Can Engineers Be Creative?

I am not being facetious in posing this question.

A couple of weeks ago I posed the following question for responses:

Creative people (writers, musicians, photographers, quilters, gardeners, cooks and chefs, painters and sculptors, poets, film makers, dancers, pastors and theologians, sportspeople and anyone else in a creative pursuit), here’s a question for you: what do you think it means to be creative?

I received a cornucopia of ideas, a plethora of pinatas (go here for the joke: The Three Amigos).

Here is a sample of responses from writers, a drummer, gardeners, a doll maker, a theologian, and a teacher.

JC – To be creative is to transcend the mundane every day. To take the light and shade of life and weave it into something all together different. To take something simple and make it complex and to take complexity and make it simple. To access the inaccessible and make the accessible a labyrinth. To attempt to make sense of what there are no answers for. To be creative is to remain sane and grounded in an insane, scattered world.

RD – I see it as two things: 1- to take an idea and build on it. 2- to take the images from my head and make them visible, tangible.

KH – To think new and exciting thoughts and have your hands breathe life into those thoughts.

HH – I think creativity is an expression of the self, whether you translate it into writing, music, painting, dancing or whatever. So having said that I think what it really means to be creative is to engage one’s imagination and translate that from an idea into a reality – it’s to be able to envisage something that has no form and be able to give it one. It is to find alternative solutions to situations. It is it take what is and turn it into something else.

MK – I think it’s like taking your brain, your heart and your soul for a walk in the wilderness of ideas. Give them all free reign, put a pen in your hand or put your fingers to the keyboard and anything can happen then!

DE – To me, being creative is doing the opposite of “normal”, or trying to stay away from the “norm” as much as possible.

DS – To have an idea and to bring it to life.

CA – To me, being creative is about expressing an idea or an emotion; taking something internal and letting it out.

IM – Being creative is about believing that there is something wonderful tucked away inside you that the world would be enriched by if you dared to display it.

CD – To use your mind, hands and heart to make something that can be enjoyed and appreciated. Fun!

JB – Creativity is making something that hasn’t been written, shown, displayed, or demonstrated before–even if you’re making it only in your head. It’s making something actually new.

I like these last two as a call to arms:

SR – To get off your butt and try something.

NB -I think its the opposite of sitting around all day watching TV.

And then the engineer dropped into the conversation, noting the occupation’s absence from the list (for which I am truly sorry and apologised). Yet his ideas help show the value of creativity in every field of life.

RF – An engineer is mainly about taking an idea and making it reality but there is also a saying I heard once, “An engineer is a person who can make something for $2 that any damn fool can make for $5,” which leans towards the suggestion of finding alternative solutions to situations.

I then started pondering what it means “to be creative” – obviously it is to create, but that does not necessarily limit creative to physical things (bridges, cars, electronics, paintings, sculptures etc) you can also create non physical things (music) or ideas, ways of thinking, views of the world. (italics are my emphasis)

The last part resonated with me: ways of thinking and views of the world.

Often we think of creativity as a physical product: a novel, poem, sculpture, painting, building or bridge.

What if we focused our creativity to change ways of thinking, to enhance our views of the world?

What if we used our creativity to live out the concept to “love your neighbour as yourself?”

This is going to resonate in my head for a while.

The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words – William H. Gass

What if we changed our world into words and our words into actions?

Can we use creativity to change our ways of thinking and view of the world?

Can we use our creativity to produce a physical product to achieve the same thing?

What are your thoughts?


One response to “Can Engineers Be Creative?

  1. While writing satisfies an internal passion, an innate drive for me, I know my words also go on the page in the hope it might chance the way one person looks at the world, or feels about the world, or feels about themselves and the others around them. That’s what drew me specifically to write speculative fiction – to be able to put the mirror up to society, to get people to question. It’s what’s washed me on the shores of birthpunk eight and a half years after my son was born.

    When I worked in behaviour management, one of the guys who came in from a specialist unit took me aside at the end of my first semester at school and told me I couldn’t save all the kids that came into my office. He could see me emotionally burning out, investing in these kids, wanting to make it better for them. He told me if I helped to make the world better for just one kid, then that was huge. Just one kid.

    And I see that in my writing. I don’t expect to write a seminal work that changes the way the entire world thinks… but if I can make the world a better place by influencing/informing/or inciting just one person to treat themselves, the people around them, and the world in genera in a better, more loving inclusive way, then I feel I have achieved what I set out to do.

    I honestly do believe words have the power to change the world (I’ve argued it many times before – around tables, couches and BBQs)… and creativity, making something from nothing, or something new from old, is what feeds, nurtures and fuels it those words.

    Creativity is the ectoplasm that binds and buoys us. It’s what will raise your Statue of Liberty to dance in the street!

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