Confession: I thought I knew most everything about creativity until I attended the “Kickstart Your Creativity” workshop conducted by Cherie Davis at the 2007 Utah Story Swap held in St. George on May 5, 2007. She showed me how to transform my chaotic creative experiences into a more organized way.
Davis emphasized four skills found in Robert Epstein’s The Big Book of Creativity Games:
1. Capturing—Preserve new ideas
2. Broadening—Broaden skills and knowledge
3. Challenging—Seek challenges and manage failure
4. Surrounding—Change physical and social environment
Capturing—Preserve new ideas
Sometimes it seems that ideas can appear as easily as dandelions. Sometimes it seems to be a drought for ideas. Yet, Davis insisted that regardless of how many ideas seem to be around at the moment, having a notebook close by could do wonders.
When searching for potential stories, Davis shared that some people turn to dreams and keep a notebook close to the bed while ideas are still fresh enough to write. She also suggested keeping an itty-bitty notepad in the pocket for random thoughts as done by National Storyteller/Grammy-winner Bill Harley. Beyond writing, some people type ideas on the laptop or computer or there are traditional recording devices such as mp3 players and video cameras.
Broadening—Broaden skills and knowledge
The more experiences you have, then the more ways you can look at an idea. You may take the advice from Davis to “be a bricklayer for a day.” Perhaps there is an occupation that a character portrays in the story and you have a chance to learn some skills. Or at least you can envision what it would be like from a different perspective. Davis recommended telling a familiar fairy tale in another way and divided us in pairs. I told “Jack and the Beanstalk” from the giant’s viewpoint while my partner told “Cinderella” from the slipper’s viewpoint. Our ideas fed off from each other and brought more excitement than if I had done this same activity alone.
Challenging—Seek challenges and manage failure
As Davis reminded us, “Failure can be the greatest teacher—our friend.” Davis invited some people to share an impromptu story based on a proverb, which mine was a Dutch saying of “Nobody’s sweetheart is ugly.” In the short time we were given to create a story based on the proverb, I had two versions—one about two rabbits and one about newlyweds. My partner volunteered me to tell in front of the group. Though the story was still in “rough and tumble” stage, I met the challenge. I now have ideas on how to polish the story.
Surrounding—Change physical and social environment
Certain surroundings encourage more creativity than others. These factors vary from individual to individual. Davis asked us to ponder on what rooms distract us versus what rooms inspire us. If no room or place comes to mind as writer-friendly, then she urged us to make it friendlier. Perhaps rearranging the furniture would do the trick. Perhaps playing some music would help. Perhaps silence is preferred.
Throughout the workshop, we did several partner activities/games. Davis reminded us “you cannot expect one person to be the perfect buddy”. You may need a buddy for areas such as story creation, performance, and even organization.
To know more about the activities used during the workshop, myths on creativity or common traits of creative people, then contact Cherie Davis at (801) 226-6530 or at email@example.com.
Collins, R. & Cooper, P. J. (1997). The Power of Story: teaching through storytelling (2nd ed.). Scottsdale, AZ: Gorsuch Scarisbrick Publishers.
Epstein, R. (2000). The Big Book of Creativity Games. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Story Arts Online at http://www.storyarts.org/lessonplans
Bill Moyers—especially video series on creativity at http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal
Until we tell again,
Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance