Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Killing Creativity

When my oldest girls were about 5 and 6 years old, they liked to make little books. They would get several pieces of paper (it didn't matter to them what kind), fold it over, staple the 'spine' edge and make a 'book'.

They collaborated on one book, “The Spider and the Sun”, that I considered thoughtfully written and cleverly illustrated. I tucked it away with some other schoolwork from that year. I saw it occasionally and was still struck with the creativity of the book, especially for the age of the girls at the time.



Over the years, I learned to 'publish' my children's books into a softcover book using a photo book publisher. When my oldest daughter got married recently, I thought it would be a fun gift to turn her book into a 'real' book using my photo book method.



I dug through the old schoolwork in the attic to find the stored 'book'. Imagine my surprise when I found two versions of this book. The original (which was not a school assignment ) was on note paper that had lines[photo on the left] and a prescription drug logo - probably something from the pediatrician. The penmanship was typical for a 6 1/2 year old, as was the spelling. The illustrations were drawn over the lines and sometimes into the drug logo, typical for a 5 year old.

The second version [photo on the right], however, was on regular blank paper, perfectly folded and stapled with guidelines lightly drawn for the printing. As I looked through it, all the illustrations were there, but the text was only on four pages. I don't know if it occurred to me at the time, but 20 years later, I knew. I knew what had happened. The realization almost made me cry.

I had killed creativity. I wanted my girls to write and illustrate the book again. Only this time, I wanted 'perfection'. I didn't want it on lined notepad paper. I didn't want misspelled words. I didn't want sloppy writing.

My little illustrator didn't mind drawing the pictures again. She liked drawing. But my writer... she minded. Printing was hard work and writing 8 -10 pages of perfect print was too much. She got discouraged and she gave up.

I would like to say that I learned my lesson early on, but I'm a slow learner. I have seven children, and I can say with certainty that I killed creativity in each of them at one time or another. Did I mention that I am a slow learner?

My advice? In a 'project' that children are doing just because they want to, don't expect perfection. Don't tell them what would make it better. Let children enjoy the process.

The happy ending to this story is that I was able to make a cute photo book by scanning the pages and 'erasing' the lines and prescription drug ads. Now both my girls, the author and the illustrator, have a copy of their original work, “The Spider and the Sun”.

Are you a creativity killer or encourager?

This week I am sharing a couple of my shortcomings, next week I will be posting about the PSAT and scholarships, and the following week my posts will be about BEST Robotics.  Follow me by email so you don't miss a single post. 

This post was shared at  Titus 2 Tuesdays, and Momma Notes
and Hip Homeschool Moms
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