who do commit themselves to lives of creative work, among them are some who succeed. And it behoves us to study those cases, perhaps first or at least early in the process of trying to understand creative work. The question is really not 'ivity' of it--the propetry list--but how people go about doing it when they do it." (FES 175) 

"We are not talking about a recycling process that has been honed, sharpened, and defined in the process of social and biological evolution, the way embryological development repeats itself so beautifully and precisely in each member of the species. We are not talking about species typical behavior. Rather, we are talking about the maximum of which members of the species are capable. To examine creative work with the conceptual tools of genetic epistemology, we must re-work our thoughts so that we think of the species typical as a special case of the possible." (FES 175) 

"When someone gets angry, all his ideas don't change; or when he gets hopeful, properly hopeful or falsely, his ideas remain approximately the same. The whole system of his ideas may take on a different emotional colour, but there are important structural elements that remain the same across affective transformations." (FES 176)

"When I began this work I was what you call a monolithicist, both in science and in the arts I liked: things that stood out all by themselve, single, simple pieces of work. I liked the idea of one great ruling metaphor, and the idea of one great insight that transforms a life. The aesthetics of simplicity attracted me. It still does, in some little boy part of my mind. But when you study a creative person at work, what you see over and over again is plurality: many metaphors, many insights, many influences operating on the person, many enterprises." (FES 176-77)

"What we will find, I think, is not some little component part here and there, like this person has photographic memory or some terrific inborn ability that nobody else has, but a different organization of the system, an organization that was constructed by the person himself in the course of his life, in the course of his work, as needed in order to meet the tasks that he encountered and that he set himself." (FES 177) 

"Each creative person is unique in a unique way." (FES 177) 

"To place the person in history, to describe his ensemble of metaphors, to pay close attention to his system of categories and to changes in his units of analysis, to see each activity as part of his network of enterprises, to search out and examine those very special skills that the particular creative person may have, and to try to understand his special point of view." (FES 178) 

"The main question isn't exactly how they solve their problems, but where the problems come from." (FES 178)

"It takes inner strength and self-confidence to adopt a novel point of view." (FES 182)

From "Inching Our Way Up Mount Olympus" 


"Insights, like lightning strokes, represent not a break with the past but the steady functioning of the creative system at work." (IOW 244) 

"each moment of insight has its own internal structure, its affective and cognitive microgenesis." (IOW 244) 

"The fact that [creativity] is a process in time means that the creative person has some measure of control over it; as it develops, one can welcome or reject it, shape and steer it. Finally, sudden moments of sharp insight must take their place within the complex, evolving system that is the creative person at work." (IOW 244) 

"almost all creative products result from long periods of purposeful work." (IOW 244) 

"The case study method . . . is quite distinct from psychoanalytically oriented psychobiography. Such studies have emphasized the underlying motives of the creative person, their childhood origins, and their neurotic character. Our focus of attention has been on how creative people do their work, rather than on why, and on the developmental process within the career, rather than on that leading up to it." (IOW 248)

"We are far from denying the importance of unconscious processes. We nevertheless see them as occuring in a person struggling and often succeeding in taking command of them to make them serve the interests of consciously and freely chosen enterprises." (IOW 248) 

"There is probably a place for a special term such as 'image of wide scope,' distinct from metaphor, to refer to the potential vehicle of a metaphor that has not yet been formulated or to refer to supple schematization (such as 'network') that might enter into a number of metaphors" (IOW 256) 

"Metaphors do not function in isolation from each other, but in articulated ensembles, each metaphor having its special role in the complex whole constituting the creative work. Each member of an ensemble of metaphors is not so much a sharply defined individual as a family of metaphors, different parts of which become sal-ient at different stages in the development of the work." (IOW 260 

"Perhaps the single most reliable finding in our studies is that creative work takes a long time. With all due apologies to thunderbolts, creative work is not a matter of milliseconds, minutes, or even hours--but of months, years, and decades. The question then arises: What goes on in this time? Why does it take so long?" (IOW 265) 

