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Rediscovering Creativity

Embracing creativity as a vital aspect of our identity allows us to reconnect with the childlike wonder and uninhibited joy that once fueled our imagination and dreams.

When I was a kid, I loved drawing, especially Disney characters...well, that and spaceships... and anything related to Star Wars. 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 our own abilities against those of others while at the same time, others begin to judge us as well (can you say, middle school anyone?). We begin searching for things that will allow us to feel validated, to fit in, and if our creative endeavors, be it art, music, dance, or whatever, do not bring us that validation or is not appreciated by our peers as useful or good, then it becomes easy for us to succumb to the temptation of dropping it altogether and seeking out new interests, especially those things are that are perhaps more generally accepted by others. Too often, it seems, we do this even if our creative outlet brings us joy.

When we're kids, those creative outlets often involve play. Creativity soars during times of play, yet as we age, how often are we told to "stop playing and grow up." And so we do. Yet, 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 many 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.

A few years ago, I was working on materials for a workshop related to Disney’s Imagineering in a Box course when 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 take my pencil and sketch it out instead. As I entertained this thought, I quickly reminded myself, “I can’t draw." As I went to lay my down my pencil and return to the keyboard, 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 try. And he was right; it was fun. And I was reminded right then that I really do like to draw.

So take a chance. Be creative. Play. Rediscover those things that once brought you joy and make them your own again. You never know where that creative journey just might take you.

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