Creativity: the problem and 26 solutions

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“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” This is what author, speaker and educationalist Ken Robinson said in his 2006 TED talk on “How school kills creativity,” and it is a message that stuck with us. It seems like as we grow up, we grow out of things much more important than our clothes. We grow of our creativity. As we get older, there is nothing more terrifying and crippling than the fear of being wrong. The imagination that allowed us to glue macaroni to a flat surface and call it a masterpiece and have a best friend that no one else could see vanishes as the years go by (though, in the case of the imaginary friends, is probably for the best). It seems like our creativity is evaporating into thin air, and it is due in part to the inevitable process of getting older. When we are forced to leave the simplicity of childhood behind, we thirst for social approval as if it were water. A strange comment is treason. Choosing to read books over playing sports is blasphemy. The point is, you get bullied if you’re “weird.” Life, and three-quarters of all PG rated movies, made this perfectly clear.

What we believe is more confounding, and what we have to agree with Robinson about, is that the way our education system operates is teaching our children out of their creative capacities. Every student and every person has the capacity and, arguably (if he or she wants to self-actualize), the necessity to think creatively. Contrary to popular belief, creativity is not just a gift bestowed the left-handed, right-brained, the theater majors or the spawn of dreadlocked, we-don’t-believe-in-TV artists. Like we said before, if you aren’t prepared to be wrong, there is no way you can come up with a truly original creative thought. Standardized curriculum, standardized testing and a standardized hierarchy of subjects according their “value” served next to a heaping pile of degree inflation is what students are being fed through our education system today. The worst part is, if they don’t succeed in this rigid mold, they are told they are less intelligent or are sent to the doctor, diagnosed with ADD or ADHD and handed a prescription for an amphetamine faster than you can say “Adderall dependence.” It creates an environment in which making a mistake or pursuing a field lower on the academic totem pole is synonymous with jeopardizing your future. The very nature of creativity is fishing out an original thought from a pool of various angles of viewing the world. If we dismiss one’s passion in a school of thought as useless, unproductive and likely to amount to nothing but a future of disappointment and unpaid bills, how can this interplay ever occur? Creativity, perhaps now more than ever, should be valued above all else. Where the school system might fail us, we have to take matters into our own hands. Here are some nonobvious ways that those who are feeling uncreative can massage those big, bodacious brains for creative thought:

  1. Make your food from scratch.
  2. Sing in the shower.
  3. Take cat naps.
  4. Create and liberally use a Twitter account.
  5. Be curious.
  6. Freestyle rap.
  7. Keep a journal of ideas with you everywhere you go.
  8. Learn a new word a week.
  9. Talk to creative people.
  10. Dance like a fool.
  11. Doodle.
  12. Collaborate on a project.
  13. Ask friends for their favorite music.
  14. Get feedback on your work.
  15. READ. Knowledge is power.
  16. Walk different routes to places to go to regularly.
  17. Drink coffee.
  18. Handle criticism with maturity.
  19. Open a Word document, type, wait until something interesting comes up and run with it.
  20. Don’t ever compare yourself to other people.
  21. Take Vines.
  22. Be open to new ideas, even if they seem extreme.
  23. Be easy on yourself.
  24. Handwrite things first.
  25. Watch a movie you’ve never heard of before.
  26. Finish things you started.

What are some things that get your creativity going? Let us know in the comments.

Image Source: TZA under Creative Commons 

Contact Liz Zarka at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @Zarkotics.