"The fact that creative work is difficult and therefore spread out over months and years has consequences for the organization of purpose. In order to make grand goals attainable, the creator must invent and pursue subgoals. Delays, tangents, and false starts are almost inevitable. The creative person must therefore have some approach to managing the work so that these inconclusive moves become fruitful and enriching, and at the same time so that a sense of direction is maintained. Without such a sense of direction, the would-be creator may produce a number of fine strokes, but they will not accumulate toward a great work." (IOW 265) 

From "On the Relation Between 'Aha Experiences' and the Construction of Ideas"


"It has been said that creativity requires one or more of the 'three Bs'--the bath, the bed, or the bus." (ORA 41) 

"In the heat of the moment, small advances feel great, and ones that turn out to be crucial slip in quietly." (ORA 43) 

"We know almost nothing about the microgenesis of scientific thinking." (ORA 43) 

"It is reasonably clear that meanings do not occur 'instanteously,' and there is, consequently, time for the thinking person to manoeuvre, to steer his thoughts in desired directions and to avoid undesired ones. This proposal is not entirely speculative. There is by now a body of experimental literature suggesting that the rise of emotional response may precede the coming into conscious awareness of the contents to which the person is responding." (ORA 44) 

"The working individual divides his thoughts into moments, episodes, projects, and enterprises." (ORA 45) 

"Archimedes may have often seen and thought about the water displaced by his body. If at the moment in question he was in mid-course in constructing a new set of ideas and a solution to a new problem . . . then the sight of displacement would be assimilated or mapped into a different schema than before, and the act of assimilation would provoke new accommodations. Even the simple act of submerging an object in water has many subtleties. Which ones are picked out and exploited depends on where the thinker is at the time. We can accept Galileo's sophisticated caveat [that the story of Archimedes in the bathtub is "implausible"] without denying the import of the bath, so long as we remember that Archimedes was immersed in thought." (ORA 46) 

"Nor are the different modalities of thought separated by an unscalable wall. Thinking moves from one modality to another, from visual images to sketches, to words and equations explaining (that is, conveying the same meaning as) the visualizations. The thinker is pleased to discover that certain structures remain invariant under these transformations: these are his ideas. These transformations are essential to thought. Without them it would be closed in a solipsistic prison. Dialogue, both internal and external, is a ubiquitous part of the process." (ORA 49) 

From "Foreward" to Notebooks of the Mind


"a long and well-worked through apprenticeship is vital to the development of a creative life. Teachers and mentors may be imposed upon the young person, or sought out, or discovered in a lucky accident. They may be physically present or far away, living or dead models. But models and mentors there mus tbe, as well as the disciplined work necessary to profit from them." (FNM x) 

"the skills and languages of thought of the creative person [are] ways of being, permeating the life. But in addition the creative person possesses a set of 'invisible tools' which are matters of character--courage, discipline, openness to collaboration, ability to go it alone--without which the skills would come to naught. The key point is that creative aspiration must capture the whole life: thus it is that the skills, the languages, and the character are each indispensable." (FNM x) 

"In modern cognitive psychology a continuing battle rages between the proponents of propositional thought and those who favor imagistic thought, each side aiming to show that the other can be 'translated' out of existence. . . . [However], the fact one language of thought can be translated into another by no means devalues either one. Indeed this work of translation is a large part of the creative process." (FNM x, xxi) 

"each person must struggle to develop his or her own patterns of thought, and the movement from modality to modality is the central issue on which we should be focussing our attention, rather than the choice of one or another 'language of thought.'" (FNM xi)

"In 'One Word More,' Robert Browning wrote: 'Does he paint? he fain would write a poem./Does he write? he fain would paint a picture' These incessant dialectical movements--between process and product, person and society, one modality and another, intention and expression--are the core of the creative process. When you march music captures your feet, when you sing it captures your heart." (FNM xii)


From "Creative Thought: The Work of Purposeful Beings" 


"The idea of a purposefully creative individual seems to conjure up the old argument from Design. Fear of teleology has influenced various ways of dealing with the appearance of deliberate innovation. There have been two basic approaches, both of which have had as their theoretical function the elimination of the striving purposeful person who successfully carries out his creative aims. One approach externalizes and depersonalizes the creative process, attributing it entirely to the Zeitgeist or spirit of the age, objective circumstance or even contingencies. In this view, the individual's thought and action are nothing but direct reflections of factors in the controlling environment: the person is a vehicle and not an agent. 

