My mother has always been super creative, and not surprisingly she is a super creative grandmother to my four year old. We regularly receive poems, illustrations and stories relating to what my daughter is learning in school or her latest (inevitably fleeting) area of interest.
I know people aren’t always subjective when it comes to their moms; however, for the record, my mother was a university professor who spent her career focused on creative expression and children’s literature. That said, I thought I would use Mother’s Day as an excuse to interview my mother and see if her views on fostering and inspiring creative might be relevant to what we do. Let’s see…
Ok, Mom, first things first, what does it take to be creative?
To think creatively, I really believe there are three essentials: 1) A playful attitude – a willing to play with ideas and concepts – (being playful also involves a relatively relaxed state) 2) A willingness to take risks – doing things, thinking things that are a little out there! 3) Having background knowledge in whatever field or subject matter you are trying to be creative in
You spent most of your career focused on children’s education. Do you think children are inherently creative?
I think children are inherently creative because they are inherently playful. Playing is their modus operandi for learning. They are not approaching a situation with an agenda or preconceived notions so are willing to try new things and experiment. Research shows that creativity drops around the age of 6 – the time children enter formal schooling! In school, tasks and learning are to be done in a specific way with specific rules. These are two elements sure to damper a creative spirit.
Do you believe children are more creative than adults?
I think that depends on the child and the adult. Creativity is not a static characteristic. Some children have a higher degree of creativity than other children. The same can be said of adults.
Do adults lose the ability to creative? Is there a moment or tipping point when we lose our ability to be creative?
Unfortunately, I think adults can lose their creativity because they are afraid of failure, afraid of being different, afraid of breaking the rules. Also – creativity gets classified with the arts. Ergo – if I can’t paint, or compose music, or play the saxophone, I cannot be creative. So, if you believe you are not creative, you will not be creative.
However, there are many, many adults who maintain a high degree of creativity – and they are society’s movers, shakes, innovators and inventors.
Do you believe creativity can be taught? To children? To adults?
Absolutely creativity can be nurtured, expanded and taught to both children and adults.
An atmosphere of safety, playfulness, listening to others, and trust must first be established. Promoting creativity includes teaching activities that support divergent thinking and brain storming, and allowing a multitude of ideas to be put on the table before a more critical stance is taken. Also, it is crucial that the activity does not have one solution, and the activity needs to be challenging. It needs to engage the learners, and it needs to be fun to do. All of this is not an easy way to teach, which is why – unfortunately – it is not the primary teaching style in many classrooms.
What can adults do to tap into latent creativity?
First and foremost, adults must realize that they are creative. One cannot successfully maneuver in this world without creative problem solving strategies. Also, we, as humans, are wired to be creative – to seek novel and improved solutions to problems. Second, adults need to try new things! This opens the door to seeing things in new ways, in understanding concepts differently. Third, adults need to remember that creativity can creep into everyday activities – cooking, cleaning, doing the bills, writing emails and texts – if one adds to these mundane chores a new twist – a new skill, a new way of doing it.
What creative people most inspire you?
My daughters! Their creativity is fabulous. My husband – he sees the world in such a unique way, with humor and intelligence.
Excellent answer, Mother, and Happy Mother’s Day to you!
Special thanks to Dr Bette Goldstone Perlman for the interview.
Avra Lorrimer is head of household, consumer packaged goods at Hill + Knowlton Strategies