Month: May 2014

Thanks for Playing

Geezaweezer
Geezaweezer by Geraint Rowland https://www.flickr.com/photos/geezaweezer/5140565053

So, I didn’t get the requisite 25 responses that would have got me firing up the pancake griddle…BUT I did get some good ones. I feel like I have some new tactics for getting myself and others into the creative zone. Thank you so much @michaelecasey, @mstephens7, @jakeogh, and @mollificence for playing…and as a token of my appreciation I’d love to send you a small gift which will ship directly from Etsy.com. Just direct message me with your home or work address (here’s a link on how to do it).
 

The responses reminded me that being ‘creative’ boils down to getting out of the way of yourself, or removing your own self-imposed limitations- if only for a few moments, to get the ball rolling.  Think about it: creativity is second nature to young kids, who exist in a world where the barriers between play and reality are entirely permeable. They don’t always know what to expect, so they’re free to experiment. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt for us adults to play a bit more at work, and encourage our patrons to do the same. I don’t mean play in the general sense of frolicking around the office (though that’s always fun); what I’m suggesting is that it may be worth considering this definition of play:

“the capacity to experiment with your surroundings as a form of problem-solving.”

That’s how the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism defines it in their video, Create Circulate Connect Collaborate. There, they highlight play as one of several new media literacy skills, or life skills essential to our success in a new media environment.  My takeaway is that play is nothing new; that our most far-reaching innovations involve liberal doses of creativity, but that the breakneck pace of technological change has morphed the socio-technical environment (particularly for librarians and other information professionals) to the extent that we need to employ more creativity than ever, just to keep up.  To make something happen these days, you’ve simply got to be willing to play.

PlayingWithMudUnderTree
Geezaweezer by Geraint Rowland https://www.flickr.com/photos/geezaweezer/5140565053
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Practicing Creativity

2012_07_04_07_42_08My husband is away on a business trip. This unusual occurrence prompted some atypical behaviors in our house, including eating ‘breakfast for dinner’ (pancakes!) and me gorging on TED talks until way-too-late.  We miss Daddy, so these little breaks with reality were fun distractions.

I bring this up because it reminds me that breaking away from the expected, from what is supposed to happen, is not only fun but also useful to the point of being necessary. There is no achievement without creativity, and creativity thrives on unexpected turns and messy mistakes. We know this. But do we practice it regularly, as if our success depends on it?

It may be TED talking, but it’s clear to me that the educational enterprise as we know it is going away. This is a good thing if you see creativity as a crucial part of learning, as being paramount to living full and meaningful lives. Change is afoot from grade school to college, and beyond. The flipped classroom, learning analytics, MOOC’s, personal learning networks, open educational resources, gamification, authentic learning, and competency based learning are just a few of the trends revolutionizing education.  Now, I’m not going to get political here, or even very philosophical. But since I’m talking about the link between success and creativity, then I feel I must talk about it in terms of teaching and learning.

Librarians are nothing if not teachers and learners.  I believe that ultimately, our job is to learn all we can in order to facilitate the learning experience of others.  Our success depends on finding creative ways to help individuals and communities bloom.  In the words of Sir Ken Robinson, we have to “create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish” (Robinson, 2010).  What conditions are we talking about? Where and how can librarians teach creatively and reward creative inquiry by others? These are good questions for another time. For now, in the spirit of pancakes for dinner, I’d just like to know: how do you get your mojo on? How do you access your own creativity and pull it out of others?

Here’s something that I do: To instill a culture of play in our family life and to encourage healthy risk-taking, I like to use the ‘bravely done’ motto. It’s actually something I found on the inside of a beer bottle cap and it really spoke to me. So, when my five-year-old  gives something new a good go of it, I’ll tell her “bravely done!” and she’ll know it was the effort that mattered.  To be truthful, it’s the adults in the family that need the biggest push in that department.

So, what do you do?  How do you practice creativity and help others do the same? If I get at least 25 responses, I will send the person with the winning response a stack of my homemade pancakes. They will be delivered to your doorstep, ready to reheat and serve. Seriously. I will do this for you, if you do me the favor of sharing your personal approach to creativity. The winner will be chosen by an arbitrary and undemocratic process: if I particularly like it, you win! I will pick the winner in two weeks from now, so get your submission in before May 19th.

References

Robinson, K. [TED Talks] (2010, May 24). Bring on the learning revolution! [Video file].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9LelXa3U_I