Can we nurture creativity?

Can we nurture creativity, our own or that of our children?

It’s a pity we even have to ask the question. Pre-school children show intriguing powers of creativity. They invent and experiment as they play. They imagine what it would be like to be another person – Mum, Dad, teacher, doctor, ballerina, helicopter-pilot. Their drawings and paintings are free and uninhibited.





Sadly, though, there has to be a high level of conformity for a society to function well. There’s very little room left for innovation or imagination. Thinking must be channelled. Creativity must be moderated. Parents and teachers impose their ideas on their charges. That’s their job.

Early in their school lives, most kids discover that originality and imagination are no longer valued. A few lucky ones, those who have teachers and parents who are themselves creative, escape the mould. Those kids grow up to become non-conformists and eccentrics, artists and innovators.

Thankfully, even the strictest or most unimaginative parent or teacher can’t entirely snuff out individual creativity. Because it’s an innate human trait, we all manage to hang on to some of the inventive spirit we were born with. In spite of mass production, no two houses are decorated in the same way. No two gardens are identical. Once past adolescence, people dress differently from each other. Our speech and conversation patterns vary. Life without a little creative spirit would be very dull indeed.

Fortunately, the tiny spark of creativity in us all can be fanned into a  flame and fed. We can indeed nurture creativity. The people society acknowledges as ‘creative’ – artists, writers and inventors, for example, know that creativity must be nurtured. They all have ways to fan the flame, even if they think about it differently. No one is too old or too young to be more creative.






My husband, John Fleming, snapped last weekend as he climbed a tree  to look down a well on the other side of the fence

Some ways to nurture creativity

Here is a starter list of activities that might help to nurture creativity.

  • Play with intimate partners, children, colleagues and animals
  • Laugh, out loud. Find what makes you laugh and do more of it
  • Have fun with ideas of all sorts
  • Day dream
  • Ask ‘What if?’ Often.
  • Exercise
  • Walk
  • Indulge your curiosity – ask questions about everything
  • Mix with other creative people in your own field
  • Mix with creative people in all fields
  • Enjoy other people’s (and your children’s) creative work
  • Experiment with elements of your job, cooking, gardening, house-cleaning
  • Try new things – new food, places, hobbies, sports
  • Learn new skills
  • Learn a musical instrument or a new language
  • Visit new places – a nearby art gallery, a church, tool-shop, haberdashery, battery shop
  • Visit your usual haunts, but be aware of what you see, smell, touch
  • Do old activities in new ways. (Clean your teeth or write with your non-dominant hand. Back the car into the garage if you always go in front first. Take a different route to work – or catch a bus or train if you usually drive. Anything!)
  • Meditate
  • Read. A lot. Try different genres. Try poetry, science fiction, romance, non-fiction, thrillers, memoir, classics, jam labels… Everything we read feeds our creativity. No topic is out of bounds
  • Have several (or many) hobbies
  • Be involved in more than one project at a time. Projects feed on each other in some mysterious way
  • Start a new project
  • Be mindful of sounds, odours, tastes, sights, tactile experiences
  • Immerse yourself in colour, music and perfume
  • Write three pages in longhand every day
  • Add to this list…

8 replies on “Can we nurture creativity?”

  1. If what you list is creativity – it’s pretty easy. For me I always think of creativity as being arty farty! I’ll have to do more things in a different way! Not sure about writing with the other hand!

    1. The list is how to jump-start creativity. I don’t think you need to worry about it, because I know you do many of the things on the list, anyway. Creativity is about using your imagination, making beautiful things like your rugs, the way you decorate your house, making wonderful meals for guests, looking after people because you can put yourself in their shoes and know what they want. Creativity is certainly not arty-farty!

  2. Has Maureen dabbled in another list? I’ll think about what I might add – but she is a great list builder there my be nothing to add!

  3. Maureen, one of my biggest bugbears with schools is how they nurture creativity in kids—or rather, how they don’t. I don’t believe they’ve come very far from when I was at school. Creative kids often aren’t recognised as being creative—they’re the ones behaving out of line! They have a hard time coping with structure, and just about everything at school is structured, which leaves hardly any time for their minds to be free. That’s what’s most lacking, I think—time to just ‘be’, to make up silly games, climb trees, free paint …

    My favourite quote is one by Lev Vygotsky: ‘People with great passions, people who accomplish great deeds, people who possess strong feelings, even people with great minds and a strong personality, rarely come out of good little boys and girls.’

    1. I totally agree, Louise. I worry about how kids have so much structured time, even out of school. My major passion as a kid was to read, and my mother thought I should be more active. I hid from her in an enormous loquat tree, thinking she didn’t know where I was. Hidden in the tree I read, made up stories, wrote and day-dreamed about how my life would one day be. No one was concerned when I went off with friends to explore a pine plantation near where we lived or to the swamp. As long as we were back before dark, it was OK. How times have changed.

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