E. Paul Torrance’s Creative Manifesto

Today I begin teaching one of my favorite courses: Creative Thinking. What does it mean to be creative? That might seem like a simple question, but it’s one worth asking because the answer may be more complex than we first realize. Is it just coloring outside the lines (or coloring prettily inside the lines)? Is it broken crayons? Or neatly arranged crayons? Does it mean having a creative product? Or is it a way of thinking? Does it mean going against the grain? Or sometimes do we mistake rebellion for creativity? Is our creativity something we can improve?

Those are some of the questions I am lucky enough to explore with my students. One of the ways we approach the topic is through the work of a man known as “the father of creativity,” E. Paul Torrance, and his Creative Manifesto.

Torrance developed the widely used Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, which are used to identify creative ability in children. He also created the Future Problem Solving Program, the mission of which is to “To develop the ability of young people globally to design and promote positive futures using critical, creative thinking.”

While much of Torrance’s work focused on and is applied to children, his book The Manifesto: A Guide To Developing a Creative Career follows the lives and careers of adults. His results and conclusions have some surprising and important implications. This is from a University of Georgia alumni magazine feature on Torrance:

“We found that after 30 or 40 years other things became more important than achievement, intelligence, and creativity….I call these ‘Beyonder’ characteristics, such as persistence, courage, willingness to take a risk, and loving and doing what you can do well.” ~ E. Paul Torrance

He drew on his findings to develop a Manifesto to help children and adults to live more creatively. Torrance wrote, “I drew these guidelines from my longitudinal studies in which I had encountered some creatively gifted children with learning disabilities, but I now realize that I was writing them for myself” (The Manifesto: A Guide To Developing a Creative Career, p. 93):

E. Paul Torrance’s Manifesto

Don’t be afraid to fall in love with something and pursue it with intensity.

Know, understand, take pride in, practice, develop, exploit, and enjoy your greatest strengths.

Learn to free yourself from the expectations of others and walk away from the games they impose on you. Free yourself to play your own game.

Find a great teacher or mentor who will help you.

Don’t waste energy trying to be well-rounded.

Do what you love and can do well.

Learn the skills of interdependence.

What parts of Torrance’s Manifesto speak to you? Which ones could be applied right now to your writing life?

9 thoughts on “E. Paul Torrance’s Creative Manifesto

  1. I have a small bulletin board at work where I put random photos, quotes, and other small items that have meaning to me and help me visualize what is important. The reason I have it at work is because work is the place where it’s so easy to lose my balance; it’s the place where it is so difficult to fight against those who would like to change who I am. Torrance’s Manifesto is going to be typed up and placed in the center of the board today. Thanks for sharing it, Lisa.

    • Elle Marie, I’m so glad you like it as much as I do! I’m always surprised that it’s not better known, because it never ceases to inspire me, both as a writer and as a parent.

  2. Hi Lisa,

    Thank you for bringing Mr Torrance up. “Learn to free yourself from the expectations of others and walk away from the games they impose on you. Free yourself to play your own game.” Hits me hard every time, – but also fills me with hope and a sense of adventure ;o)

    Best regards Sanne

    • Sanne, thanks very much. Your comment has reminded me that I need to read more of Torrance’s work again. He hits me hard, too, in the best kind of way.

  3. Hi I was one of the very fortunate ones to have studied under this great man (did a post PHD and a masters under his guidance–title The identification and development of creative behaviour) I was in that very last class that he taught and he remained my close mentor until he died a decade ago—visiting him in hospital during his last few days.
    We have expanded the Beyonder concept to education, business and sport and have Beyonder programmes in many countries from East to West. Paul Torrance was a remarkable man and when his students gather (like we do in October every year in South Africa at our annual international creativity conference) there is always amazing respect and gratitude that he touched our lives in such unique ways

    • Dr. Neethling, I’m not sure how I missed replying to this when you first posted. Thank you very much for your comment. What a gift Dr. Torrance gave to you and his other students. I wish that Manifesto: A Guide to Developing a Creative Career was more widely available, as it was a turning point for me in terms of thinking about creativity.

  4. I am using this manifesto in my soon to be published book, Homework and Learning Made Fun. It is essentially for parents and I hope that the my references to Torrence inspire parents to read more.

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