I answered this on Quora, but thought I’d post it again here.
So, before I answered the question, I looked up the definitions for both. Here they are from Google:
Creative: Relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.
Original: Present or existing from the beginning; first or earliest.
Since the first relates to artists, and incorporates the second, on the surface, it’d appear that there is no difference. One just relates to artists; one does not.
Original is a base word, while creative is a derivative of create – a verb. Typically they go hand in hand, but they are two different things, and it comes down to a state of being (NOUN) versus action (VERB).
Another definition of creative from Merriam Webster states it like this:
“Marked by the power or ability to create…”
That if something is original, it’s unique or one-of-a-kind. But if something is creative it makes things that are original.
I’ll give you a few examples to illustrate my point:
Let’s suppose that you have this original idea, but do nothing with it. You just have it. It sits in your brain but you do nothing with it.
You have the original thought, but that doesn’t make it creative. But you, yourself, were creative enough to have come up with the thought.
In other words: You as a person are ORIGINAL (one of a kind), but that doesn’t make automatically CREATIVE. But if you ARE creative, you will create ORIGINAL ideas.
Now, let’s say that you do something with that idea, but you just do what everyone else does, or what is expected of you. You do nothing abnormal or unexpected or extraordinary with that idea. You don’t do anything creative with that idea.
But then let’s suppose that you have that idea, but don’t know what to do with it. You get the desire to do something with it.
This creates a problem that needs to be solved.
Now we’ll assume that this a problem that you’ve never faced before, so you have no immediate answer to solve this problem. You can’t rely on past successes in order to overcome this particular obstacle (again, this an original idea we’re dealing with).
But you can’t come up with a solution. You’re stumped.
How do you solve this problem?
You get creative. You create a solution.
- Maybe you find pieces of information and stitch them together to create a solution.
- Maybe you try a bunch of things (attrition, trial and error) until something works.
- Maybe you transform a solution based on something that doesn’t have to do with the current issue, but worked for something else.
You are being creative by exploring options and making choices to do something different.
I guess the easiest way for me to sum this up would be to look at it this way:
Originality denotes a noun (person, place, thing, IDEA). Creativity is the use of those original ideas or actions to create original things as a result of ideas.
Now, of relating to objects (nouns).
Case in point: You could have an original object that invoked very little creativity.
For example: I could create a simple plate out of clay. Very basic, but the object was original, not mass produced. But the idea creating a plate, really isn’t an original idea, and the act of creating it invoked very little creativity.
That object might be one-of-a-kind, but took very little active brain power to come up with. I didn’t have to exercise problem-solving skills to make it unique.
It was original, but not very creative.
Creativity is simply marked as having the ability to create original things, and originality just means a state of being unique.