Monday, May 2

Blue sky thinking - with just a few clouds

Blue-sky thinking is open, expressive idea-making, which focusses on possibilities without being held back by details.  It is the kind of thinking, in short, that creative types do well, whether artists, inventors, businesspeople or whatever.

The problem with blue-sky research

The related term 'blue-sky research' is where scientific research has no immediate link to practicalities.  It is imaginative and perhaps ground-breaking, but has no clear real-world application - at least at the outset.  This can be a problem - bodies which fund research often prefer research which has a clearer potential use, albeit with little likelihood of a ground-breaking discovery.

The trouble is that the benefits of a scientific breakthrough are often obscure until after the research has been completed.  Western nations have increasingly attempted to link research funding to economic benefits of the work, leading to protests by leading scientists (Travis, 2009).

Some clouds threaten the clear blue skies!
Science versus the humanities

This links closely to prevailing attitudes to education.  More and more, preference is being given to STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and maths.  We are told that these are vital to society and should be encouraged (i.e. funded) at both school and university, often at the expense of arts and humanities.  However, according to Robinson (2001), this is more a matter of ideology than logic.

Rather like blue-skies research, the benefits of improving as a creative writer can be unclear.  The benefits of reading a book can be unclear.  The benefits of studying subjects such as philosophy can be unclear.  But collectively and across the population, these activities lead to a literate, educated society.

Thinker and Writer Umberto Eco, by giveawayboy

I think that studying creative writing has a lot in common with blue-sky research.  Each may lead to outcomes which are highly interesting but not immediately practical.  They can both be time-consuming and expensive, and the hope of a monetary payback can seem distant. But just occasionally, they produce something ground-breaking, with quite unexpected benefits.

Right now, the rise of epublishing could be such an outcome.  Suddenly a massive, international, English-speaking market has opened up, and people who have developed skills in creative writing are ideally placed to exploit it.

Robinson, K. (2001). Out of our Minds: Learning to be creative. Chichester: Capstone Publishing.
Travis, J. (2009). Is the (Blue) Sky Falling in the U.K? ScienceInsider.  Retrieved from:

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