Yesterday I came across something I wrote in 2000, at a time when I was opening up my creative channels. I’d completed my Ph.D. in 1996 and taught for a few years, but came to a point where I needed to completely disengage from the “PH.D.” and open the door to a broader range of experience. This time in my life was really important to me. I was sort of walking away from everything I’d done, to see what other ways I could grow and experience life.
My passion has always been how adults learn in everyday life (this was also the subject of my Ph.D. dissertation.) After I finished my Ph.D., I had to leave the academic, in order to really experience and understand how adults learn. Some of the ideas here (especially the thoughts around what critical thinking is, and how it’s related to creativity) are more developed in my soon-to-be-published book, Getting Messy. I called the piece “Peanut Butter and Jelly Creativity” and I wrote it in a child-like way. It reminds me of Sark’s work. I’d revise some things in it now, but I’m going to post the original version, to bring back the energy of that time. I love the voice, freshness, and wisdom in the piece.
I never thought I was creative because my mom always said
No one else in my family was either.
My friend Angela thought she wasn’t creative because her father
was an artist
and she thought there could only be one in the family.
We were both wrong.
Everyone is creative.
(You are creative.)
You just need to find your particular path, your particular voice.
What grabs you?
What juices you?
What do you love?
These questions are harder than they appear.
Because creativity always leads us in surprising ways.
It’s scary to trust that voice.
It’s much easier to trust other people’s voices.
Those voices that instruct you, telling you what to do and how
to do it.
When you go with your creativity, you go against the norm…
I need space to let my creativity flourish.
Lots and lots and lots of space.
I moved to Montana to find more space.
Space can include a lot of different things.
It’s kind of like “breathing room.”
Sometimes it’s breathing room from people.
My friend Angela wants me to be her friend always and forever.
That makes me feel like I’m in prison.
To be creative, I need freedom in my relationships too.
Sometimes it’s breathing room from too many ideas
weighing me down.
I especially suffered from this in graduate school.
Now, when I read too much I feel ill.
I know when I’m “too full” and need to quit.
We need room to breathe, space to think, and freedom
from the ideas of others.
We need to discover our own ideas.
Everyone says critical thinking is important.
The other day a Ph.D. Astrophysicist from Princeton was on National Public Radio. (*WOW@!)
He spent an hour talking about how he was trying to get people to think critically.
For example, he wanted people to know that they were at the same risk of dying from an asteroid hitting the earth as dying from an airplane crash. And that days actually grow shorter in the summer, not longer. (The longest day of the year is the first day of summer.)
But this is simply inserting a different (“more correct”) set of information into our heads.
To me, critical thinking is more like creativity—
Going underneath the information he provided and pondering it.
Putting new thoughts together…
What would it feel like if an asteroid hit the earth?
Would it make a loud bang?
Would I lose my hearing immediately?
Creativity can happen in any subject.
There are creative mothers, creative gardeners, creative builders.
There are creative engineers, and maybe even creative politicians.
Can you think of any?
Some subjects are heavier than others
but all subjects can be made heavy.
By giving us too much information to swallow.
Information is heavy.
Creativity is light.
Critical thinking requires space just like creativity does.
What else do I need?
But mostly, not being afraid to be a fool.
Have you noticed that many creative things are childlike?
Think of Picasso’s art, Robin Williams, the Beatles (“Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da” “We all live in a yellow submarine” $@#!)
Creativity needs play.
What is play to you?
I like rolling down hills, wrestling with my friends, exploring new city neighborhoods.
When I lived in Chicago I would stand in front of Grant Fountain and fantasize about climbing in.
Creativity requires paying attention and noticing.
It requires trusting yourself.
It’s taken me many years to notice that
pushing myself to “work hard” stops my creative flow.
Lots of breaks are good.
And if something comes up,
I need to follow it.
Even if I’m driving, or standing in line at the grocery, or trying to sleep.
Creativity is a gift, And it’s our job to put it out there into the world.
Even if people think it’s silly