The other approach drives the creative process entirely inward, desocializing it, and minimizing the role of conscious, disciplined effort. The creative thinker is a 'sleepwalker' who stumbles onto his best ideas in dreams or other unguarded moments. Underlying this approach is the premise that conscious thought is not free, that it runs in 'passionate grooves' dictated by the prevailing ideas of the day, and only unconscious mental activity is free enough of these constraints to permit creative work. Not all thoughts are free, only dreams." (CT 245-46) 

"The usual view of unconscious processes is that they express the way in which a person is divided against himself. But a person is not always so divided. When he bends all his efforts towards some great goal, the same problems which occupy his rational, waking thoughts will shape his imagery and pervade his dreams. 

In such cases the occurrence of useful dream work is a symptom of inner conflict but of unitary commitment of the whole person. Anyone who has ever had such an experience will remember the moment of welcoming, the waking joy of discovering what one has thought. Of course, for such products to become useful, they must be seized upon and reworked by the creative person, thoroughly awake and aware of what he is doing." (CT 246) 

"When we say that great insights come only to the prepared mind, we do not mean that the mind is prepared merely by steeping it in pre-digested knowledge. The way is made ready by active search and inquiry. The welcoming mind belongs to one who has prepared it by his own efforts, as a field in which new ideas can flower." (CT 246, 48) 

"a thought-process can be sub-divided into these two parts: the production of new ideas and the reorganization of ideas (both old and new) into new patterns." (CT 248) 

"We know very little as yet of the process by which a new idea is produced." (CT 248) 

"A new idea can be recurrently new in one brain in the special sense that the first time it occurred it was not incorporated in a stable structure and therefore on a later occasion it feels new; or in the sense that its recurrence marks the transformation of some larger system, which did not occur the first time. The recurrence of the same novelty in the realm of ideas would be analogous to the repeated occurence of the same mutation in the field of genetics. The immediate cause of the mutation may be some unknown, random event; its precise recurrence suggests to the geneticist that the mutation itself is one of a finite number of states than can be assumed by a given complex molecular structure." (CT 249) 

"We need an approach that would do justice to our image of the creative person as well organized, purposeful, aware of the manifold possibilities that exist in the world, and therefore free to choose among them. We need an approach that respects the kinship of mental processes with other living systems: variation and novelty are not chaotic or unrelated to the organism's past, but express the degrees of freedom characteristic of a particular organization as it stands at one moment in its history." (CT 249) 

"Every living organization has internal structure, so that the functioning of each of its separate parts influences the others and all function together as a more or less harmonious whole. This is what we mean by an organism. Each such living entity is dependent on its environment and yet independent of it, for each organism has stored within it the means of continuing to sustain itself and to preserve its organization under a range of circumstances. This stable organization is what we mean by the identity or integrity of an organism. The living world is therefore made up of such partially independent systems, each functioning according to its own internal laws of organization. From time to time, each organization comes into contact with and interacts with another system whose past history and present functioning are independent of its own. 

This is the crucial fact. When the paths of previously independent systems interact, the result is something new, not predictable from our knowledge of the special laws governing each system in isolation. . . . 

What can be said of the relation among organisms can also be said of the relation of organs within an organism. We should not need the concept of a distinct organ if the organism were composed of perfectly interdependent parts, like the gears of a clock. Each organ follows its own law, and while there must be of course contribute to the harmonious result we call life, the laws of one organ are not the laws of another." (CT 249-50) 

"Each of us is a storehouse of possibilities. The interactions among individuals are marked by the fact that each person, no matter how lawful his internal functioning may be, is an independent system. This gives rise to the unpredictable character of his encounters with others. 

