Move over creative rock gods, we’re all Tiny Dancers

Photograph of a young girl in a bright yellow top, grey jeans and pink, star-shaped sunglasses pointing her arms and fingers to the right, against a solid, aqua background.

Creativity, like any ability, comes more naturally to some than others but, while we like to attribute creative genius to an individual, it is rarely if ever the product of one person.

Mark Ritson recently shared his views on the subject of whether creativity is an ‘innate, rare thing or something we all have that can be nurtured or trained’. Ritson came out on the side of the former, using a video of Elton John banging out Tiny Dancer after opening up a scrap of crumpled paper from Bernie Taupin as an example of this rare, ‘from Above’ type of creativity. Although Ritson concedes that lower levels of creativity are more open and accessible to more people, he goes on to ask who would want this level of creativity when you can effectively have the rock star.

Now, far be it from me to accuse Ritson esq of antiquated thinking, I wouldn’t dare! 😊 But the idea that creativity comes ‘from Above’ is a hark back to the ancient Greeks’ philosophy. They didn’t believe that creativity came from humans but rather from a divine spirit that came to human beings. People were described as having a creative genius as if it were a magical helper. Then along came the Renaissance and the title of creative genius was attributed solely to the individual, inflating the human ego and overburdening the fragile human psyche.

A ‘tiny dancer’ of an idea

To my mind, creativity is both innate in all of us and something that can be nurtured to genius level. We are all on the creative spectrum and, given the right catalyst, any one of us can have a ‘tiny dancer’ of an idea. It’s true that creativity, like any ability, comes more naturally to some than others and is more developed from the outset in a few people, usually at the expense of other abilities. It’s no coincidence that those who are considered inherently creative are often the most childlike in terms of other behaviour. They consciously or unconsciously resist the confines of adulthood, social considerations, conventions and boundaries to remain free to focus on their impulses to play and experiment. Left unchecked and without the input of others, these people’s impulses can be more destructive than creative. And we’re back to the classic rock star persona!


Creativity is both innate in all of us and something that can be nurtured to genius level. We are all on the creative spectrum and, given the right catalyst, any one of us can have a ‘tiny dancer’ of an idea.

As a meter of fact

I don’t subscribe to Renaissance thinking that an individual alone is the source of some rare creative genius. Neither do I believe in the ancients’ divine spirit theory, albeit the collaborative element of this description of creative genius does strike the right chord with me.

While we like to attribute creative genius, or ‘world beating creativity’ as Ritson calls it, to an individual, it is, I would argue, rarely if ever the product of one person. The rock star creative may be ‘front of stage’, but they are just one person in the creative mix.

Ideas are formed in relation to something else, often another’s idea, someone who in turn has been influenced by someone else. No idea comes into existence or is executed in isolation. Taking Ritson’s example of Elton (full name Sir Elton Hercules John CH CBE according to his website), you can’t deny his technical talent as a musician, but this is a reaction to Bernie’s (full name Bernard John Taupin CBE) song writing ability. Bernie provided Elton with the words, theme, structure, tone and meter for Tiny Dancer on that screwed up bit of paper that enabled him to conjure up the accompanying musical notes.

The gift that keeps on giving

Bernie provided the stimulation and structure for Elton’s seemingly effortless creative magic. I say seemingly effortless because the idea that creative genius is a gift from on high rather than a process that involves both graft and craft over time is to do anyone who contributes to the creative process and works in the creative industry, no matter how talented they are or what role in the process they fulfil, a disservice.

My philosophy and that of NEO is that creativity is an ability we all possess and that anyone can be trained to have a creative mindset and to constructively contribute to the creative process provided they are given the right impetus and framework. We also believe that the ‘best creative’ is the product of a collaborative effort, a chorus of tiny dancers and not a term for an individual rock star.

Mark Terry

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