4/29/14

Creativity, Writing, and Resilience in a Storm

I recently watched Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk "Success, Failure and the Drive to keep Creating"  drawn in because creativity creeps into my thoughts often when I consider teaching and learning.  It is an important concept and even skill to foster in our children and ourselves and it is connected to resilience. The idea of resilience really sank in for me during this talk, as well as Elizabeth's ultimate message, to "find your home, that thing that you love to do more than you love yourself."  Where these ideas collide, I see lessons I would love for every child, student, person to learn.  Basically, first, find your own home (that place where you love to work, play, persist) Then, figure out how to stay there in that productive place, "safe from the random hurricanes of outcome", because both success and failure have the equal and opposite potential to pull you away from your home, away from what you love to do.

As I watched and listened to Gilbert speak, I was transported back to that second grade poetry experience I have written about before, I think of how writing that one poem, and the way that two teachers responded to that poem created for me, my first random hurricane, at age seven.  My experience was on a smaller scale, but parallel to the one Elizabeth Gilbert herself had after writing Eat, Pray, Love.   I had no idea how to handle that.  But I knew, just as she knew, that whatever I wrote next, those two teachers were not going to like it. In that moment, it felt like the fate of my new vocation, "writer of poems", was up to these two teachers to decide.  The message to me was "One good poem does not a poet make" when really, I should have been learning the lesson "Keep writing.  Write often.  Perservere."  If I take what Gilbert says to heart, really my writer self was still in there, she hadn't gone anywhere, she just needed to get back to work. . . instead my writer put down her pencil after that second grade poetry unit, and didn't pick it up again on her own accord for at least 15 years.

The funny thing, a second grade friend in that class who had seen this whole thing unfold, "What did she expect, you were just going to sit down and write another great one, because she told you to?  Doesn't she know about inspiration?"  What is it they say about the mouths of babes?  Thirty something years ago, we grappled, at age seven, with the very same issue that this now famous author of Eat, Pray, Love has had to grapple with as an adult writer, the very same "hurricane of outcome".  So of course, I ask myself, how can we teachers, parents, mentors teach our young writers to ride the storms?  That is an important skill throughout life, not just writing, yes?  I also wonder if we shouldn't be concious to not create storms of outcome for our new writers.  It always strikes me when we ask children to create, how often and persistent many of them are at seeking approval from the adults around them. I always try to give supportive feedback, but try to word it carefully so as not to sound like the be all end all of their creative career. I feel if we perpetuate the idea that someone outside the writing, teacher, parent, reader, can determine a piece of writing's worth, aren't we just pushing our kids out in the storm without an umbrella, in the dark.  Are we then failing to teach them how to find their own way, how to be resilient?   

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