Roughly speaking, two types of creativity can be distinguished: there is origination, where material is freshly created, and curation, where existing material is arranged or re-arranged.
For example, you can write some poems (origination) or you can edit an anthology (curation).
I don’t say that way of making the distinction is philosophically watertight, but it’s good enough to be useful in practice
Shift in the balance of creativity
I’d like to advance a hypothesis, which is that during my lifetime there has been a shift in the balance between the two types. Both types existed when I was young, of course (and have no doubt existed throughout history). But then origination was more prestigious, by an overwhelming margin.
I think origination is still more highly valued in general — there is no equivalent of the Booker prize for editors. But I suggest that the gap is narrowed.
In my own work, I went into publishing with a strong bias towards origination. I thought commissioning was largely about working at the frontier, coming up with new ideas and helping authors to boldly go where none had gone before. And I wanted it to be like that. The grip of romanticism, I suppose.
But then I happened upon the opportunities afforded by republishing.
Take, for example, the Professional and Higher Education series that I have been blogging about recently. Our first endeavours in this area consisted largely of repackaging.
We acquired the rights to some books published by Graham Gibbs, Sue Habeshaw, and Trevor Habeshaw and we modernised them.
In the case of 53 interesting ways to assess your students, for example, we redesigned the book. The Running Head provided a new text design; one of Rika Newcombe‘s paintings provided an image for the cover; and volume editor Vikki Burns updated many of the 53 articles in the book.
She also, with her team of contributors, provided creativity in the form of origination, wholly replacing many articles with completely fresh material.
A contrasting example is 53 ways to support online learning by Rhona Sharpe. The original (i.e., Gibb, Habeshaw & Habeshaw) publications that formed the basis of the series pre-dated the internet.
When we began to redevelop the series we had the good fortune to run into Rhona, then at Oxford Brookes University and now at Surrey. Rhona proved the ideal author. Working within the conventions of the professional how-to genre, she managed to produce a text that is not only practical, but also sophisticated and well-rounded.
Something of this is evident from the abstract:
53 practical ideas for facilitating and enhancing online
(or digital) learning are presented. Topics include: helping
students to get started; supporting student contributions;
making learning personalised; encouraging students to
spend more time on task; and helping students to develop
their learning and progress beyond their current courses.
Well-designed courses enable learners to construct their
own understandings, complete collaborative tasks and
participate in communities beyond the limits of their course
As an editor and publisher I find, from a phenomenological point of view, that these two forms of creativity feel equally creative. They even feel creative in much the same way. That is, I found my engagement with the projects generated much of same sensation of creative buzz.