My favorite (and the best of all time, in my opinion) TED talk, is that of the late Sir Ken Robinson in 2006, “Do Schools Kill Creativity”.
From the moment I watched it, it had an enduring and profound effect on how I viewed education, creativity, and even how I raised my kids.
As a self-proclaimed creative, I knew that I didn’t want to diminish my kids’ creative spirit in any way even though the traditional education system was fighting me, just as Sir Ken Robinson espoused, every step of the way.
Now, when I was growing up, our school would cut Art, Music, and Theater programs first, if budget cuts needed to be made. Not much changed by the time I was raising my kids either. It’s pretty sad, really. And though it’s better today in larger, more affluent areas, it’s not the case in the bulk of schools across the country.
When I speak to my peers and clients in midlife about creativity, it draws a blank stare in so many of them. We were among some of the worst students of a system that focused on the infamous 3 R’s and not much else.
Robinson was spot on and a generation of people got the short end of the stick.
Things are different now. Much different. Thank God for that. Today’s youth has the good fortune of living in a time when creativity, uniqueness, outside-the-box thinking, and artistic ability are all applauded.
But to those who didn’t get that, I’m hopeful you can at least entertain the idea that creativity is life-giving, and you should stop at nothing to draw yours out.
If you are having trouble getting there, you’re not alone and it’s no wonder.
Here are some of the key inspirations from Sir Robinson’s TED talk that may help explain why and inspire you to make some moves toward that inner artist.
–Creativity is as important as literacy.
–Our education systems were designed around standardized academic ability and educating to a “theory” of what t the world will be like decades from now-not creativity
–By the time most of us become adults, there is a stigma around being wrong or making mistakes, thus killing our desire to take chances or think creatively.
He illustrates these points with a beautiful story of a young 6-year old girl in school, participating in a class drawing lesson.
She was 6, and she was in the back, drawing. The teacher said this little girl hardly ever paid attention. In this drawing lesson, she did. And the teacher was fascinated. She went over to her, and she said, “what are you drawing?” The girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God”. The teacher said “well, nobody knows what God looks like”, and the girl said, “They will in a minute”.
She had no problem making the claim and didn’t have any fear that her drawing of God was somehow going to be “wrong”.
Robinson goes on to note that unlike adults, who have been conditioned to avoid mistakes and being wrong, kids don’t inherently have that fear. They will generally take a chance, even if they don’t know how it will turn out. They will take their shot…that is until that gumption is smashed and they slowly become fearful of mistakes, stigmatized by society as failures.
He contends that if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.
That’s a big statement. And it’s true. But we’re all afraid.
As a person in midlife and someone who puts a high value on creativity, I can tell you that those in my circle didn’t exactly have our creativity nourished in school. This created a generation of people who not only doubt they have any creativity but who wouldn’t know the first thing about how to discover it.
Even if we do have the idea that we may have a creative gift, there is fear and doubt around pursuing it. This saddens me as a life coach for women in midlife because I see it every day. I hear, “I’m not creative or artistic”, “I don’t really have a gift”.
Everyone is born an artist, the challenge is to stay that way as we grow up.
Not only is creativity important on its face for a fun and inspired life, but it’s also even more important as we age to help keep our minds sharp and give our lives a sense of beauty and purpose.
If you feel as though you need to do a little excavation to discover your creative genius, first understand that it isn’t an event, but a process.
And it can be a beautiful one.
This isn’t about someone teaching you to be creative, but more so, it’s about enabling and facilitating your curiosity and removing the lines and boundaries of your standard thinking.
You can’t think about a journey to your inner artist without speaking about Julia Cameron’s classic self-help guide to discovering your inner artist, The Artist’s Way.
Cameron too believes that art and creativity are in each of us, and our job is to uncover and care for it. Here are her recommended tips to follow to engage your imagination.
1. Write daily and show up on every page. Use the page to rest, to dream, to try.
2. Fill the well by caring for my artist.
3. Set small and gentle goals and meet them.
4. Pray for guidance, courage, and humility.
5. Remember that it is far harder and more painful to be a blocked artist than it is to do the work.
6. Be alert, always, for the presence of the Great Creator leading and helping my artist.
7. Choose companions who encourage me to do the work, not just talk about doing the work or why I am not doing the work.
8. Remember that the Great Creator loves creativity.
9. Remember that it is my job to do the work, not judge the work.
10. Place this sign in my workplace: Great Creator, I will take care of the quantity. You take care of the quality.
In case you don’t feel like those tips are specific enough, or you want to start with a few easy ones, here are a few of Julia’s easy inroads to a creative practice that can help get you started.
Start your day with quiet prayer or meditation. Allow thoughts to come to you and flow onto the page. Write everything down, no matter how absurd you think it might be. The point is to allow your mind to go anywhere it wants without guardrails. Your wonder and curiosity can steer you down a beautiful path of ideas or open up new areas of interest, so don’t allow anything to be mentally “taken off the table”. Stay open. Do this for a week and see what possibilities develop.
The ideas are already out there-take care of them, watch them grow
The easiest way to relax and take the pressure off of you is to stop thinking of yourself as the one that has to generate the idea, but rather where the ideas will flow through. Let the ideas happen TO you. Be the container and caregiver to the idea and inspiration and you’ll be able to receive guidance. When you give up trying to control your ideas, the universe conspires to illuminate possibilities.
Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it’s the task of the sculptor to discover it.
If you have a block, let others give you prompts
Seth Godin accurately contends that people don’t get “talkers block” so allow yourself to write as you talk. That’s an easy way to get past a block, but here’s another. Let someone close to you feed you some ideas on what to write, paint, or create. Just flat out ask them, “what should I make?” and let them guide you. It’s quite liberating and gives you a fresh look at something brought to you without your own internal bias. A clean inspiration that you can run freely with.
Creativity exists in all of us, and even though we are hell-bent on papering over it with our worldly responsibilities and daily tasks, it remains.
Patiently waiting for us to allow it to surface up to the light of our mind.
The mission we should all be signing up for, but especially those of us in midlife, is to be in pursuit of our creativity and never, ever stop.
When we find it, it will be the difference between merely enduring and tolerating our life and enjoying it.