In a Creative Mood

I’m back! Again. Interesting how time I need to spend writing and teaching about creativity sometimes keeps me from, well, writing and teaching about creativity. I’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on the 6th edition of Creativity in the Classroom and writing for another project on creativity and talent development. So I’ve had a lot to think about.

But coming back today I want to talk about a different kind of project, one I’m undertaking with a young friend. My 13-year-old friend is having a hard summer. The specifics aren’t important, but she’s having to face terribly sad things far earlier than we’d wish for any young person. Her mom suggested that she spend some time with me, and so she is becoming an important part of my summer. What are we doing? Lots of things—walking a friend’s dogs, eating vegetarian food, snuggling the cats, but largely, we’re making mosaics. And it is healing.

The experience reminds me of research by Amabile and her colleagues examining affect in the business world, where she found a cyclical relationship between mood and creativity. In an environment in which the mood was generally positive, workers were more creative. When their creative ideas were positively received, doing creative things put them in a better mood, even two days after the fact. Certainly that cycle has been evident with my young friend and me. As we do creative things together, it lifts both our spirits. As we are happier and laugh and talk together, the ideas start flowing.

In schools, it can be tempting to think that we need to prepare students for a world that is “all business,” where serious people undertake serious problems. It is true our world has many challenges, but the rest of the truth is, even the business world doesn’t work well when the atmosphere is negative and creativity takes a back seat. If we want good ideas, good thinking, and good learning, joy has a place. Creativity has a place. And if we are wise, they will build on each other in powerful ways.

At least that is my hope for this summer.

P.S. The art piece above isn’t one of ours. It is a bottle-cap beetle I spotted in a “ruin bar” in Budapest. The bars are a phenomenon, sometimes popping up in abandoned buildings, but always decorated with reclaimed and upcycled  materials. More photos of that another day!

 

Amabile, T. M., Barsade, S. G., Mueller, J. S., & Staw, B. M. (2005). Affect and creativity at work. Administrative Science Quarterly, 50, 367–403.

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