Here is Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love talk about creativity, fear, genius and fairy juice at TED.
Too much and too personal to talk about, but if you’re one of those people who ever had or wanted to write or create something, you’ve got to watch it, and… olé to you!
I promised a friend I’d post this story from NCA – the annual convention of the National Communication Association, aka where all the communication profs get together to share research and network.
My friend was riding the elevator, along with other people wearing the NCA name tag, and one who wasn’t. The tagless person asked:
“So, what do you communicate here, at the National Communication Association?”
A young man in the elevator answered:
“Fear and anxiety.”
I’ll write about this more some other time, but for now, I want the story to speak for itself. If you’ve ever been to NCA, you probably know what I’m talking about. Maybe you want to share in the comments, if you can overcome the fear and anxiety?
This past week has reminded me of this book by Tzvetan Todorov I read back in college (in Romania). It’s an analysis of how people and cultures relate to OTHER-ness. If I remember correctly, when faced with an OTHER who is deeply and radically different, people feel fear. They feel threatened. They feel uncertain. And then they choose one of the following behavioral options:
a) they feel superior to the OTHER, they attempt to conquer or make the OTHER their subject or subaltern. That’s how the European conquerors related to the people Native to the (now) American continent. That’s how the Nazis related to Jews.
b) they appreciate the culture of the OTHER more than their own, and they “go native.” They “convert” to the OTHER’s culture and give up their own. Todorov offers the example of one European officer who preferred the Native American way of life.
c) they respect the OTHER as a different and equal partner, and build an ethical and respectful dialogue and relationship. They coexist.
Is option a) how many people in the U.S. relate to Obama, because he is in many ways the OTHER (different from them, and from their idea of a president)? Does this explain the death threats and scary behaviors, the stuffed monkey at political rallies, the black-face parties?
The question of the OTHER also has direct applications to public relations. Many times, the organization or the CEO feel they know better, they’re smarter that the public. “If they knew what I know, they’d agree with me.” The examples when the organization bows to the public and takes their lead are very rare. Do you have any? And finally option c), is what PR should be, as defined by Grunig’s excellence model, the relationship management approach to public relations, and, in social media circles “the new PR,” or “PR 2.0.”
University professors… are curious forms of life. …They think of their bodies as transport for their heads.
We educate children only from the waist up, focusing on their brain, and that too, only one side of it.
Jillian isn’t sick: She’s a dancer.
If all insects were to disappear from the planet, life on Earth would vanish in 50 years. If all humans were to disappear from the planet, all forms of life would flourish.
These are a few quotes that stood out to me in this brilliant TED talk about education, given by Sir Ken Robinson. If you’re an educator, you owe it to yourself and your students to spend 15 minutes to watch it:
Hello, my name is Mihaela. My job IS to kill creativity.
Here’s how I try to try not to:
I’m very, very cautious, I try to treat it like a fragile and precious rare flower.:
- I try, as much as I can, knowing I will always fail, to remove fear out of the classroom. But I still have to give grades, so it’s impossible to do away with fear. If you read my blog before, you know fear in education is one important theme on PR Connections.
- I try to encourage students. I ask them to give themselves a break, not be harsh on themselves. I compliment them a lot. Yesterday I taught strategy. I asked students to create strategies for some case studies. They were hesitant to share, afraid they were wrong. I kept telling them it’s the first ever time they’re doing it, and they only had 20 seconds to think about it. It’s OK if your strategies suck. Guess what, they didn’t. But how many times do we grade students on their first attempt at something? 90%, I’m guessing.
- I remove students, as much as possible, from modes of writing (research papers) that have conditioned their minds to be numb. I ask them to email or blog assignments instead of writing APA style papers. I ask them to create videos, dance, or perform, their final project. I will be (and I am) a persona non grata in my department for stating this publicly (we live for APA papers, and we do exactly what Sir Ken Robinson says: try to make them all university professors).
But here’s what I think: If you change the medium, you change the way they think. Ask them to write in a new medium, one that they haven’t been conditioned to fear and be constipated about and write like a mindless robot (see Richard Landham on the need to un-teach students how to write) – and guess what: Students’ writing comes to life, you all of a sudden see ideas, thoughtfulness, soul!But many times they choose to write APA style papers. Because it’s too late, because they’re scared to do otherwise, because they can’t think of anything else. So sad.
So, if you’re a teacher or a professor, what do you do to (not) kill creativity?
If you’re a subject of education (and we all were students at some point), teach me: What can I do to protect your creativity, or maybe even encourage it to grow?
“Yet I believe that school should be a safe place, the way home is supposed to be. A place where you belong, where you can grow and express yourself freely, where you know and care for the other people and are known and cared for by them, a place where people come before information and ideas. School needs to comprehend the relationship between the subject matter and the lives of students, between teaching and the lives of teachers, between school and home.” (J. Tompkins, A Life in School, p. 127)
“Fear is what prevents the flowering of the mind.” (Krishnamurthi)
(Thank you, Cheryl, for pointing out these quotations to me 🙂
How much of what you do, or what the people who work for you do, is motivated by fear?