Something similar can be said of the internal creative life of each person. . . . it permits the thinker to change his ideas in one domain without scrapping everything he believes. In this way, he can go on working purposefully on a broad range of subjects without the disruptive effects that would ensue if every new idea and every doubt immediately required a reorganization of the whole system of thought." (CT 251)] 

"The evolution of enduring purposes [in a creative person] partially decouples the individual from his environment. But he is not entirely free, only free to choose among possible things: attainable goals and feasible paths to reach. This was the meaning of the old idea that 'freedom is the recognition of necessity.'" (CT 252)

"For the creative person, carpe diem has a special meaning: since he is trying to something that has never been done before, he must look for the rare opportunity and then seize it. To recognize what is rare, one must have the kind of knowledge of the world that is gained only by moving about in it." (CT 252) 

"On the winding path from intention to achievement all sorts of propitious occasions arise: those for valuable observations, timely recollections, fortunate personal contacts, disturbing confrontations, and seminal encounters with ideas. In a way, the individual manufactures them through his own activities, and they emerge from a very dense network of personal experience. Only hindsight tells us that some of these experiences are more important than others. Some are publicly observable and recordable, but for the most part they are extremely fleeting and private." (CT 252-53) 

"notions that seemed too absurd to be written down, transient thoughts still too fleeting or awkward for written expression, taboo ideas that can expressed only when muted or transformed. And there is another sort of thinking that leaves very little trace, although it is not rejected or suppressed: the personal imagery ones uses to carry a thought along, the personal knowledge one gains of a situation only by actually being in it--seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling it. Doing, enjoying, remembering, imagining it. This is the fine-structure of experience, well night invisible except to the person himself." (CT 253) 

"we do not have a theory of thinking that can explain exactly why the acquisition of knowedge must be so private and personal, even when the desired end product is the public knowledge of science." (CT 253-54) 

"The personal knowledge packed into an abstract idea is put there by the growing person himself, through his own activities, assimilating what he can into existing structures and thereby strengthening them, occasionally noticing anomalies that require the revision of these structures to accommodate experiences that would otherwise not find a stable place." (CT 254) 

"[Darwin] realized that he did not absolutely have to solve certain problems in order to carry out his life's task. He turned aside from the problem of genetics long enough to write the Origin. . . . If he had not seen a way of treating variation and heredity as unexplained premises, he might never have thought out the theory of evolution through natural selection. But he could never have so treated them if he did not view his overarching task as being the construction of an evolutionary theory." (CT 254-55) 

"Among the inviting and forbidding array of unknowns at the frontiers of his own knowledge, [the creative person] must choose his life's work." (CT 255) 

"The theory of creativity as a few creative acts or sudden insights is one way of dealing with the problem of integrity: the person and his way of thought remain the same most of the time, until he has a great transforming insight. The theory of creativity as a growth process is a different way of preserving the integrity of the individual. From moment to moment, changes are small. Even when great changes occur, certain invariant schemas remain intact, so that the person and his way of thought are recognizably the same before and after the transformation." (CT 256) 

"[The work of a creative individual] is not carried on within the framework of a single paradigm. It is organized in a number of enterprises, forming an ensemble that expresses his unique purposes. Some of these enterprises may be shared or at least readily shareable with some of his concemporaries, others not. But the uniqueness of the single enterprise is not, in any case, the important point. The individual is always the unique host of a living network of enterprises. Consequently, any single enterprise has a different meaning for him than it has for others with whom he may share it. Darwin the pigeon fancier was not like the other pigeon fanciers with whom he consorted. For him, the selective breeding of pigeons was part of a grand plan to come as close as possible to an experimental attack on the evolutionary process." CT 257) 

"[Darwin] organized his life in order to construct a new point of view, one that would deal with adaptation in a changing world without any recourse to supernatural forces." (CT 257)

"In his explorations of the world, the individual finds out what needs doing. In his attempts to do some of it, he finds out what he can and what he cannot. He also comes to see what he need not do. From the intersection of these possibilities there emerges a new imperative, his sense of what he must do. How 'it needs' and 'I can' give birth to 'I must' remain engimatic." (CT 257) 

From "The Evolving Systems Approach to Creativity" 


"And the bush was not consumed" (Exodus) is a perfect metaphor of the life of a creative person (ESA 269) 

"A creative moment is part of a longer creative process, which in its turn is part of a creative life. How are such lives lived? How can I express the peculiar idea that such an individual must be a self-regenerating system? Not a system that comes to rest when it has done good work, but one that urges itself onward. And yet, nota runaway system that accelerates its activity to the point where it burns itself out in one great flash. The system regenerates the activity and the creativity regenerates the system. The creative life happens in a being who can continue to work." (ESA 269) 

