Thursday, March 13, 2014

Creativity and our Bias Against it

Originally I was thinking about writing a post about how I plan our school.  Which feels extremely illusive to me since I don't really know how I come up with what to do with the girls.  Yes, I do have a frame work of sorts and have some bits of "set" curriculum pieces that we use on occasion, but how does it all come together and what do our days look like?

All this thought and observing our days and my plans for them led me to some reading about creativity.

I've always been told how creative I am, but what does that mean?  I read recently that all children are born divergent thinkers and (if left to their own devices) will come up with different solutions to a problem naturally, and around the time they are 12 or so is when they generally start conforming.

I saw that in my own life.  I went from an attitude that was "You say I can't do that?  Then I'll prove you wrong."  And I would.  To a place where I wanted to learn to "fit in" and where I felt pressure to spend time doing urgent (mundane) things that haven't (for the most part) helped me as an adult rather than keep developing my natural creativity which would help me much more now.  I did have quite a bit more opportunity to follow my own interests and hobbies because I was homeschooled and was able to make the time for my own interests, but I still felt the pressure around me to conform.  -- Not going right off to college?  What is wrong with you?  Not working full time as a whatever?  Lazy aren't you?--

What do we use to measure success?  When I finally worked for a Bridal shop as a seamstress when I was 21, all those years of teaching myself to sew and design my own clothes and alter things to fit me seemed to be "worth it" because I had an acceptable venue for using those skills.  That is, one that earned money.  Which is how we seem to rate success.

If that is how we rate success then where does that leave us homeschooling or stay-at-home-moms?  -- but that's a thought for another post.  Back to creativity and how to develop it in our own lives as well as allowing our children space for it.

Check out this video with John Cleese about creativity

In the video with John Cleese, besides being funny and fun to watch, talks about how to be creative.  That is to say, he talks about how to make space for creativity.  By first setting aside space and a specific amount of time (he suggests an hour and a half) and be open to ideas and play and not be afraid of mistakes because in that mode there are no mistakes and to have fun with it.  Allow humor rather than solemnity to be present.

The ending struck me as well but first let me reference this bit of info about what traits are and aren't present in creativity--

The researchers created a 20-item creativity “prototype” which consisted of 10 characteristics previously found to be associated with high creativity, and 10 characteristics found to be associated with low creativity.
Characteristics of creative children included qualities like:

Characteristics that were least typical of creative child included qualities like:

The article linked in the quote above was pointing out that our society doesn't value creative people, yet also notes that "In a recent survey of 1500 CEO’s by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, “creativity” was singled out as the most important leadership characteristic for businesses of the future."

Making a home atmosphere that allows for creativity seems to be pretty vital if we want our children to thrive in the future.  So how do we do that?  Watching the video and reading the article are some good starting points and also giving ourselves that space for creativity, but I also have some thoughts about what it's not.

And now I'm back to talking about the ending of the John Cleese video.  I wrote a "close" transcript of what he said at the end which won't be nearly as funny as listening to him saying it all, but as I listened I was comparing what he was saying about business to parenting and what it might look like to squelch creativity rather than nurture it.
How to stop your subordinates from being creative too.
We all know that if we encourage someone to be creative then before we know it they are rocking the boat and coming up with ideas and asking us questions.  If we don't nip this in the bud then we have to justify our decisions by reasoned arguments....

Here's how to stamp out creativity to get respect going.
1: Allow subordinates no humor; it threatens your self importance, especially your omniscience.  Treat all humor as frivolous  or subversive.

2:  Keeping ourselves feeling irreplaceable means cutting everyone else down to size.  So don't miss an opportunity to undermind your employees confidence.  A perfect opportunity comes when you are reviewing work that they have done.  Use your authority to zero in immediately  on all the things you can find wrong.  Never never balance the negatives with the positives.  Only criticize. - As your school teachers did.  Always remember:  Praise makes people "upity"

3:  Demand that people should always be doing things.  If you catch anyone pondering accuse them of laziness and or indecision.  This is to starve employees of thinking time because that would lead to creativity and insurrection.

So, demand urgency  at all times, use lots of fighting talk and war analogies and establish a permanant atmosphere of stress, of breathless anxiety, and crisis.  In a phrase, keep that mode closed.  In this way we can be assured that any bit of creativity even in its most microscopic measurement will be all our own and not that of our employees.

BUT let your vigilance  slip for one moment and you will find yourself surrounded by happy enthusiastic and creative people who you might not be able to completely control ever again!  So be careful.  Thank you and good night.

