In Chapter 2 we looked at the ways people can interthink in a variety of work situations. In this chapter, we focus on the importance of interthinking for human creativity. Some very strong support for the importance of collaboration in human creativity comes from biographical and literary studies of how exceptionally creative people in the arts and sciences have achieved their success. In recent times literary scholars have begun to question the accuracy of earlier biographies of famous writers, musicians and artists, which explained their success predominantly in terms of their individual talent and solitary endeavours. It is now widely held that those accounts commonly underestimated the influences of social contemporaries on their work. For example, Stone and Thompson (2006: 8–9) in their book Literary Couplings, suggest that the ‘cult of the individual genius’ that pervades many early accounts of the work of the Romantic writers (Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats and their contemporaries) is based on a myth, because historical evidence shows that they relied heavily on collaborative support. Stillinger (1991) and Joffe (2007) likewise question the depiction of the talented author as a solitary genius who resists the influences of others, arguing that during their most productive periods successful writers typically belonged to specific communities, and/or worked in close relationships within which important new ideas and principles were generated and shared. For example, careful analysis has shown how the texts of the major works of Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) and her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley (author of ‘Mont Blanc’, ‘Ozymandias’ and other acclaimed poems) are not only interwoven, but draw heavily 41on their intense conversations about their shared experiences of living in the Alps, as reported in their personal journals (Mercer 2012). One can make similarly strong cases for the importance of collective thinking for the visual arts, music, scientific discovery and technological development. A very influential work on creative partnerships, combining perspectives and insights from both psychological and historical enquiry, is Vera John-Steiner’s Creative Collaborations (2000). She offers a series of case studies of how people (mainly pairs, and often couples) have worked together to achieve significant success in the arts and sciences. Sometimes drawing on the collaborators’ own reflective insights, John-Steiner shows that there are different ways that joint activity can be creative and productive; there is not just one successful model. Elsewhere, she makes a useful and interesting distinction between ‘collaboration’, ‘cooperation’ and ‘social interaction’, giving collaboration the highest status as ‘an affair of the mind’:
Social interaction involves two or more people talking or in exchange, cooperation adds the constraint of shared purpose, and working together often provides coordination of effort. But collaboration involves an intricate blending of skills, temperaments, effort and sometimes personalities to realise a vision of something new and useful.(Moran & John-Steiner 2004: 11) While researchers such as Moran and John Steiner emphasize the importance of collaborative interaction for the realization of a creative vision, very little is known about the ways in which spoken language is implicated in collaborative creativity. Mindful of this, our own recent work has begun to explore creative interthinking by analyzing the talk of small groups of people composing, planning and rehearsing for musical performances. This focus highlights, at the interpersonal level, the role of interthinking and how it is implicated in the creative renewal of culture. Focusing on one particular domain of creative activity also enables us to examine, in depth, the ways talk is used in combination with other modes of communication, such as music itself. We begin by looking at discussions among bands of musicians in rehearsal, and then move on to see how collaborators from rather different disciplinary backgrounds – music, theatre, film and dance – work together to achieve an artistic product.