If you ask ten people what Creativity is, you’ll have ten different answers. Creativity has been described as:
1. Creativity is talent, you either have it or you don’t.
2. Creativity is the generation of new ideas or concepts.
3. Creativity is the ability to create something from nothing – God created the heavens and the earth.
4. creativity is whole-brain thinking; combining right brain imagination with left brain logic.
5. Creativity is breaking away from our conditioned mind to discover our true inner essence.
6. Creativity is the license to dream dreams.
7. Creativity is the ability to amuse yourself.
8. Creativity is thinking outside the box.
9. Creativity is thinking inside the box, but in new ways.
10. Creativity is ignoring the box completely. Be boxless.
What, then, is creativity? How can we encourage creativity in our children, if we don’t even know what it is?
Simply put, I believe creativity is doing, thinking, or dreaming something you haven’t done, thought, or dreamed before. A child is creative when he scribbles with a black crayon on pink paper. It may not be original. Thousands of children have scribbled with black crayons for generations. But for that child, at that moment, he is doing something he has not done before. Now, if he always colors with a black crayon on pink paper, day after day after day, he is no longer being creative. He has fallen into a rut, he is performing a ritual.
Trying to do something new is scary. There’s a certain amount of comfort in doing the same things over and over. If you drive home taking the highway, you know how to go. You know how long it will take you, and you know exactly where to turn off. But if you decide to take a new way home – to just head out in the general direction, you risk getting lost. Perhaps you worry about having a flat tire, or other car trouble, in a strange neighborhood, and you won’t know who to call for help. So you continue to drive home every day, the same way, over and over. Yet, you miss a lot of opportunities! If you work full time, you’ll make that same trip home 250 times a year, times however many years you work at the same place and live at the same address. In all that time, you’ve missed so many opportunities to see the world, or at least, your little corner of it.
Small children are less afraid of trying new things. They have to be – everything is new to them. That is one reason why it is believed that children are born creative, but our culture or our educational system drives the creativity out of them. They are taught there is a right way and a wrong way, and that they must conform to the right way. They become afraid of being wrong, and fear is the biggest road-block to creativity.
Thinking new thoughts is not as scary, but it doesn’t happen naturally. We must learn to expand our thinking, through reading, or discussing things with others, or through creativity exercises that are meant to challenge us, or sometimes, through adversity. We don’t have to think of new ways to serve food at dinner time, until someone in our family needs to go on a restricted diet. We don’t have to find new ways to clean, unless the old products no longer work for us. We don’t have to develop new ways of relating to our loved one, unless we feel our relationship is in danger. Doing the same old, same old, is always more comfortable.
Dreaming new dreams is perhaps the scariest of all. What would you do, if you had a million dollars? Would you still work? If the answer is no, then perhaps you are not doing the job that you were meant to do. People who feel fulfilled in their work do not want to stop. But facing the possibility that you might need to make a career change is more frightening that being stranded by the side of the road with a flat tire. A career change is life-altering. It may require years of planning, studying, and growing. It may require a new resume, new wardrobe, going through the interview process again, putting yourself out there, and possibly being rejected.
We have turned our dreams into nightmares. We need to learn to free ourselves, to give ourselves permission to dream, and discover where it takes us. We need to remember to try doing new things, thinking new thoughts, dreaming new dreams, for if we truly want creative children, we must first become creative adults.