Monday, March 12, 2012


I was reading this article at the Wall Street Journal Online about How to be Creative.  My husband is the creative one.  He is the artist.  He thinks up weird and unlikely designs to make out of wood or metal that turn out to be beautiful and thought provoking.  Since I have known him he has a systematic creative process.

His favorite is getting started.  He will talk about an idea, sketch it on several pieces of paper that get scattered about, make lists.

Then he begins the fabrication.  He enjoys this part too, and it's hard for him to stop when he gets started. He gets in a groove and just goes with it.  There is a lot of positive talk concerning the speed of his progress and how he doesn't have much to do yet, even though to the average person, the project is just started.

Then he gets stuck.  It happens with everything.  Somewhere in the project he is presented with an impossible problem that threatens to destroy everything that he's done so far, jeopardizing the entire project.  This step is accompanied by sailor talk, schizophrenic actions, toddler stomping, and object chucking.  It's quite entertaining to someone who knows he will eventually work through it and it is just part of the creative process.  However, it can be scary if you don't know that.  You'd think the project was over and he would never make art again!

Then comes the epiphany.  If you're around to catch it you can actually see the light bulb flash on over his head.  This usually comes after he walks away from it for a while, one of those moments of insight as the article states, after he has a relaxing bath or bottle of beer.

Then comes the implementation of the plan.  He likes this because it is overcoming a problem, usually in a clever or crazy way.  It usually merits bragging rights to anyone who will listen, because that's creative genius.

Then comes the almost finished, why can't I just end it now, because it's not cool anymore phase.  He really has to force himself to do this, because once he has overcome the major problems, it's no longer fun for him.  I think he would prefer his studio to be filled with a bunch of minions to complete it.

Finally, he has to call time of death.  If given the option, he will chew and chew and chew on the project, thinking of ways to add, tweak, redo, fix, or make it better.  He sees a rough spot here that needs to be resanded, a welded joint that isn't quite right, spots in the stain, fly poop, wrong angles.   It's a good thing there are due dates, or he'd never finish anything, it would stay in his studio and be done over and over again.  If he has learned anything, he knows now that he has to call a project, but it will go right up to the last minute.

If it's not a pressing problem, he puts a gerbil on it.  They reside in his brain, along with wheels, and they hop on these wheels when a problem needs to be worked out but can be put on the back burner.  They are handy little rodents, allowing him to walk away from the problem but still be working on it.  Their most impressive feet recently was figuring out how to install a shower in a tiny attic bathroom we put in.  He kept saying no way, but the gerbils thought otherwise.

I had always thought of myself as being creatively challenged.  I remember this especially in college, as I had to create lesson plans from scratch, having barely any class time under my belt.  I used the educators' creative license and begged, borrowed, and more often stole ideas to add to my lesson plans.

But after teaching and living, I've come to realize that when it comes to motivating some students, or thinking up projects to help students understand a concept, to connect current events with history and make it relate to their life today, and connecting concepts between curriculums, I can really pull things out!  And I love doing it.  Most of those are the moments of insight during teachable moments, but also come from chatting with colleagues or others that can open my brain to more possibilities.

I think creativity in the classroom is so important.  I can't draw, paint, or sculpt, but that's not all there is to being creative.  Right now I can only offer ideas to colleagues with classrooms, or use them with the students I help, but I can't wait until I have my own classroom to give more things a try!  Being out so long, I just hope I haven't gotten crusty!

The article points out what I've been thinking too.  That to stay sharp I should expose my brain to many different things, in order to make connections.  That's why I read lots of blogs and articles, and still read brain flushes like the Harry Dresden novels (excellent Sci-Fi!).  I do try different things, talk to many different people, and diversify my life, because answers and ideas can come from anywhere.  I've called it "putting it out to the universe."

No comments: