Out of Our Minds – Learning to be Creative

Robinson, K. (2011) Out of Our Minds – Learning to be Creative. UK: Capstone Publishing Ltd.

 “I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. There are three key terms here: process, original and value. Creativity is a process more often than it is an event. To call something a process indicates a relationship between its various elements: that each aspect and phase of what happens is related to every other. Being creative involves several processes that interweave within each other. The first is generative. The second is evaluative.” (Robinson, 2011, page 151-152)

I am fascinated by the concept of creativity and Out of Our Minds – Learning to be Creative by Ken Robinson provided me with many interesting ideas to ponder and new questions that I chose to ask. The above quote suggests that creativity is a process guided by original ideas that have value. In relation to my practice, this definition led me to think more intently about the creative group music making process. What are the stages that I move through when creating music for children, young people and adults? Furthermore, how does this differ when creating music with children, young people and adults? In relation to my teaching practice in Higher Arts Education, I also asked myself – how do student community musicians begin to create music, together with the people that they work with on placement? How can I support this creative process?

It is interesting that Robinson chooses the word ‘value’ in the context of creativity. Value is something that I think about daily in my creative and teaching practice. If a group music making process has meaning and relevance for the participants, including the teacher, then there are certainly aspects of value, which may, or may not, be the same for each person. The word ‘value’ leads me to think about my ongoing work in documentation and how I evaluate the musical processes and outputs of my work. Furthermore, I think about quality of musical experience and what makes for a valuable musical experience.

How do I facilitate creative group music making? How do I reveal the processes involved in work of this nature without allowing the work to become stagnant or fixed? What do I use as my sources of inspiration?

“Creativity does not always require freedom from constraints or a blank page. A lot of creative work has to work to specific briefs or conventions and great work often comes from working within formal constraints. Some of the finest poetry is in the form of the sonnet, which has a fixed form to which the writer must submit……..These do not inhibit the writer’s creativity; they set a framework for it. The creative achievement and the aesthetic pleasure lie in using standard forms to achieve unique effects and original insights.” (Robinson, 2011, page 152)

What has always drawn me to the Orff Schulwerk approach is the way in which the creative process grows and how opportunities for creativity can flourish within structure. Furthermore, often it is in the doing, the exploring, the investigating and the playing that the idea is discovered.

 “Being creative is not just a question of thinking of an idea and then finding a way to express it. Often it is only in developing the dance, image or music that the idea emerges at all.” (Robinson, 2011, pg.153)

Robinson’s thoughts resonate with my own experiences of being creative. I find myself thinking about ‘play’ and what happens when I allow myself time and space to play around with ideas; time to ‘potter’ with materials.

Robinson’s ideas about “generative” and “evaluative” thinking when discussing creative development have also guided me in my own questioning. As he states,

“Evaluation (of creative work) can be individual or shared, involve instant judgements or long-term testing. In most creative work there are many shifts between these two modes of thought. The quality of creative achievement is related to both. Helping people to understand and manage the interaction between generative and evaluative thinking is a pivotal task of creative development.” (Robinson, 2011, pg.154-155)

How do I guide Higher Arts Education students in their creative development as a musician, as an artist and as a teacher? Is enough time given to the exploration of musicality, to the generation of musical ideas before evaluation for Higher Arts Education students?

Although the evaluation and judgement of ideas is important, this process has to be conducted with great care and sensitivity. As Robinson acknowledges,

“At the right time and in the right way, critical appraisal is essential. At the wrong point, it can kill an emerging idea.” (Robinson, 2011, pg.155)

If we agree that creativity is a process then we can begin to appreciate that, as with any process, there are many phases which one must weave through. If we do not allow for this then we are in danger of inhibiting or stilting creative expression before it has had opportunity to fully blossom.

What do people need in order to be fully creative?

“Creative achievement is related to control of the medium……….This doesn’t mean that people with limited skills cannot be creative. There are different levels and phases of creative development. Some people produce highly creative work with relatively undeveloped techniques. In general though, creative development goes hand in hand with increasing technical facility with the instruments or materials that are being used. Here as everywhere it is a question of balance and synergy.” (Robinson, 2011, pg.160-161)