- Pick a day this week. I’ll choose Tuesday.
- Choose a part of your day to focus on doing something a little bit differently. I’m teaching private flute lessons on Tuesday, so I’m going to choose that part of my day. In general, I’d suggest choosing your least favorite part of the day, because it would seem to need the most attention. (It’s summer, so I don’t usually have a least favorite part of the day. Talk to me in September.)
- Consider some unique ways in which you could approach that part of your day. I love teaching private lessons, and I enjoy my students. But the lessons do get to be repetitive after awhile. I use almost the same sequence of events with each lesson, and while I’ve given thought to that sequence and would argue that it’s a strong method, I’m sure my students and I could learn something new from a fresh approach.
- Gather any materials you need to implement this approach. Aside from my usual teaching materials, I’ll need a few index cards, a Sharpie, and my favorite duet book.
- Put the plan into action. Instead of starting with a tone warm-up, I’m going to start my students with breathing exercise “target practice,” using the index cards as targets for their air, and measuring how long they can hold the card against the wall with their breath stream. It achieves a similar purpose to tone exercises, and is challenging but also fun. Once we’ve done that, I’m going to work backwards: instead of starting with etudes and working down through the solo and the duet, I’m going to start with the duet. I generally uncover a “theme” for the lesson with the first piece of music we work on, and it’ll be interesting to see how that changes when I start with something different.
- Evaluate how it worked. After the lessons, I’ll reflect on how well things went. Did it feel as challenging as a regular lesson? Was it fun? Did my student learn something new? Did I learn something new? Should I do it again, or was the novelty part of the experience?
Do you enjoy feeling frustrated? Most of the time, I don’t handle it well. I let it fill me up, and I don’t release it properly. I allow it to explode as angry words, unplanned actions, and throwing pillows against the wall. But every once in awhile, if I cultivate it, frustration leads to something great.
New things are invented and new ideas spawned because there’s a need, and the absence of something we need makes us feel anger or frustration. That is the feeling that urges us to create.
It’s the “This is wrong,” followed by, “What am I going to do about it?”
A few years ago, during a fifth-grade band rehearsal, my frustration was at the breaking point. The concert was coming up soon, and we had a lot of work to do, but my most chatty student- let’s call him Pete- kept interrupting. Pete was a good percussionist, but I’d often wished I’d given him an instrument that kept his mouth busy rather than his hands. I could feel myself about to lose my temper as he interrupted again and again, making jokes and giving smart-ass responses to my teaching cues.
The frustration inside me was about to explode, but as I opened my mouth and said his name, something occurred to me. I could get mad, I could remind him that the concert was coming, I could appeal to his better nature. None of those things had worked in the past for more than a few minutes. Or, instead of doing what I’d always done, I could try something different. An idea lit inside my brain. The frustration vanished, and I was left with the spark of joy that accompanies a creative thought. [Read more…]
This post is the first in a series that will post monthly (or so) about books that are either directly on the topic of creativity, or spark creative thinking.
One of the first things I did once I’d come up with the idea, structure and thesis for The Creativity Perspective (read that origin story here) was to gather resources. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration had been recently released and was an obvious choice for my research, but I initially dismissed it because it felt too “business insider.” Ed Catmull, the author, is one of the co-founders of Pixar Animation Studios, and while no one who’s ever seen a Pixar film (is there anyone out there who doesn’t love Nemo or Monsters, Inc?) could argue with their incredible creativity, I didn’t think Catmull could shed much light from an educational standpoint.
I’m so grateful that I second-guessed that initial dismissal, because when I did finally pick up the book this month, I found an incredible resource on creativity from every angle: individual, corporate, cooperative, artistic. To date, I have bookmarked the Kindle edition 40 times and highlighted at least one phrase on each bookmarked page. This is high-level reading, with very deep lessons on creativity interspersed with examples from Ed’s experiences at Pixar. [Read more…]
Do you feel that your workplace empowers you to make decisions and act independently for the best interests of the company? Do you feel that your contributions are respected? Are you happy and in control of your work life?
If not, you may not be working in a creative environment. Studies on creativity and the workplace show that more creative work is produced when the workers are empowered to make decisions and control the process.
In a creative workplace…
The Boss should be clear about her expectations, but give her employees the freedom to pursue the goal via any method or process that works for them. The boss needs to trust that the people in charge of a particular project are the ones best qualified to make decisions about it. She should guide her employees and be aware of what is or isn’t working in her organization, but must ultimately allow people the opportunity to bring their best to the table. She must be open to discussion and welcome dissent. [Read more…]