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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.



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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 http://www.adorasvitak.com for more info.



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