Friday, August 8, 2008

Who Killed Your Creativity?

Belle Blanc Datura blooms opening at twilight

A recent issue of Scientific American Mind had a fascinating article on creativity. A panel of creativity experts gave their thoughts on the subject. (This interview is included in the text of my current book of the month, 'Brainstorm.' See the sidebar for a link.)

One of my favorite quotes was from Robert Epstein, professor and author.

"When children are very young, they all express creativity, but by the end of the first grade, very few do so. This is because of socialization. They learn in school to stay on task and to stop daydreaming and asking silly questions. As a result, the expression of new ideas is largely shut down. We end up leaving creative expression to the misfits--the people who can't be socialized. It's a tragedy."

A couple of things struck me about this quote. First, a memory. My oldest son was sent to the Principal's office in first grade for coloring outside the lines.

Principal's office.

Coloring outside the lines.

In first grade.

Yes, really.

While I understand that you can color with 'attitude', it was a revealing and infuriating moment when I read the note. I was a professional photographic artist and couldn't believe the sheer audacity of a teacher unable to manage a classroom resorting to this kind of control. This said more about the teacher than my son. Based on that alone, Epstein's quote rang bells with me.

Have you ever heard Harry Chapin's song, 'Flowers Are Red?" The lyrics are a powerful story of creative drive destroyed in the name of conformity. Chapin wrote the song after a teacher wrote on his son's report card...'Your son marches to the beat of a different drummer, but don't worry, we'll have him joining our parade before the end of the year.'


I also loved what Epstein said about leaving creativity to the ones who can't be socialized. I would have rather he said *won't* be socialized. To those who choose to follow the beat of the inner drummer rather than conform to the lockstep of the rest of the world. Untamed. Not fully domesticated. You don't have to be weird or anti-social to be creative, but you do have to be self aware and willing to take the time to listen to your heart. Once you've listened to the beat of your own heart, you must be willing to follow the path it leads you on.

We are social creatures. I'm a child of God. I want to please him in what I do. As a society, we have laws and morals that must be followed for the good of that society. I'm not saying get rid of that. I'm saying why do we have to subject our children to rigid standardized testing? Why can't there be more open ended explorations of passions in our youth? This is where homeschoolers have a serious advantage. We can avoid the tests and encourage the heart's desires for years after the public schools have pushed other children into molds.

But we are adults now with creative hearts and creative souls. And years of conformity dragging behind us. Our lives are filled with responsibilities. Joyful ones, true, but some that are not so joy filled. Why are there so many 'shoulds' and not nearly enough 'what-ifs?'

Why can't we think a bit more like the Queen in 'Alice in Wonderland?'

Alice begins...
“One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

In what ways has someone squashed or fostered your creative soul? In what ways can you foster a creative spirit in someone else? What bold and daring creative endeavor would you start if you were brave enough?

Believe impossible things.

Be brave.


Belle Blanc Datura Fully Flowered

4 Other Creative Souls are Saying:

WomanHonorThyself said...

what an inspirational post!..thanks for your comments at WHT!..nice of you to drop by!:)

Anonymous said...

Let me repeat on what an amazing post this is! My husband and I have an idea book that we use for inspiration. I think your post just made its way into our book.

MindFul MiMi said...

Great post. I struggle with creativity (as you might know if you have read my blog for a while). I agree with you that the world should be more creative and that we should try to let our kids draw outside the lines. If this world was run by the creative people (instead of the socialised) it would be a much happier place.

Sweet P said...

A wonderful and meaningful post. I have been going through a transformation lately and bringing out more of my artistic side.

I can't recall a single event in my early years where my creativity was deliberately squashed. I think I was never pushed to explore it. Getting good grades was always important to me. Art was just a fun class.

Since I've started quilting my creativity has blossomed again and I'm loving it!