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Creative mortification

>> 20 February 2011

As a child, everything you create is great.

Your parents ooh and aah at the slightest scribble when you're two.
They continue to praise you when you give your bus 10 square wheels or your princess a crown on her feet.

Then you go to school and the sun has to be yellow, the sky blue and they tell you that you should not use so much black.

Your pieces of art are compared to your little friends and for the first time you don't get 100% praise. The girls laugh at your princess, because everyone knows the crown goes on the head. The boys chuckle at your bus because square wheels don't exist.

And it's the first time you experience a bit of creative mortification.
You feel shame. Your painting sucks. People don't appreciate it.
And you recoil into your creative house.

Beghetto, a professor at the University of Oregon, calls this Creative Mortification.

Basically, all these little (or big) instances of shame and humiliation, slowly kill your creativity.

Ken Robinson confirms this by saying that schools kill creativity.

Over time, the judging, negative feedback, laughs and criticism you receive whenever your creativity tries to speak up, your house of creativity becomes smaller.

Until one day, it's the size of a snail house.

From now on, whenever you are at dinner parties or professional meetings, you laugh off any attempt to bring out your creativity. 'Oh, I am not creative at all.' you say with a 'get away from me' gesture.

I can think up a few creative mortification instances myself:

  • Church choir: I was told I couldn't sing.
    Turns out they put me with the other girls in the sopranos group although I clearly am an alto!
    I ended up singing gospel and rock songs in church later and sang in a blues band for a while.
  • Writing my first book at age 14 and sending it to publishers just to get rebuffed. Made me stop writing anything of value for a long time.
    I ended up writing the blog you are reading now :-)
  • Drawing: I liked to fill entire pages with one curling line until I was told this was silly.
    I recently did this again and my son loooves it :-)
Did you experience this kind of creative killings?
How can you repair those?

2 comments:

Cynthia S. 20 February 2011 at 16:51  

Oh yeah! In first grade, I imitated the teacher's lovely red checkmarks when we graded each other's papers. She came along and smacked my hand! Only the first of many anti-creativity school lessons. I'm still looking for ways around those lessons.

Mindful Mimi 20 February 2011 at 21:23  

Hi Cynthia,
Thanks for stopping by.
I think we all have these memories from childhood or when we were adolescents. It is such a shame because something gets crushed that might never get repaired.
How sweet that you saw something special enough in those checkmarks to copy them.
Let me know if you need any help to find ways around those lessons :-)
Take care
Mimi

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