Three Tools to Boost Your Creativity by Rochelle Melander
Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere. —Albert Einstein
In 2006, I launched Dream Keepers, a writing program for at risk children and teens in Milwaukee. Since then, I’ve taught at dozens of libraries, schools, and churches. In the past year, I’ve noticed that many of the young people have difficulty imagining. When I ask them to write a scary story, they write what they’ve seen in movies and on television. When I push them to create something of their own, they stare at me like I’m from outer space.
My own ability to imagine has taken a hit in recent years, too. Too much time hooked up to the computer has made me much more likely to research than question. Research backs me up. A 2010 study done by Kyung Hee Kim, a creativity researcher at the College of William and Mary, discovered that creativity has decreased in children since 1990, along with the ability to imagine.
So how can we address the problem of our dwindling creativity? We need to practice imagining and immerse ourselves in creating. No doubt, our creative play will support our writing. If you’re up for a little fun, try these exercises:
1. Don’t look it up, make it up! Have you noticed how public wonderments have turned into competitive research sessions? You’re standing in a park talking and someone says, “I wonder what people did for fun in Milwaukee in the mid-1800s?” Then five people pull out their smart phones and race to find out first. (Actually, the answer for that, like the answer for all things Milwaukee, is easy: they drank beer.)
Your assignment: Next time you wonder, don’t pick up that phone (or tablet). Quickly make up 5-10 answers. If you’ve got time, develop one of them into a short story.
2. Play the “What If?” game. As a chronic worrier, I play the “What If?” game all the time—what if my kids flunk out of school and have to live on my couch forever, what if that chicken I ate for lunch was bad, what if I never get this book published! Far better to play the “What if” fantasy game: what if squirrels were really super intelligent and took over the world? What would life look like then?
Your assignment: Create 5-10 crazy “what if” sentences. Then take one of them and follow it to its strangest conclusion.
3. Invent it. Earlier this summer, my dog had a giant sore on his ear (I know, yuck). It stunk and worse, every time she scratched, it bled all over the house. Before we brought her in to have the sore removed, I spent a lot of time devising ways to keep her from itching it. (She can’t use the Elizabethan collar.) Believe it or not, I had lots of fun trying to invent a protective ear device.
Your assignment: Invent a solution for a pesky problem in your house. If you don’t have any problems (lucky you), get a bunch of stuff from your junk drawer and see what you can create with it.
+Do something impractical and creative every day.
+Read about artists and inventors.
+Visit places that honor artists, inventors, scientists, and other creatives!
Your turn: How do you nurture your creativity?
I look at my life and wonder how I can share the lessons I learned since coming to the US 49 years ago from the Philippines.
Just thinking of the possible ways, with a lot of help (of course) keeps me awake at night. Time is rapidly slipping away and chasing a magical rabbit is now my goal. That rabbit will tell my story, the lessons I learned, and how I lived the good life even if social security is my only income.
Emma, I hope you will find a way to tell your story. It sounds like it will inspire a lot of people!