Saving our Creative Selves
by MF Wahl Views: 892
Twitter, Netflix, Playstation, Oculus, 24-hour news networks, thousands of satellite channels, millions of YouTube videos … We are currently in a Golden Age for entertainment. People wake up in the morning to check Facebook, make breakfast watching the news, and listen to podcasts on the way to work. There’s never a dull moment. Not at the bank, not in line for groceries, not on the toilet. There is nowhere we can’t be entertained and nothing is sacred.
With so much entertainment at our fingertips, we never have to worry about being bored, and neither do our kids.
But with all this entertainment, is there room for creativity?
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not against technology. I love it and think it dramatically improves our lives. I just think it’s necessary, dare I even say imperative, for us and our children to take the time to foster creativity every single day.
Here’s what I think we need to do to save our creative selves:
Get bored. I was at my most prolific, writing thousands of words every single day, when I was in high school. Nearly every day I was confined to a classroom and a desk listening to an uninspired teacher drone on about a subject they hadn’t cared about in years. When riding the bus to school in the morning there was no Facebook for me to scroll through. When stuck at that desk there was no Twitter for me to covertly update. No YouTube, no SnapChat, no Instagram… You get the picture: I was unplugged.
Today’s kids need to experience the mind-numbing boredom that their technological environment tries so hard to eliminate. Those never-ending days that, back then, seemed like such a curse, were actually creative jet fuel.
Unplug. Why do many of us come up with the best ideas while in the shower? Science can explain it better than I, but the gist is: showering (alone) is boring. Our brains have nothing better to do than to come up with ideas because we don’t automatically fill up that time with technology. Because when you have two seconds to yourself don’t automatically fill them up. Every non-essential glance at our Pocket-Masters leeches away our precious creative time and energy. And imagine, if this happens to us, what happens to our children’s still-developing brains? Muscles that are never flexed eventually atrophy.
As an adult, I find I’m much more productive when I don’t fill the small moments of my day by being plugged in. I’m more present in day-to-day life, and in general happier—all wins when trying to seduce the muse for my next novel.
I have dreams that my children will grow up to be wonderfully creative—maybe even writers. Looking back on my life I now realize what a blessing being unplugged was for creative thought.
Become self-reliant for entertainment. Excluding the hour of TV I watch after the kids hit the sack and the house is clean, I try not to rely on passive entertainment. When you are looking to be entertained, doing something instead of watching something is better for your creativity, because it uses different parts of the brain. Watching TV and scrolling through social networks are passive forms of entertainment (a well-respected book on the subject is Amusing Ourselves To Death by Neil Postman). Sure, they are fun, and rescue us from boredom, but they don’t require thought and they eat up our time. Doing something like reading a book or playing a game requires us to participate and helps us keep our creative muscles toned.
In today’s technologically integrated world we must allow our children the time to rely on themselves for entertainment—to slay the demon of boredom armed only with their imaginations. It wouldn’t hurt us to self-rely either.
Schedule downtime. It’s not just the dark underbelly of technology that threatens the world’s creative powers. It’s our ultra-structured, highly scheduled lives rammed with the obligations of work and school that can leave us creatively anaemic. A brain that is bogged down with busy work isn’t a brain that can allow the idea factory to produce any product.
We need to free our children and ourselves from the shackles of over-structure; to allow ourselves the luxury of time.
Saving creativity: our responsibility to ourselves and our children
We must be on guard, to protect and foster our creative selves and those of our children. If we’re not careful our own creativity will slowly but surely leak away. Technology is great, but as has been said before, with great power comes great responsibility.