Classics for Juniors: Walking the Amazon (2021)

Reflections: Creativity

Creativity is a word that is used often and not always understood. It is a word that has spawned as many definitions as there are leaves on a tree. Well, perhaps that is an exaggeration. Increasingly it is a term that is embedded in many different ways from formal research to commercial marketing to bantering among friends. Read The Economist’s Worldwide Educating for the Future Index reports and the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report 2020. Creativity is peppered there. Key to this is the constant discussion of the needs of the 21st century and how we all need creativity in learning and for future jobs. 

First, a caveat. Contrary to popular belief, creativity is not the sole purview of artists or those in the arts. Everyone is capable of creativity. I believe that we are so used to sealing ourselves in siloes as a habit of mind that if someone has not taken classes in music or drawing or acting or has not had any formal training, then the person cannot be regarded as creative.

The problem starts exactly here. In my journeys in the arts-in-education, training in the arts does not necessarily equate with being creative. Some of the most creative people I have come across have had little contact with the arts. The converse is also true: those who attest to be trained may not be very creative. One late friend of mine was really an example. Instead of ice cubes made with water diluting her icy cold drink, she made Coke ice cubes therefore the taste of the drink would last and last. All too often, when you meet with those taking classes in the arts, they often possess and demonstrate skills yet ask them to do something different and they may be stumped. 

Example 1 above shows someone who has solved a problem in an ingenious way. Is that creativity? Certainly, problem-solving is part of creativity. Example 2, how classes in the arts are facilitated as opposed to what is taught matters; if the class is purely skills-based then creative learning does not always take place. 

One of my favourite definitions of creativity is from Linda Naiman. “Creativity is characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing.” 

The arts are not part of the statement and that is not a problem. On saying that though, the very nature of the arts (performing, visual, literary) are the best vehicles to springboard your life into thinking, feeling and living creatively. Their innate characteristics provide ready-made platforms for us to shift a routine mindset of the same mental roads everyday to alternatives that allow us to be inquisitive as in having a deep sense of curiosity, to explore, to test ideas, to play. There is truly nothing like fresh air! That is what AFTEC has been investigating for the past decade and more.

Stay safe and unleash your creativity this year!

Lynn Yau