"Our aim is not to explain how the person became creative." (ESA 270) 

"Our theoretical aim . . . is not to use the study of extraordinary creative processes to draw any conclusions about the general population, and vice versa." (ESA 275) 

"Our aim is not to make law-like generalizations about creativity, but to develop an evolving systems approach that will serve as a guide to the study of creative individuals." (ESA 276)

"the activities of the creative person are so organized that they mutually sustain each other and give rise to a creative life. To live such a life is, indeed, part of the intention of the creative person." (ESA 272) 

"The conservative assumption to make is that [creative individuals] know what they want to do and shape their lives accordingly. Any particular task undertaken must be viewed as part of the life, occuring in the context of the life. Context is not merely contemporary. Given a creature endowed both with memory and vision, the context of any single act is both retrospective and prospective." (ESA 272) 

"We know now that the mental life of every human being is full of fascinating constructive and imaginal activity. Piaget has shown it for children. An army of investigators have shown it for the seemingly quite passive processes of perception and memory. They are not passive at all. There is a kind of creativity-in-the-small that permeates the universe of intelligent life. 

But we know also that this creativity-in-the-small, being universal, is not sufficient to guarantee a creative life. Indeed, in many if not most lives, all this ingenuity is deployed by the person toward the aim of maintaining things as they are, rather than toward creating something new. All too often, successfully." (ESA 272) 

"this discussion will have done some good if it makes a few investigators warier of inductive leaps from college sophomores doing then minute paper and pencil tests to individuals who organize their whole lives for creative work." (ESA 274) 

"even if scientists investigating creativity could hold their own vlaues in suspension--which they cannot and should not--the creative person under scrutiny cannot and must not. As a creative worker, he must hold his aspiration level high, he must be able to step back from the work and judge it, he must have flexibility to judge it from different perspectives--those of the culture from which he springs, and those new ones that he is constructing." (ESA 274) 

"In the laboratory, the subject tells the experimenter what he is thinking while solving a problem; the experimenter records these words along with other behaviour. When a Darwin writes in his notebooks, he, too, is saying, 'I think . . .' a phrase which might be considered as prefacing everything he writes. But the subject's words are not taken as directly providing answers to our questions about the creative process. Such answers must result from the psychologist's effort at reconstruction, making use of the subject's words and actions, from analysis of the creative product itself, and other relevant information." (ESA 276) 

"the phenomenological approach begins by taking the subject's reports about himself as an invaluable point of departure. But we do not abandon critical judgment and reconsructive work. We have the double task of reconstructing events from the subject's point of view and then understanding them from our own." (ESA 277) 

"So far as data goes, there is often an embarrassment of riches. True, we cannot interview a dead subject, but notebooks and letters often provide answers to questions we might have asked. Historical distance in some ways makes imagination easier, and in some ways harder, insofar as the task is to see things from another's point of view. Historical distance has the great advantage that we can survey the subject's worth as a whole, the later work often helping to understand the earlier. In no case can we take the subject's words exactly at face value' in every case the subject's reflections about himself are pearls of great price; upon our own shoulders falls responsibility for the phenomenologically oriented reconstruction of the subject's world, especially his task-space." (ESA 277) 

"When Darwin states in his Autobiography that he worked on inductive principles, it is easy enough to disprove his statement, using the evidence of his own notebooks written almost fifty years ago earlier. But that does not tell us why, in his later years, he made such a statement. We need to understand the pressures on him from religious, anti-evolutionist quarters, and the probably value to him of an empiricist haven, in which he could claim that his theory was not a work of the imagination but merely the inevitable conclusion of the mechanical grinding out of principles from facts." (ESA 277) 

"How do [the creative person's] purposes evolve? What determines his high level of aspiration? How does the process of self-criticism work? How does the creative person grow so that he can continue to assimilate the criticism of others withour surrendering his own evolving vision?" (ESA 278) 

