Thursday, March 5, 2009

Does Creativity and Messiness go Hand in Hand?

Some people think that creativity and messiness go hand in hand. I can definitely identify with A.A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh, who quipped, “One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.” Likewise, Albert Einstein was defensive of his messy desk. “If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind,” he said, “then what are we to think of an empty desk?”

Life magazine published some photos of Einstein’s desk, just months before his death in 1955. These photos reveal stacks of papers, envelopes, old magazines in disarray and even his pipe abandoned on one of the notebooks. Looking further, we can see what looks like a dress, some books, a journal of philosophy, and a glass ashtray. Under the piles of papers were lost atisban pens and unopened letters.

There are advantages and disadvantages to having a messy desk. Some argue that “chaos can be more productive than an order too strict” . Furthermore, a new study has found that “a messy desk may well be a sign of creativity and signal great career potential. Stories and studies such as these embolden those of us who are too busy beginning the next great creative challenge to pick things up and put them away. However, there are disadvantages to disorder as well, and probably a “tipping point” where the creative energy is outweighed by problems caused by missed deadlines, time wasted searching for materials, and the negative opinions of our co-workers and employers.


Kelly Sullivan said...

(I saw your post on Gurney Journey and I thought I'd check your post out)

I'd say that perhaps he said that to give a good excuse as to why he shouldn't clean up his desk...but then again I think Einstein is the kind of guy who means what he says. Safe to say that I've tried (and failed) to sell this idea to my mother. :-)

Unknown said...

Actually turns out the images of the Pipe and the front image of the desk where both shot only hours after Einsteins death in 1955 by Ralph Morse. Life Magazine sat on the photos until his living children and grandchildren passed away in 2008. They just posted the set of funeral photos from April 18, 1955 on April 18, 2010 (55 years after the death)