Don’t Wait for Permission

From a young age we encourage children to experiment with pencils and crayons, textas and pens, scissors and glue. And if we’re really daring, we give them some glitter.

Recently, my four-year old daughter had great fun making a car out of a cardboard box. She made a dashboard using paper and a highlighter, cutting out things she has seen in the car. Helping out, I made some “tools” so she could fix her car. Imaginative play at its best.

How many fridges or walls are adorned with creative works from preschool? We celebrate creativity and put it on display.

But what will happen as my daughter gets older and starts school? The forming of letters, numbers, handwriting and knowledge of subject material takes over from creative play (although creative play is incorporated into the learning of essential skills).

Something happens to our creative side.

Permission Denied

Creativity is compartmentalised as another academic adjunct, but a subservient one.

Creativity is often sidelined from academic foci, pushed to one side in the latter part of our school education system.

The assumption, particularly in high school, is that English (as a critical analysis subject) mathematics, the sciences, history and geography are more important than art, music, creative writing and other manual creative endeavours like woodwork and metalwork.

Creativity is often sidelined as  a ‘hobby,’ derided as a semi-serious concern. If it doesn’t make money, or you can’t make a career from it, what’s the point? After all, who wants to be treated by a “hobbyist surgeon?”

As a high school teacher, I see so many students without a creative outlet, focused as they are on academic success. Creativity is limited to specific text forms, rather than exploring different media to express their ideas.

Permission to be creative is denied. Why?

At the lowest level of Bloom’s taxonomy is Knowledge, then Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis to Evaluation at the pinnacle.

The focus is on the reconstitution of information.

In a newer version of Bloom’s, the nouns are replaced with verbs: Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analysing and Evaluating. At the highest tier of the taxonomy, “Evaluation” is replaced with “Creating.” It means using the knowledge we have to create new knowledge, new ideas.

This is a clear indication of the role creativity plays in our learning.

We need to be doing something. Creating is an active verb.

So why are we waiting for permission to be creative?

If you are a creative person, if you feel like being creative, if you have had thoughts of doing something creative, what are you waiting for?

If your workbooks are covered in marginalia, random doodlings and scribbled couplets, break out of the edges and move to the centre of the page.

Give Yourself Permission

Don’t wait for permission.

Start creating. Now.

It doesn’t matter whether you intend to make your creativity outlet a career or simply to enrich your life.

I have given myself permission to be a creative person.

I am a writer. 

My goal is to be a published author.

Your creative medium may not be the same as mine. It may be photography, painting, music, dance, cooking.

Your goals may be different. It might be to hold an exhibition of your photography or paintings. To learn an instrument, develop a new cooking skill. Whatever.

Whatever your creative interest, here are 4 things to do once you have given yourself permission.

1. Be Deliberate and Courageous

Choose to make creativity a part of your lifestyle.

Choose something you are passionate about and is interesting for you.

Choose a creative activity to bring fulfillment and pleasure to your life because creativity enriches.

2. Make Time

Set aside time to be creative on a regular basis. Do whatever it takes. Turn off the television, put on some music and create.

3. Be Diligent

Protect your time. If you have committed to doing something, follow through on the decision. Make creativity a habit.

4. Share Your Work

There is great risk in putting your work out there for others to see. Be bold.

Depending on your creative medium, try flickr, tumblr, a blog like WordPress, somewhere to make your work visible. If you’re unsure at first, post it to your facebook wall if you don’t want the broader public to see.

Permission Granted

Don’t wait to be given permission.

Give yourself permission.

Start now.

Go and create.

11 responses to “Don’t Wait for Permission

  1. Nice blog post! I’ve always been creative and always given myself permission to do so, starting out with dance, then moving on to crafts, wine making, watercolour painting and now writing. I love the freedom of writing and how it allows me to use my imagination in ways that I never thought possible.

  2. That’s really inspiring. Thanks! 🙂

  3. I’m quite lucky in that I’ve always pursued creative endeavours alongside academic concerns, and I’ve always been able to find creative outlets within my jobs – now more than ever. (Still can’t believe I’ve found a job where “I was just doing something on Photoshop” is actually encouraged) But you’re right, creativity is often sidelined into subjects which are deemed unimportant, or its hi-jacked by “problem-solving” and turned into some sort of Business Studies exercise. I can’t help thinking a lot of the world’s problems would be solved if we rocked up to one of these huge conferences like the G20, gave all the world leaders some Play-Doh, and let them talk out their differences while they made funky spaceships. It would do them a world of good!

    • And we also need to give the G20 some textas and butchers paper for “brain storming” activities. Doodling and “mindless” activities are so important for cogitation and thinking.
      Might just give my classes some Play-Doh when I go back to teaching to see what they can come up with.
      I would argue we need to push creativity and make it more important to national curricula, rather than sidelined. Play is critically important.

  4. Excellent post, Adam. The forces against creativity are great. Our success in college is proven by the GPA, but how do you put a number on creativity? The presidential candidate is seeking an extra 1 percent of voters in Ohio. How can he/she be creative and risk that 1 percent by coming up with a new idea? The fear of failure is too strong.

    By our following your four points, we will fail. Good for us!

  5. I think it’s important to be creative in everything that we do … in maths and science and history and geography etc as well as in the more obviously creative arenas like art and music. It’s a shame that education systems seem to separate subjects and careers into either academic or artistic. They are all both to some extent.

    As Albert Einstein said, “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

    That’s something I’m trying to teach my kids.

  6. Ok, I give up, I choose to be creative in multiple fields with little regard to rules or market strategy.

    Great thinking Adam!

  7. Pingback: Rus VanWestervelt » Best Blog Writing on Creativity And The Arts: My 2012 Review

  8. Pingback: The Paradigm of Permission, Or You’re Allowed to Suck | A Fullness in Brevity - Adam Byatt

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