Formal Training and Creativity. Versus?

Does theory and training hamper creativity?

At a talk this week by designer Wayne Hemingway OBE, he made the case for thinking outside the box with regards to training. As a fashion designer Hemingway was self-taught, which seemed to remove the barriers of self-preservation and open him up to be truly brave and experimental. While it is true that in 2013, a lack of formal education in your chosen field is an almost guaranteed barrier to entry, there is no reason, according to Hemingway, why an architect cannot design clothes, or a graphic designer cannot design social housing. The training is a basis and a foothold, but should serve to give you the confidence to think much more broadly. But isn’t it true that the more you know the more you realise you don’t know?

As a classically trained musician, I have long bemoaned my complete lack of songwriting ability, blaming it on the fact that I have been trained in the ‘proper’ way to write music. What I mean by this is that I just can’t put pen to paper and run with it, but I am crippled by rules of key signatures and what not. It would have to make sense to me, rather than  honest and unrestrained expression. While I love listening to contemporary and cutting edge artists, seeing their work in sheet music form hurts my eyes and my brain.

While not belittling the importance of sound theoretical training, I wonder if the extra rules and constrictions that come with the acquiring of academic knowledge can be restrictive? Or perhaps that is the point: that true greatness may come once you have mastered the theory and are then able to go beyond it with innovation?

The old adage rings true for me with music: I know enough to know that what I write wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as the work of the artists I listen to, and so I don’t bother. I think the key attribute in creativity may be neither training or lack of it, but bravery, tenacity, and resilience. 

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