My personal suspicion: the dichotomy in my title is largely artificial. Creativity isn’t just The Idea. Creativity is in every single step along the way to making the “final product”. Let’s take an example. I would use an example everyone would agree was “great”, but there is no such animal, so I’ll use Shakespeare.
Shakespeare never wrote an original play in his life. Everything he produced was completely derivative, most of it stolen, whole-cloth, from earlier sources, be they Italian, Greek, Roman or whathaveyou. The closest Shakespeare came to “original” was , occasionally, putting a new twist on an old story. His “Romeo and Juliet” was probably the first work sympathetic to the young lovers. (Earlier versions were more of a morality tale: don’t do this, kids! Obey your parents!)
Yet we still read Shakespeare plays today, while many of his sources have become obscure footnotes, remembered only by scholars, and only because “Shakespeare got this character from here.”
Does that mean Shakespeare wasn’t creative, merely a master of the technical craft of writing? Nonsense. First off, writing isn’t a technical craft. There is a formula for writing well-for using grammatically correct sentences, for making your point clear, for communicating. But there is no formula for being exceptional. This is a tautology: if anyone could do it, it wouldn’t be exceptional. As soon as someone (like, say, Alexander Pope) writes down the rules for Great Writing, they change. Because it’s novelty and originality that make a written work distinctive, unique, remarkable. If you can replicate it, it doesn’t work any more.
Every sentence is a little creative work in its own right. Creativity doesn’t stop after you’ve decide that your main character is brave to the point of foolhardiness, charming but not arrogant, and a bit of a rogue without being immoral. Creativity continues as you decide: “How can I show that he has these traits?” You may have a brilliant idea about a pair of compatriots who struggle against seemingly impossible odds, only to find out at the end that one character has, in fact, betrayed the other all along. But you still need to be creative as you decide how to present that. What are the partner’s motives for betrayal? How do you hint that it was coming without giving the surprise away? How do you explain why the betrayed party trusted his friend until the end? These aren’t “technical details” that can be resolved by formula. You need creativity.
Trying to rein myself closer to track: I don’t think you can completely disassociate “the Vision” from “the ability to carry out that Vision.” Knowing the techniques of a craft helps you to come up with the ideas, the vision, for that craft. Not to mention that helps you separate the original from the everyday—that idea you thought was sooooo cool may be commonplace to those who practice the field, and you just don’t know it because you lack experience with the medium.
And if you could isolate “the Vision”—that “1%” of the product—it would certainly be worth something. But does 1% of a good idea make a good product (whatever the product is, game, book, movie, etc.)? Eh. No. You still need technical skill on the part of others to carry it off—and their creativity to make it shine. Starting with a good idea is important, and it’s probably contributes more than 1% worth to the overall story. But it’s far from the whole shebang. Maybe it’s worth 2-10%? :) (Ah, the meaninglessness of statistics.)
(For my encore, I could try to analyze whether my essay fails because it’s a bad idea, or simply poorly executed…_)