The Creative Spark – Fooled by Art

Did your creativity ever get stuck? Mine did for decades. Yet, during junior high, I thrived on creativity. My rundown school held a class-act art program. So, I crafted life-sized Sesame Street puppets, dyed Garfield pillows, and baked clay Barbie’s. I made a solar system with planets and moons crafted from Styrofoam strung together in a wooden contraption. My teacher entered it into a science fair, but it got rejected, as my weekly allowance from Papa was shy many moons.

That same year—the year VHS caught on—I directed a video for science class. I called the video The Wizard of Weather—a spinoff of The Wizard of Oz. I wrote scripts and supervised students as they painted trees on giant cardboard dividers. When at last the video aired to a hushed classroom, I burst into tears. We recorded the video at twice the speed, sounding like munchkins of alien tongues.

A year prior, I took Home Economics, inspired by a love for sketching fashion. My teacher helped sew a blouse from materials Mom carefully chose. I wore that blouse until growth spurts dangled my wrists well-below the cuffs. But Mom angered when I asked for baking items. So, I’d ask last minute. The next day at school, I’d bake pizza with aged cheddar cheese, stewed tomatoes, and a sore butt. I enrolled in Industrial Arts thereafter.

Later in high school, I hit a speed bump—breaking my love for art. Peer and home pressures—and tough luck—unglued me. Instead of drawing and painting, I wrote songs. A decade passed before I dabbled back in art. Yet, recently, an art project piqued my passion. Now, I plan to build a tech-art installation for the Banff Center.

Noah Scalin teaches how to come unstuck in his book Unstuck: 52 Ways to Get and Keep Your Creativity Flowing at Home, at Work & in Your Studio:

• Students need to indulge in creativity when stuck on schoolwork.
• If you fear the creative task, do it. Facing fear strengthens you.
• Don’t fear being the fool. Creativity thrives on red-faces and rejection.
• Don’t create a precious project. Preciousness—otherwise known as perfectionism—stifles growth. Instead, make mistakes and plow forth.
• Find creative inspiration outdoors. Why? Your four walls limit your scope. A world of novelty awaits outside the box you call home.
• Get inspired by dull things. A paperclip has tons of artistic possibilities. Same with a nose ring.
• Involve other people in your art—and give them your art. Collaborate. Share. When you give, you get.
• For a project to get unstuck, take a funny word like “toot” and turn it into an acronym. [For instance, if you have an essay that covers four themes, tweak the first-letters of each theme until the letters fit a funny acronym. Include letters ripe for comedy such as k, d, t, b, p, g]
• Summarize a movie in less than 30 seconds. Then, make a 30 second video out of it. [And why not summarize your essay in less than thirty seconds? Make that summary a video, too. Bonus marks]

So, don’t get creatively stuck for decades. Preciousness makes for unfinished projects. So, face fears and make yourself a fool. A paradox? I call it a creative spark!

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