By Joni Starr, administrative coordinator, Arts Integrated Learning, Ingham ISD and teaching artist in theatre and dance
I recently had the opportunity to build the best blanket fort ever. Working with two young boys and their father, we took over their living room and constructed, as 5-year-old Jude declared, “the five-station fort.” There was the snack station (complete with table and chairs), the play station (with toys), the hug Howie station (where one could cuddle up to a giant stuffed bear), the sleep station (accessible to the couch for overnights) and the super-secret exit (rolling out onto an oversized bean bag). As I said, this was the best blanket fort ever!
Of course, almost every conversation after this visit refers to the fun my friends and I had with the fort, and everyone agrees that we need to build another one. What I find most interesting is how people think about the next creation. The father scoffs that we can never make another fort like that one, and it might be absurd to even try. Jude doesn’t care about the last fort; he wants to do it again, right now!
This makes me wonder about the creative process and our collective approach to creativity as we age. When we’re young, we don’t care too much about comparison — either to ourselves or to others — we are fully consumed in the doing. When we’re older, much of our creative thought begins with comparison. And this approach can easily hijack our work.
Sir Ken Robinson, author and speaker on arts education, said, “We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it.” I think we grow out of creativity because we hold ourselves up to the standards of the past or to the abilities of others. In my work with college students and teachers, I often hear the phrase, “I’m not creative.” As I continue the conversation, I learn the person has had little to no experience with creative training or practice, yet they are holding themselves in comparison with professional musicians, designers and writers. In doing this, they often feel more defeated than inspired.
When fully engaged in the doing, as Jude prefers, we are consumed in the making and not in the outcome. It is in the process of creating that we find sparks flying and energy flowing and — crucially — an absence of judgment. This is the engagement and this is what leads to new and unique ideas. Robinson also says, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.” But, I question, who is defining ”wrong”? What if every step in the creative process was right until we decide to stop and call the project done?
I am very much looking forward to visiting my friends again and creating the next amazing blanket fort. It will not look like the first; it will be different, unique and it will serve the purpose at hand – to have fun!
Joni explores the intersections between the arts and creativity and teaching and learning. She focuses on the practice of arts integration on local and international levels engaging with many school districts for professional development
Do Schools Kill Creativity? TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson