Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Think inside a big Crayola box

Creativity has fallen on hard times in the United States. Check out a recent article in Newsweek magazine entitled The Creativity Crisis, http://www.newsweek.com/2010/07/10/the-creativity-crisis.html.

Nothing conclusive was revealed as to reason that creativity has fallen out of vogue other than our children spend copious hours zoned out in front of the television and video games. Plus, in our logical culture, the word "creativity" often evokes mind pictures of hippies, tie-dyed shirts and backfiring Volkswagen vans. For a culture caught up in achievement, creativity doesn't sound like the path to respectabilitiy. But it's exactly what we need, given some of the anecdotes recited in the Newsweek article.

In a world desperately needing creative problem solvers, it's rather ironic that everything from elementary school curriculums to executive training fail to delve into the mysteries of creativity. I think my motto from here on out will be, "Remember the Renaissance."

I've been mesmerized by creativity from early childhood. In the vacant lot next door, I'd layout floorplans in the dirt. At home I'd take my Barbie paper dolls and design my own outfits for her. Way before acrylic nails were all the rage, I was figuring out how to layer Scotch tape to create homemade nails (always with the hope that grandma would buy me the Flaming Orange nail color on display at Woolworth's).

Over the years, creativity largely has been my solitary endeavor, from writing poetry to creating jewelry and collages. When I first considered that writing might be my forte -- in junior high, if I recall correctly -- I got myself in the mood to write by pulling out a thesaurus and jotting down words in any way related to the topic at hand. I'd add common phrases that seemed to gibe and then I would do a little map of words looking for new creative clusters of meaning. In all my working days, I've never seen anyone approach writing that way, though I have seen some books that promote similar strategies as a means to accessing various areas of the brain. In fact, what boggles my mind these days is that the thesaurus, a book that provides clusters of similar word meanings, seems irrelevant. I can't find a newly copywrited edition despite thousands of new words that have been coined in recent years. Think "google" for a brand new word.

Still, I persist in my quest for creativity. After I moved to Los Angeles in the late 1970s, I pursued more along the lines of visual creativity. I took a class at UCLA entitled Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, studying with a protege of Betty Edwards, the courageous art eductor who proved that even people who thought they had no artistic talent whatsoever could draw some pretty sophisticated compositions, http://www.drawright.com/.

Beyond the drawing, I enrolled in interior design instruction, also at UCLA. My first major project involved visual art and writing....a perfect match for me that led to the most creative assignment I've ever completed. I needed to take numerous design concepts, explain them and then display them in an appealing portfolio. I knocked myself out. In fact, I nearly lost consciousness in a creative euphoria that lasted several days....and no, I wasn't smoking or dropping or drinking anything.

My passion for studying creativity has rarely waned, though it sometimes seems like a lonely road. Since my knee surgery two weeks ago, I've been rereading several books that address creativity like Finding Water, The Art of Perseverence by Julia Cameron, www.theartistsway.com. Cameron has been a prolific chronicler of the creative process and her work goes far beyond any new agey stereotypes.

The last few days I've pulled out a coloring book of mandalas and at night while watching television, I fill in the spaces with markers, color pencils and crayons. It's been very therapeutic, though I often wonder, "What would people think if they knew I was coloring?"

I also wonder what kind of business world this would be if executives and managers spent some time everyday word mapping or coloring. I think we'd see some compelling solutions usher forth that have eluded economists, scientists and politicians who have been curtailed by "just the facts" mindset.

In the meantime, I'll be busy experimenting with my new box of 120 Crayolas, www.crayola.com. I just know there's a solution to something amid Electric Lime, Wild Blue Yonder, Atomic Tangerine, Tumbleweed, Tropical Rain Forest, Pink Sherbert, Banana Mania and Purple Mountain Majesty. If nothing else, it will be a simply Mauvelous journey lost in color and possibilities.


  1. Great post, Jan. Crayolas were/are the best -- I had a wonderful flat box of 72 that I just adored. Plus, I'm also a fan of Julia Cameron. Have a nice day! -Maggie

  2. Hi Jan! Somehow we connected on fb, and here I am! Will look for more from you.
    Re this topic specifically, and your comment, "Nothing conclusive was revealed as to reason that creativity has fallen out of vogue other than our children spend copious hours zoned out in front of the television and video games," I believe it also has a lot to do w/ the standardized public education, based on NCLB, and little, if any, room for students to explore and grow their own interests... XO Sid