According to Newsweek, there is a creativity crisis happening in the United States. Children’s creativity scores (much like an IQ score) are dropping – fast.
Children sit for hours in front of the television. Their minds are filled with facts by rote instead of through problem solving. “It’s left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: there’s no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children,” says Po Bronson, the article’s author. Kids aren’t learning to be creative – their lives are routines, with a correct way to do this and a wrong way to do that.
Ugh. Sometimes, I feel like I’m a huge part of the problem. Toy Story has been on loop in our house for a week. Am I feeding Lola’s creativity? And, if I’m feeding mine, can I regurgitate it like a mother bird and feed it to my offspring?
Sometimes, I wonder if I really have the tools to nurture creativity in my old child.
rules exist for a reason…
During a brief bit of retail therapy with Megan last night – which ended in therapy, but no real retail – I explained the many “kid stuff” rules that I have. No synthetic fibers, no flame resistant pjs, as little plastic as possible, no glitter, etc… But there is one rule I hold higher, more sacred than any other: no Disney princesses.
Trust me, this has to do with the creativity crisis. Read on.
I have no problem with Disney. No real problem with princesses, either. My problem is the subculture around needing to OWN a fairytale. You see, when I was little, I didn’t need a logo or an official princess costume to pretend that I was my favorite character. I threw on my mother’s old dress and a necklace and I went on pretending to be royalty.
Pretending. The ultimate creative process.
In my mom’s old dress, there was no wrong way to be Sleeping Beauty or Belle or Jasmine. But when you mold something out of plastic & slap a logo on it, there is suddenly a right way & a wrong way. There’s “official” and then there’s “homemade.” There is one that is preferred and one that is less-than. There is no need to create imaginary worlds or to create new stories around the problem of your dress being pink instead of blue. You can OWN the story, you can do it the “right way.”
Hence my rule. There will be no right way to do anything in my house save what WORKS.
Especially, playing princess. Or airplanes as the case might be …
finding what works is half the battle…
Ultimately, finding the way that WORKS for you – whether for a fairy tea party or for a huge business proposal – is the very definition of creativity. “To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas in the best result),” says Bronson. Creativity is about considering problems, coming up with a vast amount solutions, and then using those potential solutions to create a new, original, ultimate solution.
To me, this is what indie culture is all about (you thought I forgot about that part of the title, didn’t you?!). Indie culture is about finding what works for you. It’s about embracing the fact that no mere logo or stamp of officialness makes a product or idea better than another. It’s about finding cultural stimulation outside the status quo that we are supposed to enjoy.
Indie culture is about pretending that the world is full of possibilities. And acting on every single one that just might work. Or determining for yourself what combination of solutions works best – for you – right now.
Indie culture has embraced the handmade and DIY movement because it works. It invites the creative spirit into our lives and reminds us of all sorts of alternatives to what the world would have us think of as reality.
And practically speaking, handmade & DIY works because it’s individuals coming up with crazy good, totally new solutions to old problems. Such as, what can I wear to a party that no one else will be wearing? Or how can I make my neighbors jealous of my patio furniture?
Of course, its the same reason why so many of us – hand in the air! – embrace brands like Apple or Google. Innovative solutions to problems we didn’t know we had. Gadgets that make you feel more creative & empower you to realize your potential.
but back to the kids…
Great toys – whether handmade or manufactured – help kids pretend. Great toys help kids express emotions, explore new situations, and experience the world as other people. Great toys do not allow them to act out preset actions depicted on a television or video game.
In my opinion, handmade toys do a great job of this. So does art. So do sweet little science kits. And of course, books – let’s not forget about books. These are some solutions to the creativity crisis in America.
Indie culture provides a paradigm for experiencing these joys of childhood – whether you’re 2 or 62.
The beginning of addressing this creativity crisis is to understand that we are all children who just want to pretend. We all want to find out the best way to do things for ourselves. Do your own thing. Find out what works for you – embrace others who do the same – create even better solutions.
Exercise your own independent creativity for the sake of yourself & your children.
The problems we face now, and in the future, simply demand that we do more than just hope for inspiration to strike.
— Po Bronson