Lets note the above (on how to squelch creativity) which was basically

-lack of humor

If you've followed my blog much you've seen me struggle with organizing or developing habits to make housework easier.  I've talked about ideas for our school and shared some of my struggles with how hard it is for me to create a "schedule" for our days.  It's discouraging to try to work the cleaning plan only to have the freshly made beds or clean bathroom need a cleaning the very next day (or hour) because of a little person accident of some kind or another.  I've fallen into being more reactionary with cleaning and house things for much of the time, but then I feel like I'm constantly not able to catch up.

But guess what?  When I try to keep a "schedule" I lose my patience and start to feel too "busy" and I'm more critical of my children (who are making all the messes!) and humor definitely doesn't come into it because I'm just too exhausted to enjoy their silly antics because all I can see is the mess that I (again) have to clean up.  This goes for a strict school schedule as well.  I get stressed by it and can't be humorous or spontaneous.  Patience and being non-critical gets thrown out the window when it's all about checking the boxes on the lesson plan.

Under it all though, what I truly value is creative space.  Which might partly be why I can't stay in that negative creativity squelching place.  I look back to my own life and those things that I really appreciated growing up, time to play and create and be, are what I want to give my children.  I don't have an agenda for their future careers, I simply want them to explore who they are and what they like and stretch their minds in their own time.

Often I feel like my own value (in this area) is pushed aside by MYSELF because I think that the way to get to a "better place" is to plan and schedule.  I can't tell you how many times I've felt like creating something only to stop myself because I had "something else to do" and thought it would be better to do my to-do list and plan the creative thing for a different time.

Inevitably I wouldn't remember or care what I'd originally wanted to create and never get around to it. 

Occasionally I find it difficult to teach my children about what we believe through our school even though there are so many homeschool resources out there that have Bible lessons.  I don't often see the gospel emphasized (our inability to be good enough to go to heaven and how Jesus died for us and loved us in our sinfulness.)  Much of the lessons are teaching morality and emphasizing obedience and compliance.  While, yes, I do believe it's important to teach our children to obey us-- that's not the gospel message and shouldn't be the main focus.   I think it's far too easy to take that teaching to its extreme, and in our own sinfulness it's far too easy to focus on the verse that is only talking to kids and obeying and gloss over the verse right near that one that says "Father's do not provoke your children unto anger." Should they obey us because we simply don't want to deal with them right now?  Are we asking them to change who God actually created them to be by trying to make them comply?

God gave all of us a personality and creativity of our own at birth and helping our own kids develop that (rather than squelch who they are) is honoring to our Creator.

I don't know if any of the conservative Christian types will be reading this, but I can hear the argument now.  Lets look at the creative non-creative traits again.
Someone might argue that the "creative traits" which are-
Makes up rules as he goes along
Takes chances
Tends not to know their own limitations...

Are traits that are (or could be) sinful.  One thing that I've often reminded my kids when they hit their sister (for instance) is that the Bible says, "Be angry, but do not sin."  Being angry isn't a sin.  God himself gets angry!  It's what we do with our emotion that can be a sin or not.  Being emotional isn't a sin, but depending on how we act on our emotion we could end up sinning.

I should probably also point out that the people who are natural "rule-followers" that might fall into the non-creative traits list can fall into sins that are much harder to see (like pride) and are not inherently "better qualities" and yet, being tolerant (at least of us and our sins) and dependable and compliant are what we seem to be trying to instil in our children or students at large.

 Different Children, Different Needs: Understanding the Unique Personality of Your Child

Different Children Different Needs was a wonderful book about personality and how any trait can be balanced and healthy and any of them can be out of balance and we as parents need to recognize who our children are and instead of changing them (which isn't possible anyway) we need to guide them so that they can learn how to be emotional (for instance) but express it in an appropriate way.

In conclusion--
What I seem to be learning lately is almost a rediscovery of who God created me to be to begin with.  Where can I find my creativity again?  How can I make space for it and value any art that I want to do (whether it is "successful" or not.)  How can I make that space for my girls?

And how will that look in our day to day lives?
...if we encourage someone to be creative then before we know it they are rocking the boat and coming up with ideas and asking us questions. will find yourself surrounded by happy enthusiastic and creative people who you might not be able to completely control ever again! 


If you are interested in developing your own creativity (especially if you don't think you are creative) a great book to start with is this one.
 Product Details
"A million little ways"

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