Creative process: Eric Hoffer – Play and the creative impulse

In his book, The Ordeal of Change, the philosopher and social thinker Eric Hoffer suggests that creativity is more likely to flow from what Hoffer calls “the playful mood” than from strong effort in a mental state of deadly earnestness and seriousness.

Hoffer recognizes that although working out creative ideas and insights requires a lot of mental effort and focussed attention, he is nevertheless convinced that “the sudden illumination and the flash of discovery are not likely to materialize under pressure.” (1)

He further notes, “It is highly doubtful whether people are capable of genuine creative responses when necessity takes them by the throat…The urgent search for the vitally necessary is likely to stop once we have found something that is more or less adequate, but the search for the superfluous has no end.”

Hoffer suggests that [people] “never philosophize or tinker more freely than when they know that their speculation or tinkering leads to no weighty results. We are more ready to try the untried when what we do is inconsequential. Hence the remarkable fact that many inventions had their birth as toys.”

(1) Eric Hoffer, The Ordeal of Change, Harper Colophon Books, Harper & Row,Publishers, 1964, New York.

Dennis Mellersh

About Dennis Mellersh

Dennis Mellersh is an independent writer, journalist, editor, and editorial consultant.
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