Can Creativity Be Taught?
By Joyce Svitak
When you think 'creative type' do you envision a starving artist?
Although creativity has always been an essential part of science and
industry, not to mention human survival, many parents see creativity
as a path to the food service industry (would you like fries with
that art school degree?), instead of the difference between
obscurity and brilliance in almost any field.
From the invention of the phonograph in the 1878, audio
technology changed very little for nearly a hundred years. Sure,
there were new models unveiled on a regular basis, but the drive for
the ‘next new thing' was working on an annual cycle. This differs
greatly from the current climate, where consumers have come to
expect technology or aesthetic updates on a near daily basis. For
example, there are over 2,000 accessories for the i-pod, a number
which has doubled since last year. The trend goes beyond
manufacturing: as the latest difficult to decipher ‘prove you're
really human' security filters attest, spammers come up with
creative ways to inundate mailboxes daily, forcing administrators to
find increasingly creative ways to block them. Meanwhile the
beverage industry scrambles to find the flavor of the week;
strawberry-kiwi is so passť.
While you may not envision your child seeking out a career
writing spam, this sort of thing is going on in every growth
industry; the demand for constant innovation creates a make-or-break
climate in the corporate world and a thirst for innovative thinkers
that matches the public's demand for the next new thing. Toss your
fears about your child starving in a garret to the wayside. In this
day and age when you raise a creative child, you are not necessarily
raising an artist, you are raising a person equipped to rise to the
top of any field.
But how do you teach creativity? Like a modern designer looking
for inspiration, follow the tried-and-true motto and go back to the
classics. Writing. So maybe you don't want to raise a writer. But
writing regularly builds the kind of thought patterns that improve
problem solving skills, logical thinking, and, perhaps most
importantly, the ability to innovate.
Today's emphasis on standardized testing is squelching the very
creativity that could make all the difference for your child's
future quality of life. As a parent it's your job to remove the
rules for awhile, and to awaken your child to the idea that writing
is not just a series of strictures and indicator groups: it can also
be a field of unlimited freedom.
Set aside some time. Begin by choosing a picture. Ask your
children to close their eyes and focus, pay attention to breathing
for a moment and try to clear their minds. Have them open their eyes
and concentrate on the picture for a moment. Tell them you don't
want them to write about what the picture looks like, but rather to
focus on what the picture makes them feel. What does the picture
make them think of? What does the picture remind them of? It can be
anything- it doesn't have to relate directly to the image. Does it
have a happy feeling? A melancholy feeling? Ask them to sit down and
write about it for a few moments. You'll be amazed by the results.
This exercise can be done with objects, preferably things that
are not immediately recognizable, or with smells (choose something
with a distinct smell, don't let your child see it, have them smell
it with closed eyes, and ask them to write about it).
There are hundreds of similar exercises. The main point is to let
your child realize that they have free reign in the creative realm.
This sense of freedom is exhilarating and self perpetuating. Most
children who are awakened to the entertainment and joy writing
affords will gravitate to it naturally and build creative thinking
skills on a daily basis. Just don't tell them they may end up
designing I-pod covers.
Joyce Svitak is the co-author of Flying Fingers--Master the tools of
learning through the joy of writing Her daughter Adora Svitak
published the book at age seven, since then, the book has been
translated into Chinese, Korea. It will have a new edition in UK
this fall. Adora has toured many schools to present her writing
workshop. Please visit her website at