This Ken Robinson video on TED talks about how education kills creativity. I believe children are born creative, but that creative spirit often dies a slow death from a thousand small cuts of criticism, or suffocates in an airless childhood where no time is allowed to simply be expressive.
Much of my education (and I had a lot of it) was about discipline and rigor – two things that have a high amount of value in the world, which is why parents want these things for their kids. They are keys to being successful in our world. But, just as Sir Robinson says, in our current age of wonder and the future that is coming, kids will need more than just discipline. More than just knowledge. They will need critical thinking skills and creative abilities to craft the solutions to problems that we can only imagine today.
I’m reading If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland, and it’s wonderful how she describes creativity as love and generosity – a giving act of the spirit that takes in the world, interprets it, and is driven to share it back out to the rest of humanity. She talks about how this creative expression is a fundamental part of who we are, and who we’re supposed to be in the world.
Near the end of my Ph.D. research, when I was at the heights of the mania that a single-purpose-driven project can bring, I distinctly remember proclaiming, “But I am MORE than this! I am a poet!” The dazed laboratory technician caught in my moment surely thought I was insane. Even I thought I was crazy, finally succumbing to the overload and stress that a dissertation inflicts on you. Because heaven knew I hadn’t written any poetry since I was a child, and then it was undoubtedly bad. But I was expressing a truth in the only way my creativity-starved mind could at the time. A self-declaration: I am MORE than this one limited aspect of my being!*
Embrace the MORE within you. Let it grow and breathe in your children, the small ones who haven’t been on the earth long enough to forget that they are BOUNDLESS. Allow yourself to create freely, and work and strive and achieve in the pursuit of that creative expression. It is not folly or imprudence or egotism, although creative people are not immune to foolishness or self-importance. Ueland also admonishes us to remember that creating Art is not simple or easy, not without hard work and striving and discipline. Van Gogh did not declare himself an Artiste, holding himself separate and above the world. This is pretentiousness. Instead, he so loved the world that he breathed it in, created his vision, and then painstakingly rendered it and sent it forth again into the world.
This is how creativity lives.
How do you nourish your creative spirit?
*Note: I strongly believe that creativity can be found in all pursuits, not just the arts. Even in Ph.D. research, although it may not have appeared so, to me, at the time.