By Timothy Gowers What is mathematical creativity? I firmly believe it is not some magical, mysterious thing, particularly in mathematics, and in other fields too, though I don’t have enough experience of things like poetry or painting to be authoritative. I’m convinced everything can be explained. How do you analyse it? It is difficult. The closer you look, the more it seems to dissolve. If you take an idea that seems outstandingly creative, it usually didn’t appear in someone’s head by magic. Some thought process led to it, and this can be broken into smaller ideas until you get down to the lowest level of thought process, which is essentially routine. So if you add up a whole load of routine things, you can somehow end up with something that everyone acknowledges is creative. So creativity is a procedure or an algorithm? Yes, but I realise that I’m opening a big can of worms. That statement requires much more justification than I can possibly give in an interview. If I suggest to people that creativity might be algorithmic, they generally say that it cannot be a simple procedure. They are right, it is not a simple procedure. But that doesn’t stop it being a procedure. How does the creative process happen in mathematics?