I am not 100% sure how I came upon Woman Wielding Words, Lisa Kramer’s blog, but I am glad I did. (PS: she thinks it was something to do with LinkedIn.)
I found a kindred spirit, overall, in what she has written, and this guest post only cements that.
It is a pleasure to introduce her to you here.
The Creativity Series: Guest Post
Creativity isn’t About Being Perfect, It’s About Living Life with Passion: Lisa Kramer
No matter where I am or what I am doing, one statement crushes me, causing me to want to scream.
What is this horrific statement?
“I am not creative.”
I hear it all the time; in college classrooms, in discussions with friends, and perhaps most painfully out of the mouths of children. How could a child not be creative? Or perhaps I should ask, what does society do to suck the creativity out of children, or their belief in their ability to create?
In my experience, everybody is creative, but there comes a point where creativity is frowned upon as something less worthy or less “normal” in some way. That is a loss. If you look at the dictionary definition of creativity, you will find the following:
. . . the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination (dictionary.com)
How could anybody not welcome the “ability . . . to create meaningful new ideas . . .etc.”? Why is creativity something that society seems to fear rather than embrace?
I don’t have the answers, but I fear for a world that stifles creativity in children at such a young age, and a society that seems to be trying, on a daily basis, to silence anyone who thinks outside of a restrictive social norm. I’m sure some might say that I exaggerate, and that children lose their creativity as a natural result of getting older. However, the problem is not simply an issue of growing up.
Several years ago, at a week-long puppet-making workshop for grades K-6, I offered different puppets for different age groups. For the Kindergarten and First graders I decided to make fish puppets, based on The Rainbow Fish. The Kindergarteners took their instructions and ran away with it, adding color and scales, eyes and glitter in any chaotic fashion that suited their fancy. It was a fast-paced burst of creative energy, and I loved the result especially the fish with two eyes one side of its head and thee on the other.
In the first grade, things were different. Many of the kids censored their creative impulses. If they couldn’t do it “right” or make the “perfect” fish, they wanted either my assistant or I to do it for them. (We didn’t, of course).
In Being Perfect, Anna Quindlen writes that “being perfect [is like] carrying a backpack filled with bricks every single day.” (11) Where do we pick up and fill that backpack? What happens between kindergarten and 1st grade that allows us to catch this terrible disease? Perfectionism is, in many ways, the enemy of creativity. I am not saying we can’t strive for perfection in our creative endeavors, but that pursuing perfection often paralyzes our ability to create.
Often the people who say, “I’m not creative” are also the ones who slog their way through life just doing what they have to do following all the rules as they go. Perhaps this comes from a narrow definition of what it means to be creative. Creativity is not limited to those people who can put words on a page, or images on a canvas, or write music or whatever you think of as creative. Everything we do involves a creative choice, especially if we take even the tiniest step away from the “rules”: how we dress, how we set up our desk, how we cook our food, how we decorate our house, even how we sign our names involves creative choices.
Imagine a work place where everything must be done in one way, and one way only. Your office or cubicle has to be decorated under precise parameters. Every word you write, whether a memo or an e-mail must be worded following protocol. Imagine yourself as a worker in this place, who suddenly realizes that there is a better and more productive way to accomplish XYZ, but you do not speak up because it doesn’t follow the proscribed rules of the company. Slowly you learn to stifle those creative thoughts, and become a corporate drone. Life turns gray.
I am not saying that all corporations suck creativity out of every individual. I’m not even saying that people who don’t think they are creative can’t enjoy life. Instead, I argue that in order to make change and embrace life, everything we do must incorporate creativity. If we lose the creative aspects of ourselves, then what do we have? So my response to a person who says, “I’m not creative” is, “yes you are, you just don’t see it.” And my response to the question “Why creativity?” is simply, “Life is creative.”
Lisa A. Kramer is a freelance theatre director, educator, and writer. After graduating from Smith College with a double major in Theatre and English Language & Literature she spent some time teaching English conversation in Japan. This led her to expanding her understanding of theatre and pursuing and MFA in directing from the University of Hawai’i, Manoa as well as a Ph.D. in Theatre for Youth from Arizona State University. She enjoys directing theatre for all ages, developing new works, incorporating non-western techniques in productions, and exploring cultural and social issues through theatre. She hopes to develop shows using multiple cultures, languages, and generations to help build bridges.”