Chronic Creativity

Having spent the majority of my professional years in the field of children, I have come to observe a fascinating phenomenon. This bizarre phenomenon is that those infected with Chronic Creativity are usually drawn to working with children in some capacity.

Throughout the years and at various jobs, I have discovered that the majority of my co-workers are extremely creative and talented people. In fact, I have seen some of the greatest adult talent hidden among a group of children. Just the other day, I heard on the classical radio station that Tchaikovsky was very fond of children and frequently gave crowds of them money.

Chronic Creativity and children are somehow linked. At first, when I began to observe this, I questioned, "Does being around children infect a person with CC or are people infected with CC naturally drawn to working around children? (Which came first, the chicken or the egg?)

I think that both questions can be true; however, I prefer the argument that people with Chronic Creativity are naturally drawn toward working around children. The reason for this is because creative people are childlike themselves and are often able to relate to children better than adults. People infected with CC also have the imagination, spontaneity, and simplicity of a child. Because of the similarities, the chronically creative are naturally pulled toward childcare professions and volunteer opportunities.

I, myself, am currently a K-8 music teacher. I also give private music lessons to children, and work seasonally at a daycare. Sometimes I wonder why I get along well with children but seem to have a difficult time getting along with adults. Personally, I often find "adult thinking" and "adult behavior" hard to understand.

I find that adults sometimes have ulterior motives and a lot of them seem pretty grumpy! They gloss over the little joys in life such as hearing the sound of crunching leaves in autumn or the magic of playing with a balloon. Adults take life too seriously. They work, pay bills, increase their assets, take vacations, stay up for the 10 o'clock news, and fail to stop and look at the wonder around them. Adults hate to get wet and curse the rain. To me, that all sounds boring and shallow. It doesn't make sense. Me, I'd rather play and enjoy the simple things in life.

I often ask the question, "At what point do children lose their creativity and become adults?" I think they lose it when they gain so much knowledge that it squashes out their imagination. I also think that they lose it when they begin to conform to the working world around them and quit playing. Dr. Seuss once said, "Adults are obsolete children."

There is a book titled "Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: How our Children REALLY Learn — And Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less by Psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek. The basis of the book is that children learn through discovering things on their own during times of free play.

Although I have not read the book yet, I was immediately intrigued with the title. As a private music instructor for children in piano, guitar, voice, and hand drum, I have maintained this philosophy of learning for years. My thought is that many of the great composers learned to play and write through their own exploration and did not take music lessons such as we are accustomed to today! It has been my experience that any person who has a passion for music, a quest for discovery and a teachable spirit will be able to learn how to play an instrument quite rapidly.

I weave a lot of opportunities for students to explore in my music lessons. I know that if my students discover certain music relationships on their own, they are more apt to remember. Sure, I can teach them how to play the notes on a piece of sheet music by Bach or Beethoven. However, to me, that is just like taking any book and copying every word in it and then calling that talent. Instead, I would rather teach my students to create their own music and to improvise in their own uniquely creative way. My style of music instruction may not be the traditional style or the most accepted style, but I have found that it works.

Children become adults when they stop questioning and accept facts presented as being truth. Children become adults when all of their curiosities are filled with the answers adults give them. There is a song that I love by Harry Chapin entitled, "Flowers are Red." The song is about a young boy who colors a flower in kindergarten the "wrong way." The teacher immediately corrects him and explains,

"Flowers are red, young man,
and green leaves are green.
There's no need to see flowers
any other way
than the way they always
have been seen!"

The story in the song goes on. The little boy "grows up" and finds himself in an art class. When asked to draw a flower, he draws a realistic flower; exactly the colors that he learned about early in childhood. However, his art teacher tries to encourage him to "hop out of the box" and to draw it differently. Having his artistic abilities squashed in kindergarten, he sadly replies with the same lyrics seen above. He is not able to do it. He had forgotten what it was like to have the natural artistic abilities of a child.

It is so tragic when children have creativity stolen from them and are forced into becoming "grown up" in their thinking. Creativity can be stolen by teachers, parents, and other adults who are rooted in an abundance of knowledge, an air of pride and rigid thinking. The greatest example that I can come up with comes from the popular cartoon, SpongeBob SquarePants.

The starchy character, Squidward, is the poster child for "adult thinkers" everywhere. Squidward is constantly crabby and very much into his routines. He cannot stand noise and he cannot stand SpongeBob. (You see, in my opinion, SpongeBob is infected with CC.) SpongeBob is childlike, curious, and enjoys new adventures. Whether it's turning a box into a dozen different things with his imagination or creating colorful "crabby patties", he has the zest for life that people infected with Chronic Creativity everywhere have.

SpongeBob takes the time to dance with jellyfish, blow extravagant bubbles, and create sculptures effortlessly. Squidward, on the other hand, loves to nap, listens only to jazz, and plays his clarinet awkwardly in only the key of Em. The key word is only. When people operate in the realm of "only", they stand a good chance of operating in "adult thinking."

Perhaps if you have fallen into that dreadful world, there is hope.

Take Shot #3: Get Around Children

Begin to listen to children. Rather than giving them answers, ask them questions. Ask them their opinions on life. They will most likely feed you with some elements of truth. Observe how they play. Notice what makes them happy. See how much they move! (Get going!)

This excerpt is from Chronic Creativity: A Diagnostic Look at the Condition and How to Become Infected ©2001 Angela K. Mack. All rights reserved.

Angela K. MackAngie Mack Reilly is a musical director, performing artist, blues educator and writer who has a wealth of experience and connections in the arts and entertainment industry. More