Episode #39 – Encouraging Creativity in Yourself & Your Kids

So often, we take the “safe” route when it comes to creative projects. We follow the instructions in a kit and create a thing. But, I’m going to argue that this is more an exercise in following instructions.

Instead, try following your heart, allowing yourself to fail to create something ugly or not so great. And do this with your kids as well. It’s here where we learn, expand our creative thinking, explore our passions, and encourage creativity in ourselves and our kiddos.

In this solo episode, I discuss:

  • Why taking risks and disengaging from the outcome feeds and grows our creativity
  • Why encouraging creativity in our kids is so important right now in 2020
  • How traditional school teaches us that failure is bad, rather than an important step in our learning and growth
  • How you can encourage creative thinking in your kids (and yourself) while they’re home or on a hybrid learning model during the pandemic
  • How following our creative callings is an incredible way to learn (and teach) and live

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Amy Isaman 0:11

Hello, welcome to the Dear Creativity Let's play podcast. I'm Amy Isaman. And I'm super happy to be here with you today. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever been online and seeing things like, follow this formula and get your book written in 30 days, or buy this paint by number kit and become a painter, or get this quilt kit with all the fabric selected and just for you, just sew and together, you'll have a quote in the weekend, whatever it is.

We've all seen these kids and formulas and templates out there where you can get your projects done and out into the world. Go into any quilt store and you can buy a pre put together kit. Google how to write a book and you'll hit all kinds of articles with free book templates or even some of the articles give the exact number of steps needed to write your book. In one I found there were 23, to be exact, according to one of those search engine results that I found. And these templates and systems and kits are super popular, and they're popular for a reason. Because you can whip out a project in no time. And you can get it done. But I gotta ask, how much of it is really your creative work? Are you pushing yourself creatively? Are you trusting in your own creative process? Or are you just wanting to get something done quickly without much thought, and there absolutely is a time and a place for that.

Because when you're doing it that way, it's sort of almost guaranteeing your success, right? Like you can see the picture of what it is that you're going to create. And you're following a "proven process". And so you know what it's going to end up as, and this is safe. It could be really, really fun to put together just a quick little project, you learn to paint, whatever. But is it really creative? Is the act of making something creative, even if you're not adding yourself to it? I've been thinking about this. Because if you do it yourself, like if you trust yourself to pull your own fabrics or your own paints and you know, do whatever you're called to do, there's a chance that it might not turn out. It might be ugly, or terrible, or wrong. But here's the question. Is that so bad? And conversely, can a creative endeavor ever really be wrong?

If you hesitate to really dive in and take some creative risks, to trust yourself, that's worth looking at and I invite you to look at that. Ask yourself, "Are you willing to take creative risks? Are you willing to fail? Are you willing to create something that somehow doesn't work and to spend time and possibly a significant amount of time on something that ultimately doesn't work, for some reason?"

I'm asking you this because this is really where learning happens. It's where we push ourselves and where we can come up with our best ideas. And really great work. This is really where creativity happens when we let go of our need to do something right when we disengage from the attachment to the outcome, whenever we think that outcome could or should be. It's funny because when I look at like, you know, patterns or pre-done kits for different projects, you're certainly creating something. But you're really just recreating something, you're really checking on your ability to follow instructions, which I would argue in many ways is what traditional schooling teaches us. And I want to talk about school here for a minute. Because the whole idea of doing a thing, the one right way, in order to achieve external validation for like a grade is a system that most of us grew up in. And as a former educator, I've taught high school and college, mostly High School, but some college for 15 years. And grades are a thing. And as we've moved more and more toward a testing environment, it's like external validation. What can you do externally, That says that, yes, you have achieved and I have lots of opinions on the school system. I won't go on a total rant here. But I want to address the idea that many of us were raised in a system that teaches us to do things, right. That teaches us there is one right way to do things and it squashes individual creativity to the point where we teach our kids that exploring and trying new things, and failing, which I would argue is where learning happens is the wrong way to do things.

And that makes me sad. And then on top of that, if we throw in those creativity crushers, and by that I mean the people who probably meant well, they were trying to guide us and help us but as children, we heard them saying some version of our art or our creative work was pointless or wrong, or that we didn't have any talent. And when we hear those things, when we're little, we believe them, and then taking a creative risk becomes a scary, massive challenge as we grow up. And then we're in a system where we're encouraged to do things the right way and to get the A and we get in trouble for doing things the wrong way, or we get an F and then it becomes a really scary to take a creative risk and to try something knew we lose our willingness, like, we've created a system in which we've trained kids. And I'm an adult, a product of the system, where we become very afraid to experiment, to fail, to learn and to grow creatively. Because when we do that we're somehow wrong or bad.