"Does understanding what explain how a person is creative? . . . Supposing we had a powerful theory of personality development that could explain exactly how Darwin came by these traits, serious difficulties would remain. . . . We would not have explained how Darwin or any other individual had actually gone about his creative work." (ESA 279-80)

"It may well be the case that the seemingly random juxtaposition of ideas produces something new. But this juxtaposition arises in one person's mind. It is he who activates the structures giving rise to the ideas in question. It is he who recognizes the fruit of the encounter and assimilates it into a newly forming structure. And it was he in the first place who assembled all these constituents in the close proximity of one person's mind, his own, so that all this might happen." (ESA 287) 

"insofar as divergent thinking plays some role in creative work, the system within which it occurs must regulate it, prevent if from running amok, require it to generate a well-chosen alternative. In a task involving several steps, there is even a certain penalty for generating many alternative at each choice point." (ESA 287-88) 

"It is useful to think of the creative individual's thought as forming a set of evolving structures. During a given period of activity, the person works with one such structure, finds its inadequacies--internal faults, disharmonies with other structures, etc.--and revises. Thought evolves from structure to structure. These structures are not static entities but regulatory systems that govern the intellectual activity of the person." (ESA 289) 

"One point that emerges repeatedly in these [case] studies [of creative individuals] is the incredible density of thought. Every idea seems to be implicated with innumerable other ideas in an intricate network. . . This scrutiny is an extremely arduous undertaking, which may explain why it is not often done." (ESA 289-290) 

"Our aim in describing creative thought as a series of structures is essentially quite modest. We have not tried to discover any thing like a 'latent structure,' a set of relationships unknown to the knower. Rather, we simply aim at schematizing the ideas of the creative thinker in a way that he would probably recognize and accept as a reasonable representation. In other words, we stay pretty close to the original text." (ESA 290). 

"Historians, working on different scales of time and social space, have tended to treat the individual as though a lifetime of thought and work could be compressed into a single unit. This compression has sometimes led to odd juxtapositions in which they see internal contradictions where we would see change and growth." (ESA 290) 

"Intellectual biographers, with few exceptions, run through the actual work of hard thought of their subjects far too briefly to analyze its inner structure, tensions, growth. They could hardly do otherwise and still cover the life history as biogrpahical conventions require." (ESA 290) 

"In spite of the fact that [the] sectors (or schemata?) [of the 'society of mind'--Papert's term] co-exist and interact in an evolving system, the organization of mind is not entirely Protean or Heraclitean. There is some permanence, which must also mean some independence of these substructures from each other." (ESA 291) 

"Creative work begats new and fruitful problems. Organizing matters so that this remains the case is part of what it means to lead a creative life." (ESA 292) 

"the creative person cannot simply be driven, he must be drawn to his work by visions, hopes, joy of discovery, love of truth, and sensuous pleasure in the creative activity itself." (ESA 294) 

"The creative person must develop a sense of identity as a creative person, a sense of his or her own specialness. But this cannot be founded on empty fantasies. Tasks must be self-set. A personal point of view must emerge that gives meaning to the choice of tasks. A group of personal allegiances must be formed to provide the mutal support (and sometimes collaboration) that creative work requires. As the individual senses this entire system begining to function, a new excitement must rise in him and he must be willing and able to assimilate this state of heightened emotionality without retreating into ordinariness." (ESA 294-95) 

From "Cognitive Psychology, Scientific Creativity, and the Case Study Method" 


"How can we put some order in this seeming chaos [of the creative process]? The answer I propose took me by surprise when I first began to think of it: we should not." (CFSC 309) 

"The existence of [a network of enterprises] facilitates diverse simultaneous or parallel activities, occurring within the same span of time and varying in the degree of their dependence upon each other. This structure gives the individual choice as to the sequence and timing of different facets of his work, permits him to re-activate a dormant enterprise when he cannot progress along some other line, and gives continuity to his total pattern of work." (CFSC 311) 

"Solving a series of problems doe snot necessarily make a creative life, as any crossword puzzle addict knows. The problems solved must be organized as members of a coherent enterprise, leading to some novel and effective product." (CFSC 312). 

