Resolving to address my own ‘creativity crisis’

• As I mentioned earlier this week posting here may not be as frequent as I work on a project that is the culmination of many years of thought, planning and distillation of ideas. I’ve spent many hours offline in the last few weeks to begin preparations, with a targeted launch date of later in the summer or early in the fall.

The creative possibilities are immense, but daunting, even with my familiarity with the subject matter. I cannot imagine what today’s young people must be feeling as they undertake the vast amount of information and data available to them in their educational endeavors, as well as the easy distractions that sideline their learning.

Newsweek has published a lengthy exploration of what it labels a creativity crisis in America, and fears that parents and educators aren’t fostering good habits early on for children to adopt, good habits and practices that tend to continue well into adult life:

“It’s too early to determine conclusively why U.S. creativity scores are declining. One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing videogames rather than engaging in creative activities. Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools. In effect, it’s left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: there’s no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children.”

There’s a lot to sift through here, and frankly, almost too much to absorb. But here’s another finding that rings true in my own experience:

“Having studied the childhoods of highly creative people for decades, Claremont Graduate University’s Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and University of Northern Iowa’s Gary G. Gute found highly creative adults tended to grow up in families embodying opposites. Parents encouraged uniqueness, yet provided stability. They were highly responsive to kids’ needs, yet challenged kids to develop skills. This resulted in a sort of adaptability: in times of anxiousness, clear rules could reduce chaos—yet when kids were bored, they could seek change, too. In the space between anxiety and boredom was where creativity flourished.

“It’s also true that highly creative adults frequently grew up with hardship. Hardship by itself doesn’t lead to creativity, but it does force kids to become more flexible—and flexibility helps with creativity.”

I never got pushed in any particular academic or avocational pursuit, and I consider myself fortunate. I’ve never felt bored all that often, and I credit the space I was given to try any number of interests to discover what appealed to me the most.

I don’t want to sound like a grouch entering full-bore middle age, but I don’t see a lot in the popular culture today that would foster the creative activity outlined in this magazine piece. As permissive a period of time as I thought my childhood years were — the 60s and 70s — we have a present culture drowning in “reality” TV, extremely frank musical lyrics and excessively crude displays of juvenile behavior, sexual and otherwise, that do nothing to spark creative minds. There’s little left to the imagination.

Young people today have even fewer incentives than my TV-drenched generation to think beyond their own immediate worlds and light out for possibilities beyond what they have thrust upon them every day. The on-demand sensations are so intense, but it’s not fair to blame the Web. That’s a temptation for people in all age groups to grapple with, including me.

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