Back to School


One week left in the 2012 summer vacation and then it’s back to school for millions of Canadian kids. Parents and students will either rejoice or weep.

I was always one of the rejoicers. At least for the first day or two. I loved the smell of new textbooks (still do), the new clothes, and the excitement of making new friends to add to the collection of old. There were new teachers to break in as well. Except for 6th grade when our much-despised 5th grade teacher decided to follow us and we were stuck with her for another year.

I loved the learning too. But in the decades since my formal education ended, I’ve realized there are some things they never taught us in school. And it’s only been in recent years that I’ve begun to understand a few of these things.

1. You are creative. Every one of us is born a creative, spontaneous thinker. The only difference between people who are creative and people who are not is a simple belief. Creative people believe they are creative. People who believe they are not creative, are not.

2. Creative thinking is work. It hardly ever just happens. You need passion and determination to immerse yourself in the process of creating new and different ideas. Then you must have patience to persevere against all adversity.

3. You have to go through the motions of being creative. When you go through the motions of trying to come up with new ideas, you are energizing your brain. The more times you try to get ideas, the more active your brain becomes and the more creative you become. It’s true. Trust me on this.

4. Your brain is not a computer. It thrives on the creative energy of feedback from experiences real or fictional. The human brain cannot tell the difference between an “actual” experience and an experience imagined vividly and in detail. Seriously.

5. There is no one right answer. This is completely contrary to what we were taught in school. We’re told to evaluate everything based on someone else’s notion of right and wrong answers. But nothing kills creativity faster than self-censorship of ideas while generating them. Think of all your ideas as possibilities and generate as many as you can before you decide which ones to select.

6. Never stop with your first good idea. Always strive to find a better one and continue until you have one that is still better.

7. Expect the experts to be negative. Experts will spend all their time showing and explaining why it can’t be done and why it can’t work. They will not look for ways to make it work or get it done because this might demonstrate that what they regarded as absolute is not absolute at all.

8. Trust your instincts. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged.

9. There is no such thing as failure. Whenever you try to do something and do not succeed, you don’t fail. You have learned something that doesn’t work. Always ask “What have I learned about what doesn’t work?”, “Can this explain something that I didn’t set out to explain?”, and “What have I discovered that I didn’t set out to discover?” Whenever someone tells you that they have never made a mistake, you are talking to someone who has never tried anything new.

10. You don’t see things as they are; you see them as you are. Interpret your own experiences. You give them meaning by the way you choose to interpret them.

11. Always approach a problem objectively. You can’t always trust your first perspective of a problem as it will be too biased toward your usual way of thinking. Always look at your problem from multiple perspectives. Always remember that genius is finding a perspective no one else has taken. Look for different ways to look at the problem. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

12. Learn to think unconventionally. Creative geniuses do not think analytically and logically. Conventional, logical, analytical thinkers are exclusive thinkers which means they exclude all information that is not related to the problem. They look for ways to eliminate possibilities. Creative geniuses are inclusive thinkers which mean they look for ways to include everything, including things that are dissimilar and totally unrelated. This is how original and truly novel ideas are created.

There are a lot more things I could add here, but I think you get the idea.

Time to go back to school and change some thinking?

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Filed under Being Creative, Imagination, Writing

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