The results of a Google image search for the term “creative person” are very colorful. Literally. There are brightly-dressed people holding paintbrushes and pens. There are rainbows of color bursting from heads, chests, and sketches of brains.
One could say the overall results are “arty”. But when did the universe-encompassing noun, adjective, and verb: “creative” become synonymous with the word “art”?
By definition, creativity involves the act of making something. An act of creation. Art is far from the only thing humans make, but I bet you’ve never thought of Marie Curie as a creative.
Have you ever flicked a light switch and contemplated the phenomenal creativity that birthed electricity? Or is that rather “too sciency” in your mind?
Consider Einstein then. You’re probably thinking intelligence, genius, inventor. Maybe E = mc2 or wild white hair. Why aren’t you including this physicist’s extraordinary levels of creative thinking, discovery, and action?
Nurture Creativity: Thinking Inside The Box
“She’s a creative.”
Depending on your upbringing, this statement has the potential to make you nervous or envious.
Nervous because society has confused creativity with inner turmoil, unstable lives, poverty, a penchant for whimsy, and, at best, a substance-fulled-but-soulless-but-successful career in advertising.
Envious because of the permission given. Creative women can be wild and free. They can wear bright clothes, have bold ideas, and are able to deeply express those ideas at will because “art”.
These concepts are misguided and harmful. They hold us back personally. Worse, they cause us to handicap, restrict and misperceive our children because:
- This child can’t draw or is very timid, therefore they aren’t creative.
- My child can’t focus on creative pursuits because they’ll never earn a decent living.
- People won’t take my child seriously if she’s too creative.
- [Insert your inherited, limited family narrative here.]
Newsflash: You’ve created at least 10 things today, including meals, texts, and conversations. Those things never existed before you and will never exist again in the exact manner and context in which unique you created them.
Well, hello, artiste.
If Everyone’s An Artist, No One’s An Artist
Two of the core tenets of creativity and the creative mind are that of originality and difference.
Rather than see this as an artistic trait, it’s more realistic and useful to understand it as a well-used skill belonging to anyone who’s good at what they do. Teacher, lawyer, investor, CEO, waitress.
The ability to respond creatively to the present moment (whether it presents as a problem, boredom, stress, or inspiration) requires confidence, self-trust, and a lot of practice in being ourselves.
That’s because creativity comes from thinking differently. As eight-year-old Nelisiwe explains in this TEDx Talk: the easiest way to think differently to others is to think like yourself. To be unique, to see unique solutions and create unique things, you must first be yourself.
When it comes to encouraging creative living in your daughters, this looks like not only allowing your children to be who they are but also overtly encouraging this individuality.
At a deeper level, it’s being self-responsible and not projecting onto them your unquestioned pre-conceived ideas and fears, or unlived potential and regrets.
Five Ways To Nurture Creativity In Your Kids
1. The way you ask the question determines the type of answer you get.
As Stanford professor, speaker, and best selling author Tina Seelig states, the questions you ask are the frame into which the answers will fall.
5 + 5 = ? – there’s one correct, linear answer to this question.
? + ? = 10 – there’s an infinite number of correct answers to this one.
If you want to encourage creative thinking and answers, ask your kids better questions. Better looks like considered and interesting.
2. Yes, and. Embrace the tenets of improv.
“The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES…respect what your partner has created and at least start from an open-minded place.” – Tina Fey
At 9 p.m. on a school night, Zach King asked his friend if he wanted to come over and make a video about Jedi kittens. The friend said yes and they got to it.
To date, that video has over 30 million views.
“Yes, and” accidentally launched his career.
Play into your child’s imagination by taking their lead and adding a stepping stone.
3. The reframe changes the game.
“Hey, what if the earth isn’t the center of the solar system but rather the sun is?” – One reframe and the Copernican astronomy revolution was born.
In the film The Pursuit of Happiness, Will Smith’s character powerfully reframes being homeless and sleeping in a subway toilet with his son into a playful night out and big adventure.
How can you reframe your child’s problems, homework, and banalities so that they become curiosities, explorations, and imaginative?
4. Chindogu: The art of un-useless inventions.
What are you assuming about your child’s life and their experiences? Is there a model for how it should all be unfolding? Why?
Are you able to suspend your comfort and beliefs about how things should be in order to help your children go beyond the everyday and pay attention to life with fresh eyes?
The Japanese art of Chindogu encourages immense creativity through the premise of pairing together unrelated everyday objects in order to solve common problems.
Think shoes with small umbrellas on them and finger bristles for brushing your teeth. What weird-wonderful potential combinations could you explore together?
5. The courage to surrender your know-better.
Perhaps one of the hardest things as a parent is to allow your child to be who they are, not who you want them to be, and most especially, not who you wanted to be.
This is important because you cannot force a child to be motivated and inspired about anything. These qualities, which are crucial to creativity, are innate to the predilections of your child.
You have to take your child’s lead and trust them.
If they’re obsessed with building intricate traps alone in the garden, don’t force them to be on the hockey team instead.
Who knows? You could have a future strategic leader on your hands.
Remember, you’re growing a person, not working on a project. That young person has innate creative skills and enviable access to imagination.
Make them feel safe and accepted while they explore themselves and the world, in their own quirky way. You’ll be setting them up for a life where fifteen years from now they won’t be Googling “how to be more creative”.
Instead, they’ll be their authentic selves: original, curious and open. And creative thinking, problem-solving, and playfulness will be normal and natural.
Written by Roxana Bouwer
Images by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash