I attended an event over the weekend that was run by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. One of the topics that came up in presentation and in conversation was creativity in children.
There’s been talk recently of the job skills our children will need for a future in which some of the jobs have not yet been invented. And one of those skills, already highly valued and sought-after, is innovation.
But where does innovation start?
It starts with creativity. Thinking outside the box.
Everyone can be creative but it seems that people either believe they are creative or do not.
But we are all creative, or we can be. As Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book Big Magic, “The earliest evidence of recognizable human art is 40,000 years old. The earliest evidence of human agriculture, by contrast, is only 10,000 years old.” Therefore, art and artistic expression was more important to humans than being systematic about obtaining food.
We are born to be creative.
So what goes wrong?
We are corrected.
We are told you can’t spell something that way…
or you must colour in the lines…
or you can’t write a story about THAT…
or you’re never going to be a ballerina so why bother with ballet classes?
Etcetera, and so on, ad finitum.
Let’s encourage our children to be creative without limiting them, correcting them or putting pressure on them to do things the right way. Let’s praise them for their unique ideas. Let’s remember that they NEED to exercise their creativity for their future but also for their own sense of confidence and self-worth. Especially our girls*.
Let’s give them a space and easy access to supplies where they get up on a Saturday morning and write, illustrate and publish their own books called Fortress Arena 1&2 and The Adventures of Bonking Head (true!) while still in their pyjamas, before you’ve even wiped the sleep out of your eyes, because they are SO keen and you told them there would be no screen time this morning (also true).
And let’s remind them that behind every invention, every book, every painting, every TV show, and every video game there is a person who was once a child and is now coming up with those ideas. A person who probably doesn’t initially think that their idea is good. A person who had toast for dinner last night and just hung out their washing and is going to the supermarket next. Not a magical being who lives in a gilded castle in an exotic country.
#1 The Sneetches and Other Stories by Roald Dahl – we love his creative spelling: “thars”
#2 Mr Magnolia by Quentin Blake
#3 Busting by Aaron Blabey whose books frequently include bottoms, farts and other bodily habits that little boys find hilarious
* It may be coincidence but in the world of children’s books, when I sought out these three fabulous examples, I realised that they were all by men in an industry dominated by women. I think this may be because men suffer less from “imposter syndrome” and are more able to get on with the job of being creative without worrying about being perfect. Huge generalisation but maybe there’s some truth in that…?