And right now, in the world that we're living in right now, in summer of 2020, we need our children and we need ourselves, to be able to think creatively, and to be willing to think creatively, to solve the massive problems we're facing. We've got a pandemic. We've got an economic crisis, with the economy shutting down. We've got schools not opening in the traditional ways that they always have this fall. We've got ongoing protest and social unrest around the systemic racism that still exists in our nation. We need creative solutions. We need creative thinkers, we need kids and adults who are willing to take a risk and to try new things and to explore ideas. We need a generation who can think critically and creatively and compassionately about really complicated issues. So with that said, if you're facing a fall with kids who might be partially at home, and you're dealing with either learning from home completely or a hybrid learning model, I want you to join your kids. And I want you both to explore your passions and encourage your kids to explore their passions, and to try things that might not have been available to them in the traditional classroom with a super prescribed curriculum. Let them fail, and then try again. Celebrate their failures and their attempts. We don't do that in school. We don't teach kids how to fail. We don't teach them how to get up again. We teach them how to do things, right. And this is one of the reasons I'm not in the classroom anymore. It's so hard when I was teaching, I'm going to tell you a little story. I coached the Speech and Debate Team, for I was a head coach for three years. And then I was also the so the assistant coach assistant for a year and one of the things that I had to teach as the coach was how to lose, because these kids who tend to do speech and debate, they're bright, they're highly academic, they've learned how to do school, they've learned how to do things, right. And then they go into a debate or into a round doing a performance piece. And they don't do well.

And they lose it. They don't know how to lose. We had to have lessons on how to lose with grace and that when they lost it shouldn't look any different than when you when you shake your daughter's hands, you say thanks to the judges you move on. And if they need to go have a meltdown, awesome, go have a meltdown. But don't do it in front of everybody else, like no temper tantrums when you're 16. And then on the way home, we get on the bus. And we always had like a, you know, five or six hour bus ride home. Because we live far, far away from anything. And we'd go over their judges comments and their ballots, and we'd really talk about how they can improve and get better, and that their loss wasn't really a loss. Often the judges would write comments that, you know, might have been better if you have it. Have you tried this? Or have you thought about this. And it became an opportunity to change things to make their pieces better, to improve the arguments in their debate round. And we can't do that. If we're unable to look at where we aren't doing so well. Or if we never fall down. We don't take that opportunity or if we think think that any feedback we get or any failures we have is a statement on our self worth. It's not, we're not wrong or bad when we don't come in first or get that a or have a successful project or write a successful article or whatever. We're not we tried something, that's a win. That's a win.

And so if you have grown up in this system, and also like a lot of the students I taught and myself, struggle with, quote, failing, try it, explore, play, think of it as play. Okay? Find your passions. I encourage you to encourage that in your children, especially now at this time when we need creative thinkers. And we need people who are willing to try things. So do it with them, find your passion, play, try some new things. See, we're trusting yourself and allowing yourself to fail or to do something wrong can take you

What if? What if we could teach our kids and ourselves that our brains are designed to come up with incredibly brilliant ideas? And then we actually let them try some of those ideas out. We let them play with them. We see where they take them. What if we could teach our kids on ourselves that experimentation and trying new options and failing and trying again, is the right way to do things? And it's not bad, and it's not wrong. It's learning. And it's growth. We all, as humans, will push ourselves, if we're interested in whatever it is that we're doing. It's human nature. If we're interested in something we dive in, right, whether that's, you know, my husband would say hunting or fishing or something that I have zero interest in, but I will follow him all day long with a book in my hand and sit by the river and read while he you know, practices, his fly fishing cast or whatever it is.

I want to share Another little story about teaching with kids. And I think this is also super important for parents who are faced with a hybrid learning. Or even homeschooling my very first teaching assignment, I was 23 years old. And I had gotten a job at a high school, and part of my teaching assignment was to teach drama. Okay, now let me clarify that I had never been in a play in my life. Like never, I was terrified. How was I supposed to teach something that I knew very little about? Besides, I'd read a bunch of plays for my English degree. And I had one dismal experience in a drama class my freshman year in college. So I tried not to panic, even though I panicked a little bit. I ended up contacting another local drama teacher and she mentored me, so that was huge. Find a mentor.

But the thing that I did, that was transformative was I handed the curriculum over to the kids I had a group of kids who loved drama. And they were super excited to have a teacher who wanted to teach the class. And so what I ended up doing was literally sharing the state requirements for drama with my students writing them on the board and saying, "Okay, how are we going to meet these? How are you going to show me that you have learned this stuff? What are we going to do to learn this?" And they developed the curriculum. They came up with projects that I wouldn't have assigned them in a million years. The stuff they came up with, I still remember and it was crazy, like massive assignments. They put themselves on committees based on what they were most interested in learning whether that was acting or stage management or set design, whatever it was, and they taught themselves and they taught each other and all I did was I became the facilitator. I helped them get what they needed to get to Learn, and we had so much fun. This was a 1995. And I actually had one of those former students reach out to me on facebook a few years ago. And guess what? She's an actress, and a playwright in San Francisco. And she remembered that class, and the freedom that they had to learn and grow and fail. And I love that, like I cried when I got her facebook message that she had, you know, 25 years later, whatever found me. And this is what's funny. I actually went back for this episode and found this message. She thanked me for my "insight, passion and encouragement of the theater arts." My insight of the theater arts, I knew nothing about the theater arts. What I didn't know was that if kids are given the lead to explore what they want to explore, they will. So what I had was a willingness to allow my students to follow their hearts. And I encouraged them to and I help them and I facilitated it and I support supported it. Was it always successful? No. Did we have some failures and stumbling blocks? Oh, heck yeah. But with each one, we learned, I learned, and they learned. And we ended up doing this process throughout my entire time at that school was basically Okay guys, here's our curriculum, how are we going to? How are we going to do this? And this is the methodology I use, actually, throughout my entire teaching career in different ways. I let the kids choose what topics for their paper. So the research, they always got to choose our own books for the reading, I let them choose what they were interested. And we went there. And we were all in and I promise you, they will learn and they will fail. And they'll choose things that aren't right for them. But they'll also learn that failure isn't really failure at all. Because then they'll come up with a new idea and try that.

