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The Creative Life >
Dreams and Creativity
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable®
and creativity are a part of a child's everyday
life. Depending on those around them children's
creativity is in turn nurtured, ignored, commended
or discouraged. By thinking carefully about how
and why a child's need to dream and create often
seems to dissipate as the years pass, we can come
to more fully understand our own creative core.
lifelong creative child
There are those who have such a burning need to
express or explore their world through creative
invention, they form a lifelong commitment to explore
their own creativity. For these people creating
is not a matter of choice, it is essential for their
well-being. Their drive to create may be psychological
and/or physiological. That is they may have an insatiable
need to understand or communicate their personal
history or circumstance, and/or their bodies may
have an involuntary and powerful response to a particular
The encouragement of an adult towards a child is
the crucial factor in the child continuing it's
creative efforts into adulthood. Sadly, for the
vast majority of people the drive to express their
world through an artistic medium diminishes with
every year that passes. The paintings stop, the
dreams are pushed deeper into the unconscious, and
the notion of the 'creative person' is born. With
that notion comes the belief that most of the world
is made up of people who are not creative. That
mistaken view and the need to counter it forms the
focus of the remainder of this article.
I continue to be surprised by the low expectations
adults generally have of infants and young children.
Most adults vastly underrate an infant's ability
to comprehend language and social interaction.
All animals are hardwired from birth to learn as
quickly as possible about the world around them
as this significantly increases their chance of
survival. There's an inbuilt mechanism to develop
potential to the fullest, and as humans we have
the added strategies of language and creative activity
that catapults our understanding of, and interaction
with, the world.
If you have spent any time playing with very young
children you'll know they have the ability to represent
the world around them and display creative tendencies.
Their purpose is immature and as a result their
efforts are often dismissed as either happy accidents
or of little consequence. However, although children's
creativity is fleeting and unfocussed, their use
of language and other creative mediums show creativity
is a natural born tendency and very much in active
development at a very young age.
One of the main functions schools have is to prepare
children to be an effective workforce. Schools which
are affiliated with a religious tradition also emphasise
an ethical structure which is integrated within
the school ethos. A broad view of education is the
personal development of the individual, and that
this is a life long pursuit. In practice however
political institutions will seek first and foremost
to consolidate and reinforce their political structures.
Laws are past that ensure schools, and state education
in general, follow political positions. The vast
majority of children that pass through state education
systems will then adopt many of the values and views
the political system espouses and thereby propagate
a particular world picture.
The choice of knowledge
The development of children's creativity is in general
viewed as not as 'useful' in the workplace as the
encouragement of formal knowledge. This was starkly
demonstrated when I attended school and had to choose
between Art and Music as options for my school exam
years. Like many people I wanted to pursue both
but couldn't. 'Creative subjects' were viewed, and
still are by many, as soft options.
The strengths and weaknesses of channelling children
into certain specialised areas, be it practical,
knowledge based, or creative, is a complex subject.
However, there is no doubt that in my case, and
I suspect many others, restricting the amount of
creative subjects I could study at school significantly
delayed my attempts to become a more rounded creative
We are generally required to make further choices
about what areas to specialise in if we progress
to further and higher education. More often than
not people do not wish to appear vulnerable or weak
and opt not to start developing their creative skill
base after their early teenage years.
Talent and creativity
The root of why people spend less time in developing
their creative potential is often centred around
a feeling of technical inadequacy. People often
mistakenly equate talent with creativity, and the
fact that they cannot immediately and easily reproduce
the results of talented individuals is often translated
into an 'I can't' or 'I'm no good at' mentality.
Again and again you'll hear people say 'I can't
draw' or 'I can't sing' etc.
Talent is an innate ability to perform certain skills
well and with relatively little practice. We all
have talents although most go unrecognised and underdeveloped.
Talent is vastly overrated. High achievers recognise
that practice and hard work are the most significant
factors in developing potential to the full.
Talent is useful socially as you impress those around
you with the ease with which you perform a task
others find difficult. In truth, talent, while providing
a useful head start, is of little worth unless it
is accompanied by a focussed programme of practice
and development. Talent is a little like having
an expensive off-road vehicle and only using it
to take you to the shopping mall and back. It'll
turn heads, that's all.
Towards a creative life
Developing one's own creativity is the development
of original thought, inventiveness, and expression.
Let's not get carried away here. We don't have truly
original thoughts. Sure they're original to us as
individuals, but let's not kid ourselves no one
has come up with the idea before. That said, it
may well be no one has extended, developed, or communicated
the idea in an effective way before :-).
Dreaming of the future
We never stop dreaming, we just forget them more
easily as we grow older. As we grow from childhood
to adulthood Howard Gruber in his work Beyond
Universals in Cognitive Development has noted
we tend to be more able to exist comfortably with
those around us however "...the development
of the creative person has an almost opposite effect.
The more he succeeds in constructing a new point
of view which governs the look of all problems
possibilities, the more he increases the distance
between himself and others. He must fashion ways
of coping with this distance, and accept a sort
of existential loneliness."
I hope we can forge a new path towards creative
fulfilment which does not result in the social dislocation
of 'creative individuals'. Creativity is not a gift
bestowed on the few, but a state that should and
can be enjoyed by the many.
de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®.
Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music
composer, photographer, print and web site designer,
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