Creativity in Community: Using the Inklings as a Model for Collaborative Groups Today

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Peter Schakel, Hope College

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Poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.” A person does not exist in a vacuum; for that matter, neither does an idea. In most historical studies of creativity, research has centered on individual artists, musicians, and writers. However, the preoccupation with the individual has constructed a myth of the solitary genius, which suggests that a creative person must work alone and that a truly creative idea must come from within. Although it is true that the invention of an idea must occur within one brain, one should not make the mistake of overlooking or underappreciating the effect of the outside world. Realizing that the creative process is just as much socially influenced as it is psychologically based, we can gain new insight into the significance of collaborative communities. This case study in particular focuses on the Inklings, an informal circle of British writers that included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. By delving into the social dynamics of that group, this study examines how that collaborative environment influenced the individual members in their writing careers. The purpose of this study – based on the observed techniques of successful group functioning and synergy that inspired the Inklings’ creative work – is to build a model for creative collaboration that can be used by similar groups today. Integrating the traditional methods of the Inklings with the modern tools available for increasing communications now, this study aims to provide creative professionals and amateurs alike with a framework for “creating together” in the twenty-first century.

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