So, if you've got kids at home, try it. Try it. Teach them to trust their own heart and do what's interesting to them and follow it and see where it takes them. Allow them to explore it, and feel into it and play with it and create something. And if it fails, or if they don't think it works, figure out why. And try again. That's creativity. That's creative thinking.

And I encourage you to do that for yourself as well. In the past few podcast episodes, both solo and interviews throughout the month of July 2020. I've discussed different ways to expand your thinking and your ideas all in Episode 36, 37, and 38. You can check those out for ideas on ideas, and also ways that you can maybe support your kiddos if you've got them. When you think back to your own education and learning and how how the system had you learn, I'm guessing you don't think back fondly on doing really boring worksheets, writing essays on topics that you had zero interest in, or reading books that had zero relevance to your life or what you enjoyed.

When we look back, we think of like that teacher who inspired us in some way, who encouraged us to follow what we loved, or that teacher who really, really believed in us for some reason, like, I am not a math person, but that teacher for me was my math teacher in high school. And I loved him, not because I necessarily loved trigonometry, but because he believed in me, regardless of where my level was. And when we're there, we don't worry so much about getting the grade or doing it right. We're we feel good because we're trying or It feels good because we're diving into something that we really care about. So I want to leave you with some questions, especially if you are a parent who's facing this fall with some fear and some trepidation.

Ask yourself How can you encourage Creative exploration with your kids. And I don't want you to think about this as a loss of control. That's what a lot of teachers how do you do that? How do you how do you how do you control the classroom? How do you do that? I'll tell you what, when kids are doing what they want to be doing You don't have to worry about losing control, because you've got them. They are happy. They're loving it. They're engaged and engaged kids aren't looking for ways to entertain themselves because they're bored out of their mind. Okay, So how can you encourage creative exploration with your kids and with yourself? What might you want to explore? How could you do this with them? If you don't have kids at home again, how could you just do this with yourself? How can you create an environment for them and yourself that allows for asking questions, that allows for giving them space to dive in Something that they find fascinating? What are they driven to do? What are they interested in? What do they like? And how can you support them in exploring that and learning about it without worrying about the right answer? What they choose might not have zero interest to you That's fine. It doesn't have to be interesting to you Know what you choose for yourself might have zero interest to them and that's the trick is fine out what's super interesting. What lights you up? Okay, go there. If they choose something that has zero interest to you That's fine. Let them teach you, let them lead They might surprise you just like my drama kids, did. I learned so much In those classes with those kids, it was crazy. So dive into your creative work. Without worrying about doing it right or the outcome, play, allow let go of the attachment You have to what it might turn out to be. And that's often where we find our best work. And that's where your kids are going to find their passions and their best work, and their willingness to work hard. We work hard at things that we are interested in. We work hard at things that we love.

Unknown Speaker 20:25

Play with that.

Amy Isaman 20:27

And with that said, I want to plant a little seed for you this fall and watching the program to support all the writers out there and getting their books written, creating that book. And there are several key pieces to creating. There's the intuitive heart space where we get ideas and callings that are soul based, which is kind of what I've been talking about in this episode. And then there's the strategic thinking pieces to get those initial ideas developed fully, and organized in a way that makes sense, which is what I've talked about in episodes this month in July. And finally, there's the productivity piece. How do you actually create That thing and fit it into your schedule, and find the time when you have your life to happen. How do we make it happen? How do we follow through and commit to the one IDM project that we're called to do. And then each step of this creative process are both strategic, and mindset things that come up for us right? And we're going to address those in this program. This is going to be a four month experience to go from your soul calling to create your book, committing to it, prioritizing it, the productivity piece and then creating it. And we'll be addressing all of the creative blocks throughout the step you will end up the program with your project either completed or well on its way with solid foundations to finish it up. So if you'd like to hear more about that, as we get closer, you can hop on over to amyisaman.com/writeit, and get yourself on the waiting list. This is a small group program with probably I don't know 12 to

18 aspiring writers a big enough group that we can do some brainstorming and connecting. And it's going to be super fun. So if you've got that book in you and you're ready to get it out, again, head on over to Amy iseman.com Ford slash write it and check it out, or I'll let you know when it's when it's opening up. Thanks so much for listening and I will be back next week with another episode. Have a great week. Bye bye

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