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?