"the concept of enterprise is open-ended and generative. The network of enterprises describes the individual organization of pruposes. Of course, procedural knowledge (plans) is embedded in every enterprise. But when the running off of a plan comes up against obstacles, new procedures must be invented. How the individual decides whether to struggle with such difficulties or to shift to some other activity is regulated by the organization of purposes as a whole." (CFSC 315) 

"Each individual must have at his disposal a number of modalities of representation. Systems of laws, taxonomic systems, and thematic repertoires--such as those explored by Gerald Holtion--are all pertinent." (CFSC 315) 

"[Images of Wide Scope are] quasi-perceptual, in some way linked to something that really exists. But no thing is exactly like anything else, nor is it often conventiently like anything else in all the ways we might need for some particular scientific purpose. For this reason, a versatile repertoire of images is valuable for exploring the properties of the phenomenon that interest us." (CFSC 317-18)

"It is perhaps not too much to say that the scientific culture that oversimplifies Darwin is part of a larger civilization that has elevated fragmentation and simplification to high principles for the conduct of life. Is a job interesting and complex, placing a demand on the intellect and character of a person? Break it up into many jobs that will make no such demands. Is some nuance of nature unnecessary to the life of this society of simplified human beings? Uproot the tree, fill in the marsh, cover the earth with cement! 

Nor is it too much to say that in the struggle toward something better for our descendents we need a theory of intellectual functioning that enjoys and does justice to human complexity." (CFSC 320) 

Miscellaneous Essays 


"Every symbolic act occurs within the framework of the historical movement of events and ideas. Metaphors grow out of this matrix and contribute to it. At the same time, metaphors are made by individuals, people who have personl goals and belief systems. Creative individuals are particularly differentiated from the sociohistorical milieu in which they work. Their symbolic products must be seen in relation to what they are willing to do." (CMA 188) 

"Although it is true that the case study method is arduous and time-consuming, it is also true that the study of ensembles of metaphor within the framework of the case is practicable and enjoyable. It is enjoyable because it is natural: it carves human nature at its joints. Symbolic products do, after all, reflect the great structural features of human thought." (CMA 188) 

"We do not need to choose betwen a vulgar sociology and an unqualified individualism. Exceptional creative scientists like Charles Darwin draw on precursors and contemporaries, develop collaborations, and respond to broad social forces. We need a theory of creative work that takes account of sociohistorical factors. Such a theory will entail consideration of the multiple strands of activity that form a unique pattern for each creative person and within which he or she produces many metaphors and many insights in a protracted process of purposeful growth. The interactionism and pluralism of this approach leaves room for both the social nature of thought and the specialness of the creative person." (HCW 4; abstract for the essay) 

"The social forces impinging on Darwin can be divided into those operative at two time periods, the earlier period when the principal issue is the production of ideas, and the later period when their dissemination comes to the fore. The production of ideas, while an intensely social process . . . , can to a large extent be carried forward in private. Although this possible privacy is inherent in the nature of thought, it can be facilitated by various social conditions. The simple fact that there is for some time no visible product means either than society must sanction a period of non-productivity or that the individual must find some way of escaping society's demands. The former course was open to Darwin because his family was well off. His near contemporary Alfred Russell Wallace came from a poor family and had no such resources; the took the latter course, living in Malyaysia essentially on savings on savings at the theoretical turning point in his life." (HCW 5-6) 

Creative work requires much more than germination. Many others conceived of evolution but did not execute. "The many sided effort necessary to carry out the grand project requires a very special organization of effort." (HCW 6) 

"it does make sense to speak of the emergence of an overriding project that unites all the enterprises. But this is not necessarily the case in each creative process." (HCW 9) 

"The concept of network of enterprises is intended to have dynamic properties. Such a network of enterprises is a sketch of the entire set of intrinsic motives regulating the person's work. It is inevitable that there will be all sorts of interactions among the components." (HCW 9) 

"[A}n organism is a system for adapting to variations in milieu, and by that token cannot be completely identified with any single situation. Loose coupling, then, is an essential component of the idea of interaction. The interplay of a number of loosely coupled subsystems is another essential compenent. Logically, it need not be a large number, but in any realistic picture of an organism or of an ecospace the number rapidly grows very large. It was exactly this idea that Darwin had in mind when he ended the Origin of Species with the image of the tangled bank." (HCW 6) 

