When I was a kid, I loved drawing, especially Disney characters...well, that and spaceships. As I grew older, I drew less and less until I pretty much stopped drawing or doodling at all. As children become teenagers, then adults, most of us tend to loose our creative confidence. We begin to judge ourselves against others at the same time others begin to judge us as well (middle school anyone?). We begin searching for things that will allow us to feel validated and if the product of our creativity, be it art, music, dance, or whatever, does not bring us that validation or is not appreciated as useful or good, then it’s very easy to drop it and move on to other things that we feel, or others tell us, we would be better at doing. Even if that thing brings us joy. In essence, we are told outright or feel that we should stop playing and grow up. But play and maturity do not have to be mutually exclusive.
Award-winning Disney producer Don Hahn has said that, “Play is the welcome cousin of creativity.” And creativity is a commodity of rapidly increasing value. Isn’t it interesting that, in this age of lean startups and skyrocketing entrepreneurial opportunities, more-and-more business leaders are looking for workers with creative mindsets. Meanwhile, our schools in America are becoming increasingly standardized with little room for promoting an atmosphere in which creativity is encouraged and honored. Just look at the nationwide reduction of funding for the arts as a starting point.
For several years now, schools across the nation have professed to promote “The Four Cs of 21st Century Education.” They are Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Creativity. Did you catch that last one? Creativity.
I therefore ask, how are we encouraging creativity in our classrooms? How are we making time for allowing students to explore things that interest them; to experiment, take risks, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and in the process, grow their creative confidence? If creativity is a valued skill (it is and it always has been), then it’s time we tap into those opportunities that promote it, at school, at home, in the workplace, and in our own lives.
Recently, I was working on some material for an upcoming workshop related to Disney’s “Imagineering in a Box” course, I saw my old friend Mickey Mouse looking at me from the computer screen, wearing that silly and wonderfully over-sized Sorcerer’s Apprentice costume. With that beckoning, mischievous smile, he invited me to stop writing about the role of creativity in the Imagineering process and challenged me to sketch it out instead. As I quickly reminded myself, “I can’t draw,” it’s as if I heard my ten year old self say, “You won’t know till you try. Besides, it will be fun.” And so I did. And it was fun. And I was reminded that I like to draw.
So take a chance. Be creative. Rediscover those things that brought you joy and make them your own again.