Scientists and educators have observed this phenomenon in children: young people create unhindered in their preschool years, they create a little bit in middle school, but by high school most kids are terrified to have an original thought. As an educator, I’ve seen this first hand and try to work magic in the classroom to reverse this spell. All in all, I can’t say that I or anyone I’ve ever worked with has made a difference in kids’ willingness to create. So I turn this predicament back on society. If creativity has been measurably destroyed in kids, and educators haven’t fixed the problem, then how many tired and repressed adults are floating around in life wishing they could do (or even just think of) something, anything to make their own lives better?
What do you do when you don’t create? You probably do what you think you should do: work hard, keep your house clean, stress about finances, party your sadness away, etc. All of those activities have one thing in common; they all maintain the infrastructure of capitalism. We do the things that society tells us are important and build status by increasing what we have the means to consume.
To inverse the logic, we don’t create because we feel that we shouldn’t spend our time doing creative things. Think back to when you were a child yourself and remember the things you were told about your first creative endeavors. Chances are, unless you were encouraged to become a child prodigy, that you were cautioned not to spend too much time drawing, building or banging on pots and pans because those pursuits are unproductive, a waste of time, no one cares, or you are hindering someone else’s productivity with your noise or your mess. As adults, we decide how to spend our time based on the worth of our actions, or the impact of our actions on the productivity of others. In both cases, we are concerned about maintaining the machine that is society, but we put our own enjoyment last.
(I could pause here and rant to you that the name-brand clothes you buy and the specific things you own have become surrogate to any real individuality you have, thus reinforcing your desire to work for the money to consume more, but this isn’t a conspiracy theory blog.)
In the end, what I propose is that you stop denying yourself the pleasure of creating. Society, media, government, and your boss might frown at the doodles in the margins of your meeting notes because they’d rather you help them maintain the structure that’s holding them captive, however, these doodles mean more to you than anyone else could understand. They are glimpses of your truest self. They are the beginning of a conversation, a social brainstorm. Go where creativity takes you. The Google campus has it figured out (well, kind of… I’ve seen Silicon Valley). When we allow unencumbered creativity, we open up to new possibilities and ingenious solutions to ancient problems that mire our society in bureaucratic deadlock. So, to all those obnoxious college students, protestors, DIY punks, street artists, and other guardians of our 1st amendment: keep it up. Want to make America great again? Get creative! Want to subvert power and class structures? Get creative!
Use your creative pursuits to start conversations, connect to others, explore your brain, defy the void. When you create, you transcend maintenance of big brother’s machine; you begin to build a new world from scratch. When you create, you invest a greater stock in this planet. And the beautiful thing is: it – what you create – doesn’t have to impress/offend/enlighten/mystify anyone else to have value. By creating it you have offered one of an infinite number of answers to the question of life.
My challenge to you, the reader, is to do one creative thing every day. It can be anything, something complex, something simple. In case you’re not sure where to start, I’ve provided a list:
- Play an instrument
- Program (for fun!)
- Conduct an experiment
- Solve math problems
- Tell a story
- Decorate your home
- Make plans with friends
- Give me more ideas in the comments!