"There is no need to think of the individual as solving problems in a mysterious way called 'genius.'" (ESP 6)

"rather than thinking in order to solve problems, the person striving to develop a new point of view solves problems in order to explore different aspects of it and of those problems and of those domains to which those problems apply." (ESP 6) 

"[A network of enterprises} includes a scheme for replenishing itself with new tasks if ever the original stock nears completion." (ESP 17) 

"The creator is not considered simply as the doer of the work, but also as a person in the world." (ESACW 5)

The real question should be "Should creativity be measured." (ESACW 5) 

"the serious study of creative work requires careful and prolonged attention to the individual and must pay special attention to the very great" (ESACW 6) 

"it is a good guess that the creative individual departs from existing norms in a number of ways. This multiple deviance has as a first consequence the extreme rarity of any particular combination. . . . . a novel organization of the person's resources must emerge." (ESACW 6-7) 

"at any given moment in history, not one but many environments are available, and the creative person both chooses and constructs a milieu that suits the needs of the enterprises in question. The creator's externall environment is not a given and resources are not 'gifts'--they are the every-changing results of constant work." (ESACW 7) 

"the fact that the creative person produces a unique impact on his or her external milieu has the effect of partially concealing the very uniqueness of which we speak. Others come along who emulate and elaborate, Even in the loneliest creative effort there is some communication with others, and often creative work is not so lonely. Because the creative process is protractedd, there is opportunity for others to take the same direction long before the work is finished. As the distance of history obscures detail such nuances in sequences can be easily confused, and thus the creative person is seen as produced by a trend, rather than producing it." (ESACW 7) 

"the completion of one project often opens the way to . . . such a change in the focus of attention from the newly achieved pinnacle to the next morass. But which morass?" (ESACW 7)

"Our subject is a moving target." (ESACW 8) 

"We say that creative work must produce novelty, but whatever we might hope to mean by novelty changes as human history moves on in time, always unfolding new possibilities." (ESACW 10)

"the evolution of human purpose transforms the operations of chance. Purposeful work that does not take cognizance of the chanciness of the world, including the inner world, will not lead to creative outcomes." (ESACW 10-11) 

"the main function of ordinary work is reliable production, whereas innovation is always potentially disruptive." (ESACW 11-12) 

"Although we think of the creative person as highly task-oriented rather than ego-oriented, it is also true that the set of tasks taken as a whole constitutes a large part of the ego: to be oneself one must do these things; to do these things one must be oneself." (ESACW 13) 

"In the course of a single day or week, the activities of the person may appear, from the outside, as a bewildering miscellany. But the person is not disoriented or dazzled. He or she can readily map each activity onto one or another enterprise." (ESACW 13) 

"The creator may or may not be obsessed with [the] idea of uniqueness, but it is my conviction that people who lead creative lives generally intend to do so, and define themselves accordingly." (ESACW 13) 

"If [creative work] was both felicitous and easy, many would be doing it and we would not see it as especially creative" (ESACW 14) 

"Part of the difficulty of achieving a creative outcome arises from the need to make it compatible with human purposes, The creative person may very well start with a wild idea. Soon enough it becomes familiar and, within a private universe, no longer seems wild. But to be effective the creator must be in good enough touch with the norms and feelings of some others so that the product will be one that they can assimilate and enjoy. Even the person who is far ahead of the times must have some community, however limited or special, with whom to interact." (ESACW 14-15) 

"It is safe to say that no case of creative achievement occurs without a long apprenticeship." (ESACW 15) 

"Often a sort of aura--a sense that something is happening--precedes the full and explicit awareness of just what happy though is 'happening.' This description is similar to the feeling one gets, while listening to a joke, of a build-up of laughter. Similary in sexual experience, the orgasm announces itself before it arrives." (ESACW 17) 

"as life goes on, developmental stages diverge, even despite the strenuous efforts most people make to conform to well-beaten paths. On evolutionary grounds, there would be little reason to suppose that our species had evolved a normative developmental pattern for individuals past the age of 40, since that is near the end of the reproductive period and was, only 2 or 3 millenia ago, about the average age of death." (ESACW 21)