Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Please use black ink to fill in the boxes

Photograph by Norman Parkinson - a creative photographing a creative

I've been thinking about creativity as a commodity. I think that everyone has creativity in them, but it can so easily be quashed with the pressures of conformity and the 'right' and 'wrong's setting us straight. But surely, straight is everything that we should be avoiding to be creative? Is something that has been churned out a million times before - I'm not talking about an inspiration, I'm talking about a structure, a thought process, a new way of seeing something - really enough the set the goosebumps on fire and the stomach churning with the elation of creating something new.

Children hold exactly that when they go about their creating. God, I used to absolutely love making things when I was a kid. When asked what I wanted to do day to day, my answer would always, always be 'make something'. I wanted to use my imagination to look and learn about something and then put my mark on it. My own little take. And boy did my heart and mind soar when I was creating. I had absolutely no fear at six years old, no fear of being wrong. Of people furrowing their brow or questioning my motives behind my creations. Either alone in my own little world or with friends or family, I'd make cakes, patterns, dens, go-carts, models, sheer off Barbie's hair and sew her culottes and a waistcoat, read books and eat peas in the field next door, ride my bike to Texas (because the fields looked like I thought Texas might), wrote to my pen pal, made up dances, sang and wrote and bound mini books and letters.

I am positive that allowing for and nurturing a style, being creative and enjoying creativity, allows for all round personal development. A confidence that makes the passing of exam papers seem more than inadequate for predicting, or at least aiding, our career choices. We are boxed from a young age and education seems to be heading for more boxing starting younger and younger. I remember my SATs when I was at Primary School. I could feel the pressure, but I wasn't interested in these tests, I wanted to write stories and understand the world. I had no idea how to revise. I remember that I didn't do as well as expected. I was bright, I should have done better. With the results, I had a feeling that I was not intelligent, not clever, not able. But yet I finished tasks ahead of time, enjoyed them and was a diligent student. So, why the disappointing test results? The D word. 'You're creative, darling'.

I feel like I've never shaken this sense overhanging me, that I don't fit the boxes correctly and I should do if I want to succeed. I'll never have success, a longed for house and a feeling that yes, I am clever. But this is total bull. What the hell? I make things everyday. I've achieved great things and I'm going to tell my kid that they are creative AND intelligent, as we take every day as an adventure. Not even necessarily out and about, but just hanging out - creating stories, designing things and having fun with science, geography, literature and maths.

But, as far as creativity as a commodity, this annoys me. While you can try and deliver your enthusiasm and understanding of something, you can't capture creativity or copy it and it's sad when your own style of creativity just isn't in vogue, so it's negated. Look how many people are 'suddenly creative' thanks to the make, do and mend revolution. Where did that come from? Was it hiding in the ready meals of the 90s? What about growing vegetables? That's pretty creative and teaches you about maths and science - why did the grannies and grandpas do this, but mum and dad didn't? Not to mention the entrepreneurs, incredibly creative. Where did this business come from? Eh?

Is it because everyone's massively fed up with the Government, the boom is over, bringing with it wild financial issues, dissatisfaction... lack? To simplify. With this change and new creativity out to be purchased on the shelves, there's a different need for individuality, not just owning something coveted, but maybe putting our mark on it too. Or finding something somewhere you'd never expect. Granny's attic has never looked so good. We were in danger of becoming homogenous before weren't we? Are we now? Or are we just looking for and pining for originality to fill our Instagram feed?

My argument is, all this creativity, pumping through us has always been there. We are humans, who can learn more than box ticking skills. The aforementioned creative boom should go way beyond a trend. These gardening, cooking, discovering and building skills are skills for life, skills to hold and cherish, with a value that surely rivals a 90% pass in another exam. Arguably, the exam results can set you up for life and get you 'where you want to be', but equally what if you don't know and you find yourself excelling at something you have only tried once? What about dance, theatre, carpentry and horticulture? Or even just knowing that there's something beyond law, medicine, English and engineering? More beyond the boxes. If you want to Make It, it's really not about competing with someone else's life. Or even your own.

My absolutely main point is that the tight and tested curriculum needs to be changed in schools. Kids need to know more about nutrition, understanding their neighbours, politics that's relevant to them NOW, law, businesses and trade (local and global) and there should be time set aside for own projects. Where a student can pursue an understanding of a path that they may want to try out, perhaps they could meet some interesting people, expand their horizons and do something that allows their hearts and minds to flourish. Outside of that home/school/social bubble, it's time for them. Surely through just having a meander outside of these oh so importnat boxes and being allowed to expel some energy and be guided in doing so, the kids will benefit. All 'types' of kid. There's so much more to life than fitting neatly into a money churning world.

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