On creativity

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Juniper painting on boxes and table at Toddler Art Group

I'm really loving everyone's comments to the two quotes I posted yesterday. Thank you. You know that first one by Picasso has always rubbed me the wrong way for some reason, but I've never quite been able to put my finger on why. Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. Why does this make me cringe whenever I come across it? Maybe I feel like it's a bit presumptious. Or maybe the definition of artist was a little too narrow in my mind. I'm still not sure. But I really like that second one by Ursula LeGuin. The creative adult is the child who has survived.

I think our job as parents and teachers is to help the children in our lives hold on to that essential creative spark.

Molly made a comment that I really identify with:

I've always felt that every person is creative, children are just especially uninhibited in their exploration of art (and everything really). I find that creativity shows itself in different ways and some people enjoy using their creativity to produce art, music, dance, etc. more than others. Those others may find satisfaction in using their creativity in, say, accounting or economics, the way an artist would in producing a work of art. Art, like any other skill, must be practiced and nurtured — something which I think you encourage us all to do here at the Artful Parent!

I agree! People can be creative at anything in life, not just the arts. And thank goodness they are! We need creative people in all areas of life. Creativity is not just about putting paint to paper, it's about creating something new, novel. It's about looking at something in a fresh way or coming up with a unique solution to a problem.

And yes, children are especially uninhibited in their approach to art and life. As we get older we judge ourselves more and worry about what others are thinking more. And these voices in our head can keep us from creating what we might otherwise create. Or from trusting ourselves. Or from exploring some of the less-well-traveled paths that might be calling to us.


But I think that for one thing, we can do our best to raise our children to be confident, creative beings (in all senses of the word). Charlotte made a great point that we, as parents, can do a lot to encourage our children's creativity at home. We can encourage curiousity, imagination, and flexible thinking, among other things. I think process-oriented art is one way to do this.

And, secondly, as adults who may or may not be feeling as confident in our own creativity, we can remember that while we may not possess the complete freedom from inhibition of a small child, we bring so much more to the table — our knowledge of this vast world around us (and sometimes our knowledge of how much there is still to know), years of experience in so many areas, our interests and passions, our ability to master skills, and our greater control over our minds and bodies (greater attention span, motor control, etc, fewer full body tantrums).

Perhaps we can overcome some of the inhibition we may feel and regain some confidence in our creativity by focusing on what we do bring to the table (our skills, knowledge, and self control) when we approach our areas of interest, be it art or math or teaching or whatever. And to be open to trying new things. Even be willing to think about it in new ways.

I wish you could all gather in my living room and we could talk about this in person (just pretend I'm passing around brownies, now, okay?). I love the back and forth and hearing what you think.

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  1. says

    You are so on the money with this. I think I have struggled with this all my life worrying about what others think which I thinks affects my creativity. It’s funny though people will say oh your so creative and I am like”really”
    Also I agree creative is not just within art but the way you problem solve etc!!

  2. says

    I never thought of myself as creative, until I became an adult and started dabbling in different hobbies that required me to grow in and express my creativity. I think I was never “labeled” creative as a child, so I just never thought of myself that way. I took a community college class during a break in the middle of my regular college years called “So you think you can’t draw.” It was eye-opening! It helped me to see that maybe I could be creative. When the scrapbooking craze hit, I started seeing that with practice and patience and a little education I could be creative. That has spread to other areas of my life – knitting, blogging, sewing, gardening, cooking, photography – the list goes on. I have also learned how important it is for my spirit to nurture my creativity, and that it does me no good to squelch those hobbies. I try to encourage my children in their creativity, and let them know that they are creative, so they don’t have to grow up like me feeling uncreative and unartistic.

  3. Dani says

    I think when you mentioned trusting ourselves you hit the nail on the head as far as why we “stray” so far from a child’s approach to things. We don’t trust ourselves anymore. Kids trust their whole selves, mind, body, soul, heart. They put it all out there and then the adults come in and muck it up. I know for me, having the opportunity to enter my sons (4yrs)creative space with him has allowed me to look at my own self. He has shown me through his wild abandon of all that is “proper”, “should be done like this”, “these are the rules” that if you connect with that child within that the “rules” no longer matter and “to thine own self be true” and you will find a place of peace and joy in what you do weather it be accounting or a great artist. How did those buggers get so dang smart and make it look so easy! :o)

  4. says

    I have recently discovered your blog and I love it! I am especially loving this conversation today! As an art teacher and parent I often spend a lot of time thinking about creativity. One thing I have learned from watching my 1 and 3 year old is that they are not inhibited by prior knowledge. They live in a world where anything is still possible. A great example of this is one day i was walking with my daughter in the morning but we could still see the moon and she pointed it out to me. We then walked around the corner and the moon was covered by a building, as we walked around the building the moon came into sight again and she exclaimed “There is another moon.” I loved that she lived in a world where there could be two moons. That she wasn’t limited by the scientific knowledge that I have about the earth and the solar system. I didn’t tell her that the earth only has one moon, i am sure she will learn that fact soon enough. Instead i just enjoyed a world where two moons is a possibility with her.

