Albert Einstein_HeadI’ve got creativity on the brain at the moment, and the more I think about it, the more interesting it is, the more nuances I find. This morning I had 15 minutes with some Year 8 students I know well. I told them that I had been thinking about this topic a lot, but wanted some different perspectives and ideas. I wrote the word on the board, and asked them to tell me any thoughts they had on the topic. A slow start led to most students getting involved, and the emergence of some themes:

  • Originality – there was some consensus amongst students that something was creative if it had not been done before, or if the creator was not aware that it had been done. I agree with this to an extent, but an act of creation, such as painting a landscape, can be creative to for an artist, even though it might have been by thousands of others before her.
  • Risk – some students thought that creativity comes from taking risks. I really like this idea, and it ties in well to the IB Learner Profile. I think it is probably impossible to be creative without some element of risk taking.
  • Difficulty – some suggested that something has to be difficult to be creative. To counter this we discussed the fact that a creative act can be easy (such as taking a photo), but the thought or inspiration behind it (composition) might be difficult. I mentioned this photo to students as something technically relatively easy, but difficult in other regards. There is a school of thought that believes that modern creativity is somehow less valuable, because technology makes it too easy and accessible, which to me is counter-intuitive (for more on this, watch the excellent documentary Press Pause Play).
  • Process – I tried to share with the students the idea that we often think of creativity in terms of the outcome, but that in a lot of ways it is the process that defines it. For example, Einstein’s famous E=mc2 does not seem creative, but once you are familiar with the nature of scientific progress and revolution, and the struggle against the status quo, you can appreciate it as a deeply creative act.
  • Struggle – I really believe that true creativity must involve some kind of internal struggle, as we attempt to force ourselves from who we are now, to what we need to become in order to do and think in new and different ways.  I related to students my own experiences learning web design, and the fact that every major advancement I made was preceded by a period of self-doubt, self-loathing and a desire to pack it all in. This was simply my brain rebelling against the chaos of the unknown: this phase hopefully then leads to insight and change, followed by a period of flow and productivity. In the past, whilst teaching students to programme (an inherently creative act) I have used the following diagram to illustrate this point, and support struggling students:

  • Passion – Ken Robinson describes passion as being one of the most important parts of creativity, and it makes a lot of sense. After all, if you are not passionate, you are unlikely to put yourself through the struggle of the creative process.

By the end of the discussion I felt we had covered a lot of ground and shared some good ideas. I was really impressed with the students’ willingness to think, share and consider other perspectives. Yet I get the feeling that in some ways creativity remains an illusive, mysterious enigma which will occupy many an hour of my mind’s time.