Guiding Creative Talent…the good, bad and ugly

Recently on Writer’s Unboxed, my go-to nearly daily writerly diversion, an author posted about a vintage 51uTgzMFPxL._SL500_SY300_-1academic book on raising and educating creative children called Guiding Creative Talent by E. Paul Torrance. Since it was nearly out of print, I had to have it. It’s the goofiest cover, but it was 1964 so we’ll forgive.

I’m 1/3 of the way through the book, but as I do with all my non-fiction books, I took a highlighter to it and found some good a-ha moments for not only self-discovery but for the sake of sharing here in case you are yourself creative and/or you married one or birthed one or work with one. And really, who hasn’t at some point?

While I’m generally rah-rah when it comes to creativity – being a high creative and actually surviving living with myself and my brain – I think it’s imperative we look at why we do what we do and what will happen if it’s repressed, or God forbid, suppressed entirely.

First, a definition per Torrance: “as the process of sensing gaps or disturbing, missing elements; forming ideas for hypotheses concerning them; testing these hypotheses; and communicating the results possibly modifying and retesting the hypotheses.”

Sir Frederick Bartlett used adventurous thinking in these terms: getting away from the main track, breaking out of the mold, being open to experience and permitting one thing to lead to another.”

And the meaning of creativity? Curiousity, imagination, discovery, innovation and invention. Creatives like to pin down the problem, research and explore ideas around it and then bam! the birth of a new idea.

How others view creatives is not really so different than fifty years ago, though our culture overall seems to embrace it a little more, but by and large it depends on your own family, your own community and how you are able to express yourself. “Creative behavior may be interpreted as aggressive or even hostile and certainly it soon becomes just that if ideas and questions are rejected.”

The book goes on to talk about the dangers of repression in creative desire in children (and adults). That repression can cause sadness, anxiety, fatigue and overall, stress. I’ve described that feeling as having to let the air out of a tire. You feel you might burst if you don’t go through with the creative compulsion. This makes sense as to why so many creatives feel OBSESSED with their work and feel compulsion to think, work and complete it. I don’t believe it’s the creativity itself that causes madness but perhaps the tension that may come with it if the desire to express is repressed for too long. Something to chew on. I recently watched the stellar documentary SALINGER and he fit all of those characteristics to a T. From this side of the flat screen, it appeared he did go mad in his own way and his entire world was consumed by his own words – even in his hermitage.

A few other gems from the book:

  • Creative children prefer to learn on their own
  • Creative children like to attempt difficult tasks (if they are bored easily, challenge them!)
  • Some creative children can’t stop working (because he can’t stop THINKING. To him, there is nothing more enjoyable than work in which he can use his creative powers.)

I’ll close with the beginning of chapter 8 on goals for guiding creative talent:

“Highly creative individuals usually have very strong creative needs. They are attracted to the mysterious, to the unknown, and the unexplained. They have a strong need to question, to explain, to test ideas and to communicate the results of their testing.”

We can at time be our own worst enemies – judging ourselves for our seeming “failures” at acting like “normal” people. Once high creatives get hold of something of meaning, they do have extreme focus and need to be given the room to explore and finish it – even if that conclusion only makes sense to the creative. The pieces may remain embedded in a brain file drawer for playing with another day when more can be added or subtracted or reshaped into something else. I’ve seen it happen over and over again.


News: As a strategist and storyteller, I’ve recently challenged myself with a cool new media property I’m launching with friends come December called Sooner Spaces, which combines all of my favorite things – design, architecture and transformations with telling stories through photos, words and video. I’m amazed by the kindness in people to share and also reminded  how much I dislike sales (mostly that it’s tough to get a return call.) I remind myself that a new idea takes a while to grasp hold and though your own project is the center of your universe, it is not the center of theirs. Shocking, I know.

On the Buzz Books front, two big books coming out this month and next – Getting Lucky by Heather Davis and Mark of the Serpent by Cara Brookins. The zombie novel Chicago Fell First by Aaron Smith came out at Halloween and had a good launch. I’m still whittling away at my holiday romance STERLING AND SLOANE, and likely just need to shut myself off somewhere in between all the duties I have with Buzz, Sooner Spaces and





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