  5. says

    Beautifully stated.
    Here’s another new favorite quote of mine that I recently discovered when my 3rd grader was researching Albert Einstein: “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” There are several wonderful Einstein quotes on the essence of creativity, separate from the arts per se. I liked this one so much that I had snapfish mugs made up with a photo of James in his Einstein costume with this quote accompanying the photo!

  6. says

    I love that quote!! Hadn’t heard that one. I also love his quote about imagination being more important than knowledge:
    “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

  7. says

    Yep, kids trust their whole selves, mind, body, soul, and heart. The question is how do we keep that trust in the face of time, experience in the world, school, and yes, adults.

  8. says

    Yeah. Worrying about what others think can definitely affect creativity. I don’t think it’s possible to fully explore whatever it is you’re exploring or doing while part of your mind is worrying about what others think. You’ll trip yourself up! But I also think that it’s completely human to wonder what others are thinking. Perhaps we just need to get into a mental space where we can pretend we don’t care what others think for a little while as we do our creative work. Then later, we can let our mind get back to its noisy chatter after that creative work is done. Perhaps easier said than done though.

  9. says

    And while we’re at it:
    “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
    “Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”
    “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
    “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious – the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”

  10. says

    I love the idea of trusting our own creativity, and by example encouraging our children to never lose that inherent trust. To create/imagine, is to live up to our potential – and to truly enjoy life! I feel as though my son has given me the gift of creative awakening, now it’s my job to foster it in both of us. Thank you for bring to light such an interesting topic, now please pass the brownies :)

  11. Barbara Zaborowski says

    In elementary school I got a lot of positive feedback for drama. My 5th grade teacher actually let me stage scenes from Shakespeare. Then in high school, it was writing and, to a lesser extent, art. None of them compared, as a creative activity, to raising my kids. I really wasn’t prepared for how much creativity it required. Now that they’re grown, I’m channeling that creativity into teaching. There are many, many venues for creativity; it’s too bad we tend to think only of the arts.

  12. says

    I love the discussion going on here. Creativity, for me, is less about being an exceptional artist, and more about responding creatively to life. When I’m really blown away by a great piece of art it’s because I’ve connected to the artist’s response to something. Being able to respond creatively rather than simply reacting is something I hope to learn through my own creative practice, and certainly something I want to pass on to my sons.

  13. says

    Agree with the raising kids part! Also, when I was overseas without many amenities, there were many creative problem solving moments that have served me well both as a parent and in general. Taking a moment to think/create/imagine before acting on something often opens new doors, again something that kids are so good at doing since they are not watching the clock. (And, Jean if you bring the brownies, I’ll bring a pot of tea.)

  14. rosie says

    hey there,
    your neighbor rosie here! try this….take on stem and split it down the middle and put each half in a jar of colored water. you will get one flower with 2 colors. i apologize if someone already wrote this. i just got into the office and haven’t had a chance to read everyone else’s responses. you all are having so much fun!!!

  15. char says

    I’m enjoying the conversation about the two quotes so much! Thank you for sharing this with us (and the brownies, too!).
    Now that I am a Mom, art has become so much a part of my love for life that I cannot imagine my life without it. I actually wake up early, before anyone else in my house, and without an alarm clock, so that I can have a few moments to make something–anything. The days this happens are always my best days.
    Being a Mom has opened my senses to the beautiful world beyond my self. I can see now that people aren’t paying much attention to me (even when I want them to!!). So, I can do *whatever* I want (causing no harm, of course, and whenever I can scrape up a few moments of freedom).
    Art is exploration, and children are designed to engage (us) with that process… thank you, thank you, thank you my dear son!!!!

  16. says

    Beautifully said! Hope you don’t mind that I linked to this post on my blog. One of my hopes for my daughter is that she doesn’t have to take a journey to rediscover creativity as an adult. I want us to raise her to embrace being a creative person throughout her life. One of the wonderful benefits of rediscovering my own creativity has been developing an expanded view of creativity. My dad is an engineer and I didn’t see how creative he is until the past few years — his creativity just looks so different to mine. His apartment is filled with small adjustments he’s made to creatively use space and adjust things to his tall height. There’s so much more to enjoy in the world when I look at it through creative-colored glasses.

  17. says

    Nice discussion..I totally agree that creativity is a hidden talent which comes out on polish. For children it’s depend on parents and teachers that how they manage the surrounding for their young one to enhance the internal creative skills.