The creative drive is the feeling that something ought to exist, and doesn’t yet. Contrary to popular misconception, creativity is not self-expression except insofar as it is an expression of the creative drive. The contemporary form of “art” that seeks to communicate ephemeral feelings is the artistic equivalent of camgirls masturbating for attention, and can be blamed on the moral paucity of secularists who disdain the proper meaning of the word “ought” in the definition above. Creativity has an external focus—the creative drive is an emotional reaction to the perception of a disappointing reality. Similarly, creativity is not just anything people make that’s not practical. To be called creative according to the definition I’ve given, the created thing must be appealing to somebody. Practical objects like DIN rails and grommets are therefore creative inventions, whereas the activities we group under “arts and crafts” are generally not creative unless they are practiced by someone with a creative drive.
All creativity begins with negative criticism. The natural way to respond to a reality that isn’t ideal is to say “this isn’t quite right”. The hard part is to recognize that filling the hole requires a lot of talent, skill, and work, so most of the time we don’t bother. I might decide the house I bought is ugly, but fixing it up is a lot of work and there’s a very real chance that I might botch the job and end up with something more hateful than what I started with. In order to see a project through, I have to feel like the vision is important enough that actualizing it produces less anxiety than merely sensing its absence. The story behind Vox Day’s epic fantasy series “Arts of Dark And Light” is a great example: he was so disappointed with the wasted potential of George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Fire and Ice” series that he decided to show fantasy readers how such a thing ought to be done. Suppressing most of these impulses is rational and normal; the inability to prioritize emotional reactions is the executive-dysfunctional mark of a neurotic.
Creativity comes in two primary flavors, typological and allegorical, that respectively correspond to the inductive and deductive thinking styles. Aristotle was a genius of the former kind because his focus was on getting the parts right. Plato was a genius of the latter kind because his focus was on getting the whole right.
Typological creativity is purely intuitionistic in nature, where the operating principle of a part is conceived by observation and pattern recognition. This is the sort of creativity we associate with dilettante inventors who have many unrelated parts lying around their workshops and no bigger plans for any of them (there is no greater “whole” in mind for any of the parts). Depending on the perfectionism of the inventor, it is often iterative in nature, especially if the vision is a particularly big and important one. An artist of this sort with a perfectionism streak will often have sketchbooks full of pictures that are each an attempt to perfectly capture the same theme. HP Lovecraft’s collection of cosmic horror-inspiring short stories is a great example of this sort of creativity.
The strength of typological creations is that all such inventions are inspired and usually appeal to any demographic that shares the emotionality of the creator (they sense the same “hole” in reality that the creator is trying to fill). It’s a mistake to assume that such seemingly disconnected creations are incoherent, because they can often be interpreted using dream logic. Lovecraft’s work is best understood as a reaction to the horrifying resurrection of the Babylonian death cult (as secular, utilitarian consumerism) and man’s place in it. The weakness of typological creators is that they often fail to build anything abstract or bigger than can be created in a single hyperfocus session, and they may even be opposed to the idea of doing so because this would interrupt the flow state that makes the creative act so enjoyable.
Allegorical creativity is purely functional in nature, where the larger whole is conceived first and hacked together from spare parts. Tolkien’s famous hatred of allegory in all its forms can be blamed on the stereotypically ugly, piecemeal construction and the uninspired, patronizing attitude it represents (no, alt-retards, Tolkien’s dwarves don’t represent Jews). He would not have gotten along with John C. Wright at all (they would probably come to blows), even though they have everything else in common. An allegorical construction like Aesop’s fables or word-painting in music begins with the message, manipulates it through a simple words -> picture cipher, and ends with the expression. Because humans are bad at crafting holistic systems that are also realistic the system will usually be riddled with implicit contradictions of emotional dream logic. Such creations leave a bad taste in the mouth for reasons that aren’t easily explained, because there is a strong temptation to “fill in” many places with uninspired drivel in order to finish the minimum viable product and ship it. However, I believe there is a place for allegory: a masterful artist of the typological sort who has invented a lot of spare parts can often piece them together without coming off as pedantic. The best example I know of is the city of Midgar from Final Fantasy 7.
This is an excellent example of allegory done right. The strings sound like the labored breathing of a sick and dying planet, while the player is surrounded by a shitty world full of shitty people. The bells give just a touch of hope in the overwhelmingly oppressive atmosphere, like finding a flower in the slums.