Thursday, March 13, 2014

School kills creativity.

The longer we homeschool, the more convinced I become that traditional school is no place to nurture creativity. I typically attribute this to simple math:
20 (or more) students + a set amount of work that has to be completed on a fixed schedule = no time for anything but the essentials.
(That's how they're doing math these days, right? Super confusing with words instead of numbers? Hahaha....BURN Common Core!)

Creativity is disruptive and messy and off topic most of the time...I totally get why schools would rather do without. But it's not just schools that kill creativity. It's teachers.

Now, before you get your panties in a bunch about how teachers are overworked and underpaid etc, please let me remind you - no one loves teachers more than I do. Really. I LOVE a good teacher. And besides, I'm not just talking about teacher teachers.

I'm talking about anyone who can take your free-wheeling creativity and stuff it down into a teeny tiny boring box. This can be parents, bosses, friends, siblings...anyone with an opinion on the way something creative should be done and the authority or gumption to make you believe it.

Rules make sense in lot of subjects. Math, for instance, doesn't really work without them. Same  goes for grammar. There is definitely a right and wrong way to spell words. And history is full of facts and figures (at least, the good kind is).

But art? Creative writing? Critical thinking? Personal expression? There are some things that wither and die when stuck in a box.

This happened to me recently and it totally pissed me off.

Over Christmas I started writing a screenplay. I had an idea a while back for a fictional story which I have never attempted and was totally intimidated by, but a friend encouraged me to give it a try so I did. The next thing I knew ideas were coming to me at random times throughout the day and when I would sit down to write, full scenes and characters would appear on the page, as if by magic.

I was enthralled. Not since writing and illustrating Christmastime to Mehad I felt such excitement with the creative process. The project was unfolding before my eyes; I just had to be there to catch the words and write them down. It was nothing at all like I thought it was going to be when I started. It just kind of took on a life of its own and wherever it went, I followed.

Things were going great over Christmas when Bill had lots of time off work and I could hide out in the office and write without disruption. But then life got back to normal and everything kind of shut down. I was still trying to write but it was not at all like it had been before. The motivation was there but my mojo was MIA.

Toward the end of January, a friend mentioned she had signed up for an art class and asked if I might want to take a class too. I checked the community education schedule and found a beginner screenwriting class was offered at the same time as her drawing class. It felt as if the stars were finally going to realign.

Bill was somewhat skeptical (Are you sure you want some bitter "artist" who has never sold a manuscript telling you what to do every week?) but I chose to see the bright side. This would be a great way for me to get back in the groove. Plus, I might learn something! Worst case scenario, I would just bring my laptop and spend the time in class writing.

Well. I should know myself better than that. I'm the student who feels awkward if I don't maintain eye contact throughout the entire class. I even pretend to write notes the whole time, even if they're just rude observations about the people in my class (I'm the worst). I can't zone out and do my own thing. It's not nice. So instead, I sat in class for two and half hours listening to crap like:
You have to follow the formula. 
Movies that don't have exactly three acts will never get made.
Hollywood hates things they can't put in a box.
You have to already be somebody to make a movie with a big budget.
If it's a drama, forget it. Nobody will read your script.
At first, I kept my chin up. I hate for anyone to bomb and since this guy had completely lost me from day one, I was really pulling for him to get it together. Say something inspirational! Teach me something I haven't already read on the Internet! Give a positive critique or at least say something constructive! Stop spending 20 minutes talking about a movie I've never seen! Help me help you!!!

By week three I simply stopped going.

I just don't have two and a half hours a week to sit around absorbing negativity. I get it, the film industry is competitive. But aren't all industries like that? Maybe it would be different if I was ready to kiss any ass that might get my work read by an agent but I'm so not there. Would I like to write a movie that gets made and watched and is loved by audiences across the country? Of course. But honestly? Not if it means giving up my point of view. (I say that now, as someone who doesn't currently have to work for money. If I were in a different boat, I might very well be lining up to kiss some ass.)

Imagine if I was a child who didn't have the choice to stop going to school. Imagine if I was told things like this day after day after day until I believed them. What would it do to my work? My imagination? My spirit? Can those things come back once they've been stuffed down? What if they're stuffed down from kindergarten through twelfth grade? Or, even worse, from birth?

I believe we're all born creative and amazing and capable of mind-blowing things. But these things don't always fit into a box. Actually...they shouldn't fit into a box at all. Because they're unique and creative and one-of-a-kind.

thanks random bulletin board at the YMCA...

This is now what I will tell myself until I am able to get those stupid limitations out of my mind and get back to the fun of creating for the sake of creating.

I don't blame the teacher. How was he supposed to know that I already am somebody? That we all are. That the only reason people have to follow the formula is because they don't have enough imagination left not to. It's not his fault. It's how most of us were raised. But we don't have to keep believing it. We can be unique and creative and one-of-a-kind. Just imagine how much more fun everything would be if we'd all just be our incredible, creative selves. What do we have to lose?

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