Are we born creative? – Tabula Rasa guest post by Jem Weston



We are on day four of guest posts on Tabula Rasa and I hope you are enjoying readying everyone’s thoughts as much as I am. 

Today’s guest post is by Jem Weston, who is a knitter, tutor and a pretty dap hand at sewing…. Oh, and a gardener, no ends to her talents!  Jem is also an author of Cute Comfort Knits and The Knitted Nursery Collection, her books are full of intarsia and toy goodness. 

When Anna asked me to write a blog about Tabula Rasa I thought it sounded like a skin condition! But a quick search showed me that it refers to the idea that we are born with no mental content. Our minds are a blank slate.

My initial feeling was that this is false. I believe that our personalities and behaviours are the result of both nature (our genetic make up) and nurture (learned behaviour).

Reading about Tabula Rasa in more detail, I learned that ‘no mental content’ actually refers to knowledge. And this must be correct because how can we be born with knowledge? But how can we ever prove or disprove that we are not?

This then raises the question of what is learned and what is instinctual? And are our instincts actually an innate knowledge of what we need and what endangers us? Does your head hurt yet?!

A lot of these questions are too big for this blog and for my little brain. So I’m going to focus on pondering the first question that popped into my mind when I read about Tabula Rasa.

Are we born creative?
Creativity comes in many forms but I feel that some people have an insatiable urge to ‘make stuff’. This might be an artist who has to paint, a musician who has to compose or a knitter who has to knit. From a young age I always felt the urge to make stuff and felt like I was going a bit nuts if I didn’t create anything for a few days. I remember planning new projects in my dreams…which I still do now if I have the luxury of enough sleep!

I think this is an urge I was born with, but is that the reason I took the path of a degree in fine art and a career in knitting?

Perhaps our genetics determine our learning style which then influences the paths we follow. I’ve always been a visual learner so it’s natural that I moved in the direction of the visual arts, but I also remember finding maths exciting at school when it was taught in a visual way. Other people may learn best by doing an activity, or simply reading about it – but where do these learning styles come from? My feeling is that they are present from an early age, in the same way that I believe we are predisposed to be good at certain things based on our genes.

It’s human nature to want to do something we do well. While our minds might be clean slates at birth, our genetics may gift us with natural talents such as rhythm, an ability to visualise things or a high IQ. It makes sense to nurture our natural talents – but doing what we’re good at isn’t necessarily what we enjoy. You may be born with a beautiful voice but be content just singing in the shower!

Tabula Rasa says that our minds are a blank slate at birth – but our blank slates are all unique. While our experiences may shape how we think and feel, our physiology, leaning style and genetic make-up all affect how we acquire knowledge and learn behaviours.
I think we all have creativity in us… I hope you are lucky enough to have found yours!

Jem xx

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