Friday, April 10, 2015

Creativity shouldn't be paralyzing.

I am a quilter.  I can pick and coordinate really funky fabrics, and use them together in a quilt without any qualms whatsoever.  Years ago, I taught quilt-making in a small quilt shop, and was astounded by how quickly the samples in the shops were retired.  It wasn't because the patterns were out of stock, it was usually because the fabric used in the sample was no longer available for sale.

Apparently a lot of people who shopped in that store would view the sample and purchase the exact same fabrics as the sample, rather than choosing their own combinations.  Liking the sample, and choosing the same fabrics, was safe.  The finished product had a good chance of looking like the sample on the wall.

I'm told by friends that similar instances of mimicry happen in clothing stores with individuals who purchase every last item on the model for the perfectly coordinated outfit, to entire rooms of furniture, right down to the nicknacks, for the "House Beautiful" look.

Paralyzing Creativity.

Guy Claxton, a professor at the University of Winchester, surmises that creativity is an attitude of life. "It is a composite of habits of mind which include curiosity, skepticism, imagination, determination, craftsmanship, collaboration, and self-evaluation,"  Claxton stated, in his presentation at the World Innovation Summit for Education in 2014.

 Of course, any time somebody talks about habits of mind, my ears perk up.  Certainly Claxton's "habits of mind" only loosely mirror those we've been working with in class this year, they still speak to the innovative, out of the box thinking required to succeed in this world.  But what of that "out of the box" metaphor that we all banter about?   Are we doing a disservice to that mental image?

Edutopia mused about the importance of creativity last week in its article entitled The Science (and Practice) of Creativity.    The entire article is well worth the read, along with the commentary at the end.  I found it curious that while LEGO is viewed as one of the most creative -- or should I say creativity-producing -- toys ever designed, most of the LEGO shelves are filled with kits of LEGOS with step by step instructions to complete a model, rather than the random (and painful, if stepped on) LEGOS that served as forts for Barbies and GI Joes, when I was a kid.

All in all, I welcome the fact that there appears to be an increased discussion about what is lacking in our children and education these days -- including the habit of mind known as Risk-Taking.  It's okay to try something and fail.  Really.

Even if I do  have my own paralyzing fear, and it's paint colors on walls.  Further proof that we all need a little encouragement!